Tag: josh leger

Huskies’ 45-point first quarter squashes Giants with huge win

AUCKLAND Huskies produced the most efficient first quarter of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown season, sinking 17 consecutive baskets without a miss on their way to 45 points in their 96-67 victory over Nelson Giants. Despite missing Taine Murray whose season ended with a broken hand in their last outing, the Huskies’ first quarter was the difference in building a staggering 32-point quarter time lead that was never really challenged.

NELSON GIANTS 12 | 19 | 23 | 13 (67)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 45 | 17 | 23 | 11 (96)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies showed no signs of missing Murray’s valuable offence in the first quarter as they exploded for an offensive barrage of 45 points. Even more staggering was their efficiency as their first missed shot came with 1:20 left on their eighteenth shot.

If the start of the game was a sign of things to come, it never looked good for the Giants as big man Josh Leger was caught sleeping on defence, before Leon Henry lobbed it in to Tohi Smith-Milner for the finish inside to open the game’s scoring.

Reuben Fitzgerald started in the place of Murray and grabbed the opportunity with both hands hitting a corner three, on his way to 12 first quarter points.

It was clear early that Henry was looking to attack the smaller Nelson outfit in the paint which opted to start without Mike Karena or the returned Mika Vukona. Once Karena was substituted in, Smith-Milner was able to stretch him to defend the perimeter, leaving Henry unleashed with the size advantage inside.

Every starter got involved for the Huskies with a deep three from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa following a Marvin Williams-Dunn triple. Nate Wilson missed the first shot of the game for Auckland, but the Huskies were even able to grab the offensive board, rubbing salt into the wound for Nelson.

A Dane Brooks air ball accurately represented the quarter for the Giants as Wilson made up for his blemish with a big transition dunk. The first quarter ended 12-45 as the Huskies shot an incredible 90 per cent, including 89 per cent from deep.

There was no real offensive determination out of the gates for Nelson as they struggled to 22 per cent shooting, recording one assist compared to Auckland’s nine. Henry led all scorers with 13.

If the Giants were any chance of making it a respectable margin, they had to respond immediately. Besides a Karena technical foul, two Brooks blocks and a Tysxun Aiolupotea three gave them that start they needed. A Jaylen Gerrand three and a Wilson and-one quickly put a stop to that as the Huskies would not let any inroads be made into their huge lead. They passed 50 points with seven minutes to go in the second quarter and managed to continue to trade baskets with Nelson having made a very comfortable lead for themselves.

Karena’s shot was not falling as it usually does while Isaac Miller-Jose was trying to match his frustrated physicality for much of the game as the match threatened to heat up at times in the second quarter.

A Zeb Lovell and-one brought the lead below 30 until Mauriohooho Le’Afa dropped a deep two, and Murray replacement and New Zealand basketball veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell scored his first competition points.

Smith-Milner barrelled his way to the hoop to close out a dominant first half for the Huskies which saw them lead 31-62, still shooting 56 per cent from beyond the arc. Though their burning hot hand couldn’t maintain their ridiculous first quarter shooting, they still attacked the paint, scoring 18 more points inside than Nelson.

Henry and Fitzgerald did not add to their quarter time tally as Lovell and Aiolupotea led the scoring for the Giants with seven points each.

Coming out of the locker room much later than their opposition, you had to wonder what Nelson were looking to achieve in the second half. Whatever it was, Smith-Milner was not having any of it as he scored 11 points in the first three and a half minutes which included two three-pointers and an and-one.

Theo Johnson and Brooks both put up athletic finishes inside as Mauriohooho Le’Afa did what he does, knocking down a beautiful step back mid-range jumper.

Williams-Dunn and Aiolupotea went head to head down the stretch until Karena imposed himself on the game with a spin out of the post for the reverse baseline dunk, only to follow it up with another one-hand dunk not long after.

With four seconds left, Fitzgerald burst out of the half court inbound for the layup, but another Miller-Jose offensive foul prevented it from counting. Though they showed better signs, the Giants were unable to take a big enough chunk out of the margin as they trailed 54-85 heading into the last break.

The Huskies did not play Mauriohooho Le’Afa, Smith-Milner or Henry in the final quarter giving some bench players good minutes.

Unfortunately, the game ended with little excitement as Nelson won the quarter scoring just 13 points to Auckland’s 11. Karena showed some fight out of the post but it was too little too late with them losing 96-67, a loss they will be keen to move on from as soon as possible having not been in the game after the first quarter deficit they gave up.

With 11 out of their 12 players scoring, Smith-Milner led the way with 20 points with Fitzgerald the next best with 14. Mauriohooho Le’Afa (12 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Henry (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) enjoyed well-rounded performances as the Huskies fired on all cylinders offensively for much of the night. Their final week of NZNBL action will start when they face the Otago Nuggets on Tuesday and if they can mirror their first quarter in any way, it will go a long way toward them winning.

A disappointing night saw Nelson shoot just 38 per cent with Karena (15 points, eight rebounds) and Aiolupotea (13 points) the only players to reach double figures. The loss sees them sit at sixth place as they will want to start fresh against the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs on Wednesday.

Nelson’s giant third quarter puts down Huskies

NELSON Giants’ big third term saw them accelerate away from Auckland Huskies and ensure they won back-to-back games thanks to an eight-point win last night. The Giants scored 28 points, but held their opponents to just 11, handing them a 23-point lead at the final break, enough to hold off a fast-finishing Auckland side that won the last term, 29-14. There were some big outs for either side with Mika Vukona still sidelined following appendix surgery and Leon Henry serving his one-game suspension he suffered in the Huskies’ solitary win against Taranaki. In the end, the Giants were a touch better for longer winning 91-83.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 20 | 23 | 11 | 29 (83)
NELSON GIANTS 20 | 29 | 28 | 14 (91)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Continuing his hot form since his return, Mike Karena won the tip for the Giants and found himself with the ball inside where Henry’s replacement starter Nathan Wilson met him at the cup with a big block, although Karena recovered it and scored the game’s first points with a baseline jumper. Building some momentum in his first start on the season, Wilson would make his away inside with a silky drive which drew the foul and his one for two makes at the line would be the first for Auckland.

Having shaken off his quarantine rust in his last game, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa would open his scoring account with a pretty floater which would ignite the spark on his incredible first half of play. Not so prettily, however, Karena would find himself with two fouls early as big man Tohi Smith-Milner would draw the charge on the next play, with some Karena displeasure with the official drawing a technical foul next to his name. After just two minutes of play, Nelson’s star player would find a spot on the pine.

Back-to-back triples from Mauriohooho Le’afa and young gun Taine Murray saw the Huskies gain an early lead, as a smaller and more athletic starting five inevitably resulted in faster transitions from Auckland. The Giants would slowly start to claw their way back into the game through Josh Leger – who came in for Karena – and his seven-point opening term. He kept his spot in the team despite Thane O’Leary returning from injury, with the decision paying off for Mike Fitchett and his Giants.

A Mauriohooho Le’afa steal would lead to a huge baseline cut and slam for Wilson on the back of a no-look pass from Marvin Williams-Dunn, a beautiful highlight play in what was otherwise a quiet night for him. Trading buckets for the remainder of the term, Smith-Milner made a tough finish inside which finished the quarter with the scores tied at 20. Poor shooting from Nelson allowed the early deficit, but some rigid defence kept them in the game as they forced six turnovers from Auckland early.

Dane Brooks would start the second quarter athletically with a big block, a steal and a layup setting the tone for the Giants’ next two quarters. With small ball paying off early offensively for the Huskies, the Giants knew they had to take advantage of the absence of Henry on Auckland’s defensive end. Zeb Lovell targeted a leaner Wilson in the post on multiple occasions, a clear indication of the Giants desire to attack the paint going forward.

Nelson come hard out of the gates despite another athletic defensive play from Wilson. Their scoring continued to come from inside the paint as the Huskies were playing too tight defensively on the perimeter despite Nelson’s inefficiency from deep, with the Giants blowing past the defenders. The start saw them get out to an eight-point lead, with the return of Karena leading you to believe it would get worse for the Huskies. Mauriohooho Le’afa did not care for that as he would steal the show, scoring on the Huskies’ next four possessions which included three triples and a long two. The game began to heat up physically alongside the scorching hot Mauriohooho Le’afa who would end the first half with a whopping 26 points, courtesy of six threes.

The two teams would continue to trade baskets down the last stretch of the first half, although some Brooks hustle with the Giants small ball would end the half and the second quarter the way he started with a big swat, a steal from the inbound and an assist to a Josh Bloxham layup taking us into half time. Despite Mauriohooho Le’afa, the Giants would lead 49-43 with 20 points from the bench no doubt a contributing factor, as well as attacking inside as they got to the line and earned 22 points in the paint for the half.

A one-man show for the first half, the Huskies needed more contributions in the absence of Henry, but contributions from anyone was scarce for the third quarter. Karena would start the quarter having just played three and a half minutes in the first half and his impact was on display immediately with a steal and assist leading to a Bloxham three. A nine-point scoring run would take the lead out to 15 before a Murray triple would settle things down. The settling was only momentary, however, as their next score would not come for another three minutes.

The Giants played deny ball defence on Mauriohooho Le’afa early as the performance of the two teams went in opposite directions. Nelson’s active ball movement was quick and efficient as Auckland’s one-on-one offense was not paying dividends.

Leger’s five points and a corner three from Johnson down the stretch would give Nelson a near insurmountable 23-point lead heading into the last break, ending an abysmal 28-11 quarter the Huskies would rather forget.

Mauriohooho Le’afa missed his only two shots for the quarter as Williams-Dunn remained scoreless on the game. The Huskies were beginning to wonder where their next points would come from as Karena would re-enter the game – an even more worrying sign for them.

Needing to throw whatever they had left at the Giants if they wanted to have any chance of coming close, the Huskies got the start they were after with Nicholas Brophy getting to the line, and a Wilson steal following that and resulting in a Mauriohooho Le’afa three. Their newfound momentum was quickly halted with Brooks being fouled on a three-point attempt, as the Huskies struggled to string together consecutive stops.

Trading baskets for most of the final quarter, the Huskies found a final gear as they managed a 10-0 run within a minute, but it was too little too late. Despite the single digit loss, it was a convincing win for the Giants as they now find themselves third on the ladder at the conclusion of week two having won 83-91.

Leger (14 points) and Tom Ingham (14 points, two steals) were among the best for the Giants as Karena (10 points) was kept quiet due to foul trouble.

Mauriohooho Le’afa was fantastic with 32 points at 50 per cent from the field, while Wilson (10 points, seven rebounds) and Murray (16 points) were also serviceable. The return of Henry will be welcomed for their match against the Nuggets on Tuesday as they will look for more performers to scrape them off the bottom of the ladder.

Bulls book back-to-back wins with Giant triumph

FRANKLIN Bulls have moved to an even win-loss record in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown after downing Nelson Giants in a low-scoring, tight tussle. The Bulls survived a second quarter surge by the Giants to win three of the four terms and get up by six points, 75-69.

NELSON GIANTS 14 | 21 | 18 | 16 (69)
FRANKLIN BULLS 21 | 15 | 20 | 19 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Isaac Davidson kicked off proceeding with an early hot hand, draining a triple 21 seconds into the contest. For the Giants, Mike Karena looked busy early with a couple of two-pointers including an impressive fade away jumper, while Jackson Stubbins and Sam Timmins were also getting involved for the Bulls. After the Giants hit the front three minutes into the quarter, Timmins and Davidson helped the Bulls go on a nice little run with eight consecutive points, and then Joel Vaiangina joined the party once he came into the action.

Sensing the urgency to turn things around, Nic Trathen nailed two free throws to keep his team in the contest, as the Bulls had chances but missed a number of jump shots both inside and outside the arc. A Riley Bensemann attempted triple was made good thanks to a double chance points rebound and lay up by Josh Leger with just over three minutes left on the clock in the first term. Dom Kelman-Poto got his first point of the night with one of two successful free throws upon returning to the court from substitution.

Just as the Giants got close, Adam Dunstan decided to take matters into his own hands and add five consecutive points to stretch the lead to nine with 29 seconds to play, before a Dane Brooks jump shot late in the peace brought the quarter time margin back to seven.

The early going was all the Bulls as the Giants could not seem to buy a basket, with Franklin adding the first six points of the term to move 13 clear of their opponents. But then the range issues hit the leading side as well, with 90 seconds going by before Karena made good on a jump shot for the Giants for their first points of the quarter, and a minute later Kelman-Poto was fouled and successfully dropped two free throws.

The Giants started to turn it around after a slow start to the term, trailing 19-34 with three minutes and 14 seconds remaining. Then everything started to click into place. Theo Johnson and Tysxun Aiolupotea dropped back-to-back triples as the usually reliable Everard Bartlett missed his chance. Timmins produced a statement dunk with just under two minutes remaining to settle the team and ensure they held a 10-point lead, but it would be the last points of the quarter for the Bulls.

Johnson sank another triple, Thomas Ingham converted two free throws, and then Karena and Ingham both added a couple of extra points to game in the last minute. In that time, the pairing of Stubbins and Bartlett could not seem to find the accuracy from long range, and the Bulls’ lead had been cut to just one at half-time.

The Giants momentum continued after the main break with Karena immediately showing why he was so dangerous, getting close to the basket with a great lay up, and then draining a two-point jump shot. The hot hands flowed onto Ingham – who was fouled by Timmins – and Brooks as the Giants had piled on 17 consecutive points across either side of the break for a seven-point advantage.

Kelman-Poto broke the five-minute scoring drought for the Bulls with an important jump shot – and the and-on conversion from the foul line. Karena was making life difficult for Franklin however, slamming home another dunk at the two-and-a-half minute mark of the term. Chris McIntosh relieved some pressure with a triple midway through the term to cut the Bulls deficit to three, but Zeb Lovell soon increased that back up by answering that with a two-pointer. The teams traded blows late in the term with Bartlett finally nailing a triple, and his second triple – with 51 seconds remaining – saw the Bulls find the form of the first term.

Trailing by four points with just over a minute remaining, Kelman-Poto, Bartlett and Connor Woodbridge added a combined seven points to regain the lead at the death by three points. It set up a huge final term between the teams with everything on the line and the crowd on the edge of their seats.

It was the Bulls who struck first blood in the final stanza with Kelman-Poto and Timmins both impressing to give Franklin a seven-point advantage. Bensemann cut that back with a triple, but Nikau McCullough responded with a nice lay up. Neither team could seemingly hit a shot over the next couple of minutes until McCullough broke the drought, this time with a triple and the Bulls were out to a nine-point lead with seven minutes to play. Karena again stood tall with a fade away jumper, but as soon as he had cut the deficit back to seven, Davidson responded with a double of his own.

Each time the Giants were in trouble, it was Karena who stepped up as he continued to drain baskets and seemingly do it all in a desperate bid to haul his team over the line. With three and a half minutes to play, he earned one last rest after the last six points for the Giants. When he returned, there was two-and-a-half on the clock and Davidson drained a jump shot to stretch the Bulls lead to five.

There was no way Karena and his side was going to fade away – apart from his jumpers – as Lovell drilled a triple, and Karena quickly added a layup after Davidson missed a two-point jumper. The Bulls looked to be struggling to find avenues to the basket with a 24-second shot clock violation expiring and the ball handed back to the Giants as they trailed by two with 44 seconds remaining. The ball landed in the hands of Ingham who took a chance at the long-range jumper but missed, and Kelman-Poto got it to Stubbins who was quickly fouled to ensure the Bulls could not take time off the clock.

After missing his first free throw, Stubbins converted the second and the lead was three with 35 seconds remaining. Ingham again had the chance for redemption, but again missed it. This time it was Davidson collecting the defensive rebound and was immediately fouled. He too went at 50 per cent from the charity stripe, but it was enough to make it a two-possession game with a four-point lead.

The pressure was now getting to the Giants with Josh Bloxham called for ball handling and turned it over, with Stubbins getting fouled and making both free throws to put the result beyond doubt – barring a miracle – with 15 seconds remaining. Ingham tried to slice up the defence with a pass but Davidson picked his pocket and with nine seconds remaining, it ensured the Bulls would get up in a massive edge-of-the-seat contest, 75-69.

Whilst Karena was the star off the boards across the game with 26 points – at 70.6 per cent efficiency – as well as seven defensive rebounds – it was the even spread of the Bulls that got them home. Davidson recorded a team-high 15 points, as well as four rebounds and two steals, whilst McCullough (11 points), Kelman-Poto (10 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double figures. Whilst Stubbins only shot one from four from the field, he still nailed some important free throws and had 10 rebounds to go with his five points and two assists.

Other than Karena, Ingham (eight points, nine rebounds) and Lovell (six points, six rebounds) were prominent off the boards, but the former could not find his range with just one from 13 from the field, and five turnovers. The Giants will now take on the Canterbury Rams tomorrow night, whilst the Bulls play in the earlier game against Otago Nuggets.

Nuggets bury Giants with final term flurry

OTAGO Nuggets found an extra gear when required in the final term to storm past an understrength but gallant Nelson Giants in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Nuggets pulled all the strings throughout the game, and were in control to the extent that Wednesday night’s top scorer and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jarrod Kenny did not even attempt a shot. Instead, it was Jordan Ngatai who led the way with 23 points, as well as three rebounds, three assists and three steals, supported well by a host of teammates.

OTAGO NUGGETS 26 | 30 | 20 | 31 (107)
NELSON GIANTS 19 | 26 | 21 | 16 (82)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

Despite some whispers that star Giant and Tall Blacks legend Mika Vukona might take to the court during the match, Nelson opted to let their first pick sit out and instead return for Sunday night’s clash with Manawatu Jets. Given the Giants were still missing other top three draft selections, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks, the firepower was severely impacted. Not so much for the Nuggets, fresh off a win against the Jets 24 hours earlier, as they raced away to a 26-19 lead at quarter time.

Kane Keil score the first points of the night, as he and Jordan Hunt went to work early with four points apiece leading the Nuggets to an 8-2 advantage five minutes into the term. Whilst many expected Kenny and Ngatai to do all the damage early, it was the former who opted to use his slick passing to advantage to dish off dimes to teammates, whilst the latter had just four points in the term.

Young gun Tysxun Aiolupotea was doing what he could in the first term, forcing fouls from the opposition and scoring four consecutive free throws to cut the nine-point deficit into a five-point one late in the term. Thomas Ingham‘s desperate attempt to score in the last few seconds saw him finish the term with a couple of free throws himself and his side headed in seven points behind.

Ngatai soon made his intentions known with the first five points of the second term, whilst Hunt completed the alley oop from Kenny, earned the foul and then sank the and-one opportunity. When Ngatai made it eight points for the term in less than two minutes, he and his side were in complete control and the margin had blown out to 18 points. Ingham and Nicolas Trathen tried their hand to get the Giants back into it with the next five points, but another clever layup after a steal from Keil piled on more pressure for the trailing side.

Without the Giants’ big three, Ingham and Trathen were left to pick up the slack in the first half as the pair almost exclusively piled on the points scoring 34 of the Giants’ 45 points. Trathen had 19, as well as five rebounds and an assist at the half, whilst Ingham had 15, seven and three in an equally big performance. Ngatai had started to get his hot hands going with 14 points in the term to move up to 18, as he became the predominant score alongside Hunt who had 12.

Coming out after half-time, Kenny’s refusal to put up a shot continued as he provided a neat assist to Ngatai for a layup. Otago had led by 11 at the main break thanks to a Jack Andrew buzzer beating dunk, but were not out of the woods yet. Nelson could not quite find the right formula to score enough. The game looked all but over in the third term when Richard Rodger drilled a three-point jumper with seven minutes remaining after the Nuggets had gone on a tear, scoring nine of the first points for the term.

A late inclusion into the Giants squad and wearing the injured Thane O’Leary guernsey, Josh Leger tried all he could getting into the post, visibly frustrated by the Nuggets’ defence, but he was forcing them to be accountable on that end. To that point earlier in the term, the Giants defence around the perimeter had been lax which let the Nuggets free reign at times shooting from long-range. Both Leger and Zeb Lovell were starting to work their magic and then came Riley Bensemann.

Trailing by 14 points, the Giants shooter shot back-to-back three-pointers, then handed off an assist for a Josh Bloxham three minutes later. In a remarkable turn of events, the Giants were within five points and it was a ball game. Sensing the importance of the moment, Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere called a time out and questioned the communication of his side. The pep talk worked for the last 90 seconds as they scored seven of the last nine points of the quarter to lead 78-68 at the final break.

The teams traded blows early in the final term, but once the Nuggets got going thanks to a Ngatai triple with six minutes remaining, they had control. Scoring 22 of the last 32 points, it was party time for the undefeated side as their 17-5 run in the middle of the term from that Ngatai triple ended any doubt about the winner of the contest. For the last few minutes the Nuggets starters were on the best enjoying the show as the bench players went to work padding some of their stats and working hard both defensively and offensively to send a message to the rest of the competition.

Whilst Ngatai was the star, the Nuggets had a huge amount of contributors, with Hunt (19 points, two rebounds) and Keil (11 points, four rebounds) impressing from the starting line-up. Off the bench, it was Aicheson (13 points, two rebounds) and Rodger (11 points, two assists and two steals) who scored a fair chunk of the points. The likes of Darcy Knox (eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) and teenage wrecking ball, Akiva McBirney-Griffin – who claimed as many bodies on the court as he did points – played strong roles across the game.

For the Giants, Trathen (21 points, seven rebounds) and Ingham (17 points, eight rebounds) did not really add too much to their first half domination, with Bensemann’s nine points, and Aiolupotea and Lovell’s eight each the next highest for the side. Lovell also finished with seven rebounds and three assists, but it was the team turnovers that cost the Giants with 22 to 12, and whilst they had a plus six in rebounds, were minus eight in assists.

Sunday could not come fast enough for Giants fans who will welcome back Vukona with open arms. The side has been gallant without him and the other injured stars, but did not have enough class to really run out four quarters. For the Nuggets, they rest up for the week and have certainly earned it, heading 2-0 to start their 2020 campaign.