Tag: joshua aitcheson

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #1 – Ngatai block saves GF for Otago, Nuggets hold on in final seconds

IN what was the culmination of an action-packed month and a half of basketball, the events that ensued in this season’s Grand Final between the Otago Nuggets and the Manawatu Jets, in particular the final minutes, fittingly rounded out the NZNBL this year as a whole as the Nuggets clinched a two-point victory (79-77). Due to this, it concludes Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments at the number one-spot.

For the full match report of this year’s Grand Final between the Nuggets and the Jets – Click HERE

Otago had defeated the Jets in their previous four encounters, meaning Manawatu entered the Grand Final as the underdogs. But for Tim McTamney and his side, all prior meetings were irrelevant and one win on the night could crown them NZNBL champions.

It only took a few seconds for the Jets to get their squad going, as Hyrum Harris dunked the ball with two hands, which was quickly followed up with a layup from the league MVP in Thomas Vodanovich. Fortunately for Otago, the experience and calmness from veteran teammate and Defensive Player of the Year, Jarrod Kenny, the Nuggets hit back with a couple of baskets of their own, slowing the momentum of the Jets.

Limited opportunities would present themselves to both teams in the opening period, but the Jets were smart enough to attack the rim early on, edging out a slight two-point lead heading into the first intermission.

An unexpected turn for the worst had the Nuggets on the back foot for the majority of the second quarter. Jordan Ngatai, Otago’s number one draft pick and Brent Matehaere’s go-to man, had run into early foul trouble and sat out for most of the second quarter meaning Otago’s secondary unit had to step up.

While Manawatu outscored the Nuggets in the second 24-22, Ngatai and Kenny gained extended periods of rest, as their bench players limited the Jets’ ability to score. Additionally, their bigs in Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil made their presence known, as they pulled down a number of rebounds to convert on numerous second chance opportunities. Furthermore, terrific ball-movement from coach Matehaere’s role players kept his side in the contest, culminating in a corner three for Richard Rodger to tie the game with few minutes to play in the first half.

In a first half that saw eight lead changes, there were not many things that the final was missing to make it a great game, but the main concern for Manawatu was their inability to capitalise on Otago’s turnovers (14 in the first half).

The combination of Hunt and Keil injected a sense of composure into their side, as the frontcourt duo strung together a pivotal 10-0 run. The points swing in favour of the Nuggets was quickly upended, as Kalib Mullins’ three-pointer out of the timeout got the Jets’ bench on their feet. Shortly before the final break, late field goals from Harris and Jayden Bezzant re-secured the advantage for Manawatu, as the Jets held onto a flimsy three-point lead with 10 minutes still to play.

Re-energised and raring to go, Ngatai opened up the fourth with the initial points of the stanza and after Joshua Aitcheson and Keil knocked down their third triples of the contest each, the Nuggets helped themselves to an 11-0 start to the fourth quarter, blowing the game out of the water. But the triple-threat of Vodanovich, Harris and Bezzant did not back down, gradually grinding away at the deficit throughout the final term. Luckily for Manawatu, they whittled the Nuggets’ lead down to just three points with over the two minutes left to play in the Grand Final.

As the intensity and the pressure started to grow for both sides, each basket started to feel like two, and Ngatai who had played limited minutes up to this point had a couple tricks up his sleeve. The Tall-Black and New Zealand Breaker penetrated the lane for another signature right-hand jam turning Trusts Arena into a frenzy. But, back-to-back buckets from Bezzant made the crowd hold their breath a little longer, as the Jets trailed by just one point.

With 33 seconds left on the clock, a Hunt shot-clock violation handed the ball back to Manawatu for the final possession and a chance to win the closing game of the season. However, as Harris drove down the corridor for the right-hand layup, Ngatai swooped in from the side, pinning the shot against the backboard with the game-saving block. A moment for Otago’s supporters to cherish for the rest of their lives.

After Aitcheson was intentionally fouled following regaining possession of the ball, the 22-year-old had a chance to ice the game. After missing one of his free-throws, the Jets chose not to call a timeout, meaning that Nelson Kirksey’s shot from half court on the buzzer was the last gasp for the green and white.

Sailing through the air for what seemed like an eternity, the ball clang off the left side of the rim as the Otago Nuggets claimed their first NZNBL title in franchise history, capping off what was a fitting way to end the most unique and possibly most controversial campaign in the NZNBL’s history. For this, it deserves the top-spot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the season.

Otago strikes gold, defeating Jets for first ever NZNBL title

THE New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 2020 season has ended in a thriller, with the Otago Nuggets clenching their first ever Championship title, in an exhilarating 79-77 conclusion to the campaign over the Manawatu Jets. The contest saw many lead changes and scoring runs and could only be separated by a missed three-pointer at the buzzer with Brent Matehaere and his boys heading back to the South Island with an extra piece of silverware.

OTAGO NUGGETS 15 | 22 | 15 | 27 (79)
MANAWATU JETS 17 | 24 | 14 | 22 (77)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

This year’s NZNBL Grand Final was a matchup between the two undisputed top teams all season long, but the Jets had a massive chip on their shoulder, as they were yet to defeat the Nuggets in their four prior contests. But the green and white looked to their key players to have a noticeable impact on a Nuggets squad that had yet to face adversity up to this point of their campaign.

It was Manawatu with the explosive first punch as Hyrum Harris slammed down the two-hand jam just mere seconds after the opening tip. This was then followed up with a layup from Thomas Vodanovich, as the Jets stunned Otago within the opening sequences. The experience of Jarrod Kenny and the range of Joshua Aitcheson quickly settled the nerves amongst their side, with a couple of field goals in what would be an adrenaline-filled opening term.

While both sides continued to trade baskets in the initial minutes, Manawatu maintained a slight edge, as they got to the rim fast and early on dribble penetration and fast break offence. The second half of the first quarter entailed a scrappier brand of basketball, as both teams struggled to find their targets. This trend was abruptly bucked after a strong second chance bucket from youngster Akiva McBirney-Griffin, after almost three minutes without a made basket from both sides, cutting the deficit to one point, 13-12.

Aitcheson’s lucky drop from three-point range and a putback-layup from Nelson Kirksey concluded proceedings in the first period, with the Jets held a fragile 17-15 lead thanks to their defensive pressure. Otago’s nine opening-quarter turnovers and Manawatu’s six steals created what seemed like a lop-sided first 10 minutes, but Aitcheson’s two threes were keeping the Nuggets within striking range.

Matehaere’s bigs Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil came through with a couple buckets to lead off the second, quickly handing the side the lead while appearing to have a new level of calm. But, back-to-back layups for Vodanovich quickly reminded spectators why he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Early foul trouble for Jordan Ngatai and an extended rest period for Kenny early in the second quarter, saw Otago’s second unit display some terrific ball movement. The main highlight of this was a well-executed corner three by way of Richard Rodger. A similar story to the first, the Jets maintained a slight lead heading into half-time and following an And-One from Harris with less than two minutes remaining, it seemed Manawatu would inherit the momentum. But, Keil’s three to answer back with 90 seconds to go undid most of that.

In a half that saw eight lead changes and a halfway deficit of just four points (37-41), the NZNBL’s final game of the season had it all. But the main talking point of the game to this point was Ngatai’s lack of court time through 20 minutes. The number one draft pick had only seven minutes and 46 seconds on the hardwood, which when coupled with Otago’s 14 giveaways, was slightly worrying for Tim McTamney’s side that they were not further ahead.

Vodanovich and Kirksey led the way on the scoreboard for Manawatu with 11 each, whereas Hunt and Keil contributed 11 and 10 points for the Nuggets in a first half that saw a different story of play from each squad. With Ngatai making his return in the second half, Otago had an air of composure surrounding them, kicking off the third period with a fast-break layup to Hunt a minute and a half in. As well as Keil knocking down the mid-range jumper shortly after.

The two players helped the Nuggets to a remarkable 10-0 run, which was capped off by Ngatai’s first bucket of the game leading to a Jets timeout to try and stall the Minor Premier’s confidence.

Manawatu’s team huddle worked momentarily, as Kalib Mullins knocked down a triple to get the Jets bench on their feet. The rest of the third period remained relatively level-headed, with Manawatu grinding their way back into a one-possession game and eventually back into the lead credited to Vodanovich’s second three of the game, putting the score at 51-50.

Late buckets from Harris and Jayden Bezzant helped the Jets re-secure the lead for the final break, leading 55-52 with the final stanza still to be played and neither team really gaining a real upper hand on one another.

Ngatai’s quarter-opening layup and Aitcheson’s third three of the contest gifted the lead back to Otago, and Keil added insult to injury with a third three of his own. An And-One from Ngatai rounded out an 11-0 run for the Nuggets blowing the game out of the water two and a half minutes into the final period.

However, over the next five minutes, the combination of Vodanovich, Harris and Bezzant brought the deficit back to as little as three points with just over two minutes left in the game. But, another signature right-hand jam from Ngatai held off the Jets a while longer in an event filled final two minutes. A couple buckets from Bezzant brought Manawatu back from the dead with less than a minute to go making the score 78-77, and after Hunt conceded a shot-clock violation with 33 seconds left for Otago, the Jets had the chance to win the game with one more field goal.

But Ngatai had other plans, after pinning Harris’s layup to the backboard on a game saving block with 29 seconds left. After a couple of intentional fouls, Aitcheson’s single made free-throw put the Nuggets up by two.

Not calling a final timeout, the last second half court heave from Kirksey would hit the left side of the rim to end the final play of the season, as the Nuggets held on for a hard-fought 79-77 win. After the two-point triumph, the reality had set in for Otago knowing that they had won their franchise’s first ever NZNBL title.

In a game that saw both teams earn every single basket, neither side was able to crack 50 per cent shooting, but the difference proved to be Otago’s range as they knocked down 10 triples over the four phases of play compared to Manawatu’s six. Another glaring difference in the statistics was the rebounding totals, with Otago earning a plus-13 on the boards (48-35).

Despite Manawatu forcing 23 turnovers from the Nuggets, it was Otago that capitalised on their chances, earning 20 points from turnovers, five more than the Jets.

After an honourable 21-point and seven-rebound performance, it was only fitting that Jordan Hunt was awarded Finals MVP honours. Meanwhile, Aitcheson had himself a season-best performance of his own, amassing 16 points off of four threes and six rebounds.

Despite limited minutes with just 11 points and eight turnovers, Ngatai still made valuable contributions with six rebounds and four assists. Whereas, Kenny had an all-around night with six points, seven boards and eight assists.

Another MVP-calibre performance from Vodanovich (24 points, 10 rebounds and four steals) was not enough to get his side over the hump. Nevertheless, another great night from Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals) rounded out a prolific season on the whole for the two New Zealanders.

In what was a top-to-bottom job from the beginning of the season, it was certainly an entertaining finale to the NZNBL for 2020 and after receiving his championship medal, Coach Matehaere credited his team for their tremendous finish to the season.

“To my guys, you wouldn’t have seen it on television because we were sitting behind a screen, but on Draft Night… oh what a night,” reminisced the Coach of the Year.“ I was smiling all the way through [picks] one to 12 or one to 84. Kia Ora boys, this is our moment.”

Nuggets reach first grand final in franchise history, halt Rams’ run

LIKE all great stories, there is eventually an ending. This was the case for the Canterbury Rams’ spectacular New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Finals Week run, as they fell to the minor premiers and championship favourites, the Otago Nuggets. In what was a clinic from the Nuggets’ marquee signings, Jordan Hunt in particular helped elevate his side to their Franchise’s first ever Grand Final appearance, after surgically defeating a fatigued Rams squad, 97-79.

Knowing full well that Canterbury was not fully rested, Hunt expressed post-game that it was a major point for him and his side to exploit. “We just wanted to come out strong,” said Hunt. “It was pretty tough on the Rams coming off of two previous games in two days, so we just tried to put the foot on early and keep it there.”

OTAGO NUGGETS 29 | 25 | 27 | 16 (97)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 17 | 18 | 22 (79)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Having already pulled of remarkable upsets in their first and second elimination finals against the Nelson Giants and the Auckland Huskies, Canterbury’s biggest and most challenging opponent stood directly in front of them.

Pre-dating their third matchup, the Nuggets had emerged victorious over their South Island neighbours on both occasions. But, with both of those meetings being decided by 10 points or less, the Rams were not an immediate write-off before the opening tip. However, coming off a strong qualifying final triumph over the Manawatu Jets, it certainly seemed a ‘David vs Goliath-type’ line-up for the two sides and Otago was determined to win the franchise’s first NZNBL title.

Number one pick Jordan Ngatai kicked off the proceedings with an aggressive layup with his favoured left hand, while Joshua Aitcheson added to Nuggets confident start. Then 100 seconds in, an up-and-under layup by Rams’ captain Taylor Britt on Defensive Player of the Year Jarrod Kenny, got the second of the two teams up off the ground.

The ball started to find some range during the middle stages of the first quarter as both sides starting looking to the deep-ball, and at an efficient rate. A 35-second stretch saw back-to-back-to-back threes from Rams Toby Gillooly and Alexander Talma and Otago’s Kenny, highlighting the accurate shooting in the opening 10 minutes of play.

Keeping Mick Downer’s squad at arm’s length during the first term, a corner-three via Hunt extended Otago’s advantage to greater than two possessions, helping the Nugs to an advantageous 29-22 quarter-time lead. The Nuggets maintained 61 per cent shooting from the field off of 11 made attempts, nine of which were created through assists, as Hunt and Ngatai accumulated nine and eight points apiece amongst a fast-paced first term.

Another Kenny triple extended Otago’s lead to 10 points kicking off the second, but the Rams tried another approach of scoring, which came evident throughout the duration of the period. Going with a twin-tower formation between Talma and Thomas Webley, Canterbury hammered Otago’s frontcourt around the rim with close-range shots. But the Nuggets continued to capitalise on easy baskets, more times than not through dribble penetration and lacklustre help defence courtesy of the Rams.

Canterbury’s second half prospects of a comeback were hindered further, following a put back layup from Hunt. Otago held a handsome 54-39 half-time lead as a result of forcing numerous turnovers with Canterbury’s total at nine. Talma led his side in points at the main break, but with Hunt, Ngatai and Kenny each in double-digits at this stage, the Rams needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they were to claw their way back into the match.

With the Rams shooting 40 per cent leading into the third quarter, the red and black needed to hit their shots and quickly with time running out. But the second half started with defence for the Rams, as Reuben Te Rangi’s statement block on Ngatai set the tone for the next 10 minutes.

Even though both teams struggled to convert from the field, the Nuggets at least found some success on their shots, slowly but surely stringing together a 7-0 run to begin the second half and pushing their already commanding lead to 20 points. With the Rams desperately needing solutions, Brent Matehaere’s squad could smell blood and looked to their ball movement to deliver one last debilitating blow to a struggling Canterbury outfit.

As more of Otago’s bench players were getting some court time, fatigue became more and more of a factor in the later stages of the contest, as the Rams just could not keep up with the top-ranked seed in the League. And after Kane Keil’s reverse layup with 20 seconds remaining in the third, the 24-point lead (81-57) in favour of the Nuggets looked insurmountable for Canterbury, while Hunt continued his rampage, sitting pretty with 28 points through three phases.

Despite Canterbury’s roster depth and winning out in the bench points statistic, there was simply no answer for Otago’s marquee signings. This, coupled with the fact that the Rams were playing their third game in as many days, marked a battle that the underdogs just could not win.

One last charge for the Rams would ensue, off the back of Samuel Smith and Benjamin Carlile-Smith baskets, bringing the deficit to as little as 13 points. But following Darcy Knox’s layup and Ngatai’s three with a few seconds left, the Nuggets would cross the finish line cementing their place in the club’s first Final ever, knocking off the dark-horse Rams 97-79.

Otago’s 50 per cent shooting carried them for all four quarters as well as their 22 assists, capping off a well-rounded team effort on the night.

Leading them through the game, Hunt’s game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds earned him man of the match honours, as Ngatai and Kenny added 23 and 16 points each, as well as both of players doling out seven assists.

Sam Smith led the Rams in scoring with a flurry of late buckets, compiling a modest 13 points. Meanwhile, the duo of captain Britt and Webley combined for 24 points, whereas Te Rangi concluded his night with 10, alongside three rebounds and three assists.

The Rams’ Cinderella story came to an unfortunate ending last night after surprising most pundits to this point, but the Nuggets were plainly the more superior side over four quarters and can now look forward to their first ever grand final appearance on Saturday since their inception in 1990 when they face the Jets.

Giants trounce Nuggets, gain essential morale before finals

ANOTHER upset win for the Nelson Giants can be added to the books, as they came away with an impressive 23-point shellacking of the top of the table Otago Nuggets in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) middle game of the triple-header.

NELSON GIANTS 21 | 31 | 22 | 23 (97)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 15 | 15 | 16 (74)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Knowing full well the outcome of last night’s result was to have no effect on each team’s positioning for next week’s Finals, the Nuggets were without starting big-man Jordan Hunt and stretch-four shooter Kane Keil. As a result, both Brent Matehaere and Mike Fitchett could tinker around with their sides before their games next week, despite it being a clash between first and second last. It also allowed both coaches to allow any players with “niggles” to gain much needed rest.

Even though young Kiwi big-man Akiva McBirney-Griffin got the starting nod from his side, Mike Karena quickly reminded him of the pecking order to begin the game, converting on a running hook. Nevertheless, Joshua Aitcheson knocked down a triple to get the ball rolling for the Nuggets. It was evident early on that each team went about scoring in totally different fashions. For the Giants, it was attacking the rim hard and getting up close and personal with Otago’s frontcourt, as 14 of their first 17 points came from inside the paint. For the Nuggets, they knocked down five shots from deep in their first ten attempts, signalling a more distant approach to getting on the scoreboard. The quarter time totals would reflect a slight advantage in favour of the Nuggets, who’s 28-21 lead came as a result of their bench’s contributions, outscoring Nelson’s 12-2 in the first 10 minutes. Eight points of which, came by way of Darcy Knox, along with Matthew Bardsley and Samuel Aruwa hitting a shot each.

To commence the second, Nelson slowly but surely began to crawl their way back taking the lead halfway through the quarter, thanks to a corner three from Thomas Ingham. But, both sides would remain within earshot of one another, dealing blows to back and forth for most of the remaining few minutes in the first half. Consecutive fast-break layups from Karena and a three-pointer from Tom Gargiulo handed Nelson a commanding nine-point lead heading into the main intermission after a 31-15 period, due mainly to instrumental rebounds, which in turn translated to a bunch of second chance points in the paint over the first two periods (14-4). Karena and Knox both led their teams in scoring at halftime, with the Giants’ center compiling 17 points in eleven and a half minutes of court time, before getting the second half started with an and-one.

A nice Euro-Step by Jordan Ngatai got the number one draft pick going after a rather quiet first half, making just one three in the initial 20 minutes of game time. With this being just one example of lacklustre performances through three quarters, Otago struggled to cut into the double-digit deficit that the Giants had created. An enormous dunk by Ngatai looked to spark an injection of energy into his side, as McBirney-Griffin repeated the action on the next play forcing Nelson to call a time-out.

The task of a fourth quarter comeback was made even harder for the Nuggets however, after a hook-shot once again from Karena extended Nelson’s lead to 16 with 30 seconds left in the third, as both teams went to the huddle one more time for the regular season with Nelson on top 74-58. Nicolas Trathen made Otago’s lofty deficit even greater to start the fourth, following a friendly roll from deep. And to make matters worse, Zeb Lovell’s up-and-under layup helped Nelson to their biggest lead of the contest (20). The Nuggets remained persistent in staying in the contest, but the fact of the matter was that Otago was undermanned and lacking size. And after Gargiulo was able to find the target for his second three with three minutes to go, Nelson could secure the upset result and obtain their fifth win of the year, taking home the triumph 97-74.

It was a one-sided affair down low in the paint, as the absences of Hunt and Keil factored majorly into the statistics. Nelson put their foot down with an impressive 52 points in the paint compared to Otago’s 30. While a number of bench players got remarkably more minutes due to the insignificance of the meeting, it remained a two-man effort through four quarters. A stat line of 26 points in 17 minutes, alongside three rebounds and three assists rounded out a dominant night around the rim for Karena, whereas Ingham was feeling his stroke to finish off the season with three threes to go next to his 17 points and six rebounds in another quality performance.

In what was a quiet night for both Jarrod Kenny and Ngatai, with both combining for 29 minutes of court time, the night belonged to the youngsters. Props went to Knox, who came off the bench to account for a team-high 17 points, meanwhile McBirney-Griffin and Richard Rodger each paved their own way with 13 points apiece.

The fates of both teams are already known for their first matchups of Finals Week, as the Nuggets who locked up top spot in standings go up against the Manawatu Jets in the qualifying final on Tuesday night. At the other end of the table, the Giants lock horns with the Canterbury Rams on Tuesday night as well, however, it will be a win or go home situation, as the teams engage in first elimination final of the postseason.

Otago grounds Jets, Nuggets solidify top spot ahead of Finals Week

IN a battle of the top two teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL), the Otago Nuggets out-bodied a persistent Manawatu side to claim the top seed on the ladder after grounding the Jets 97-85.

This comes after MVP-candidate Jordan Ngatai put on a spectacular performance last night, with each victory building much needed momentum as Finals Week fast approaches for next Tuesday.

OTAGO NUGGETS 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
MANAWATU JETS 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

With the minor premiership on the line, both sides knew the importance of last night’s meeting, but with the two teams possibly matching up in the qualifying final, neither side was too keen on giving away too much in terms of tactics. Nevertheless, the game would go ahead, as Manawatu got off on the right foot to begin last night’s proceedings with a 10-2 start, thanks to their marquee signings in Jayden Bezzant, Thomas Vodanovich and Hyrum Harris. The slow start for Otago was quickly remedied, as Joshua Aitcheson’s consecutive threes brought the Nuggets back to a level playing field halfway through the opening period. However, back-to-back threes from Vodanovich (his third of the quarter) and Nicholas Fee placed momentum back into the hands of the Jets heading into the first intermission. The Jets’ 26-23 first quarter lead was a fragile one, as Jordan Ngatai got his stroke going in the last few seconds.

Vodanovic’s rhythm continued into the second and eventually half-time, as he opened up the term with another triple to add to his name, but Otago’s Kane Keil returned the favour with one of his own beginning what would become an action packed second period. Even though Manawatu maintained their impressive 50 per cent shooting in the second term, it was an even more impressive 10 minutes for Otago’s Ngatai. The number one draft pick built upon his strong first quarter to possess 22 points at the main intermission along with four rebounds and four assists. Ngatai’s counterpart in Vodanovich also had himself a solid first-half performance, constructing a two quarter 17-point effort, as his side trailed by a slim four points at the main break, 52-48.

Keil’s and-one gave the Nuggets a lovely seven-point edge to begin the second half, as the game’s tempo slowed down for both sides for most of the third quarter. Six minutes in, a technical foul to Taane Samuel allowed the free-throws of Ngatai and Akiva McBirney-Griffin to gift the Nuggets their biggest lead of the contest, leading 73-60. A few minutes later, Richard Roger’s knock-down three would put the Nuggets up by a devastating 18 points, setting up a fourth quarter that needed to be perfect from the Jets if they were to crawl their way back into the uphill battle. Despite Manawatu forcing 11 turnovers from the Nuggets, Otago did a beautiful job moving the ball, accruing 18 assists to the Jets’ 10 prior to the final period. Additionally, the Nuggets owned a plus-six in the rebounding numbers through three-quarters, signalling a hard-earned lead up to this point.

A 7-2 start for Otago in the fourth extended their lead past 20 points for the first time in the game, as a frustrated Manawatu outfit could not find a way to body up against a strong Nuggets line-up. But the Jets would fight back, through getting to the free-throw line and from deep thanks to Nelson Kirksey, capping off a tidy 10-0 run to bring Manawatu to within eight points. However, once again, Keil made his points count, knocking down another three to halt the comeback with a couple minutes remaining and extending the Nuggets’ lead back to double digits. After knocking down his sixth and seventh free throws, Ngatai polished off a resilient Jets side to help Otago secure their ninth win of the season with the 97-85 outcome, thus obtaining the minor premiership in subsequent fashion.

Following their win against Manawatu last night for the third time this season, it continues their winning streak to four-straight across the competition and solidifies their top spot on the ladder. This comes as Brent Matehaere’s squad shot and passed the lights out in the win. In terms of shooting, the Nuggets maintained a conversion rate of 46 per cent throughout four quarters and 37 per cent from three (13/35). Alongside this was Otago’s ball-movement, as they stockpiled 20 assists, seven more than the Jets in that statistic specifically.

You could point to a lot of factors for last night’s result, but there is no denying the monstrous effort from New Zealand Tall-Black, Ngatai, as the 27-year-old garnered 37 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a beautiful display of effort and accuracy. On top of Ngatai’s performance, three others dropped double-digit totals, as Keil’s 16, Jordan Hunt’s 15 and Aitcheson’s 14 points helped Otago over the line tremendously. Once again, Vodanovich rang true as Manawatu’s back bone, collecting a formidable stat-line of 28 points and six rebounds. Harris’ 20 points and 12 rebounds reflected a successful night out on an individual level, while Bezzant had a relatively quiet night, after acquiring just 13 points and five rebounds from the point.

The win for Otago establishes the Nuggets as the team to beat in the postseason, seeing their record improve to nine wins and four losses, the League’s undisputed best as they await the Nelson Giants in their season closer. The loss for the Jets keeps them ranked second in Sal’s NBL for the time being, as the Franklin Bulls require the Jets to lose their final contest against the Auckland Huskies on Saturday, as well as a win of their own and favourable results to account for the point differentials.

Nuggets keep Bulls at bay, move to top of NZNBL standings

OTAGO Nuggets have posted back-to-back wins, following their six-point 89-83 win against a valorous Franklin Bulls cohort that stuck around for 40 minutes of play. The Bulls were unable to overtake Jordan Hunt and company and as a result, the Nuggets join the Taranaki Mountain Airs at the top of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) standings with records of seven wins and four losses.

OTAGO NUGGETS 20 | 15 | 26 | 28 (89)
FRANKLIN BULLS 19 | 12 | 21 | 31 (83)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

With a win for either side meaning an equal-first seed next to the Airs, both teams needed to stick to their strengths if they were to come out victorious. For Otago, it would mean creating space for their number one draft pick in Jordan Ngatai, who put on a strong performance on Thursday against a wily Canterbury Rams outfit.

Prior to Saturday’s closer, the Bulls have relied heavily on their defence to this point in the campaign, being touted as the best defensive side in the league. But it was their offence that got them out of the starting blocks first, after two made attempts from deep by swingman Isaac Davidson and two-man Everard Bartlett.

The tides quickly changed towards Otago, thanks to two threes from Joshua Aitcheson, giving the Nuggets the 10-9 lead halfway through the first and preventing an ideal start for the fast-running Bulls.

Small scoring runs would ensue for both sides on numerous occasions in the first stanza of play, but the last laugh would sit with a driving layup from Ngatai, gifting Otago a 20-19 lead to conclude the first.

Driving and dishing seemed to be a successful tactic early on in the second quarter for the Nuggets, as the Jarrod Kenny and Hunt combination often had Franklin’s defence in disarray. While these buckets were all well and good, their hard work was undone when they failed to contain the Bulls’ man in the middle, Samuel Timmins, who had himself seven points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of play.

For the majority of the second, however, Otago struggled to extend their lead to anything considerable. But, a reverse layup from Ngatai bolstered his side’s confidence before half time as they now led by four points (35-31) with 20 minutes still to play.

While the lead was small at half-time, Otago looked big in terms of their accuracy on the court, hitting 44 per cent of their shots up to the midway point of the game. They also stayed true to their aggressive style of play, going to the free-throw line on nine different occasions, six of which they converted.

Franklin faced different challenges, as they did a good job shooting the long ball, nailing six threes in the first half. They also did good forcing mistakes from the Nuggets’ ball-handlers, as Otago would give up 11 turnovers resulting in the Bulls leading by 10 points.

Commencing play in the second half, Ngatai again created problems for the Bulls by tallying his first three of the contest. This set his team off to a good start to the third quarter, successfully making four of their first five attempts, putting the Bulls on the back foot instantly coming out of the half-time huddle.

Back-to-back threes from the same spot for Jackson Stubbins helped place the Bulls back into the conversation, as the side continued to linger behind Otago on the scoreboard.

The three-ball became a prominent part of both teams’ offence in the third quarter, but the Nuggets did a better job of adding two-pointers wherever the three could not. This encapsulated a strong few minutes of play for Brent Matahere’s side, leading by as much as 11, with the score being 61-50 late in the championship quarter.

Two free-throws from Nicholas Barrow trimmed the deficit to single digits to conclude the third, but Franklin needed to find motivation if they were to navigate their way through a nine-point disadvantage with 10 minutes to go. The Bulls also needed to find a way to slow down a rampaging Hunt, who accumulated 18 points through three quarters.

Despite every basket the Bulls made, the Nuggets answered back with two of their own throughout the majority of the final period. Moving ahead to seven minutes into the fourth, and Otago had put together an almost insurmountable 14-point lead.

But in true NZNBL fashion, the game did not end in such a linear way, following a 6-0 run by the Bulls, cutting the deficit to eight and then to four. Unfortunately for Franklin, Kenny’s four free-throws were a formality in securing the Nuggets’ seventh win of the season and placing them on top of the Sal’s NBL Showdown standings with a week remaining in the season.

Following his strong first three quarters, Hunt would save his best for last, adding 13 fourth quarter points to his game-high 31 points in total. Kenny showcased his diligence with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a complete performance, while Ngatai finished his night one assist short of a double-double off of 18 points and nine assists.

Even though four of Franklin’s starting five accumulated 10 points or more, collectively it was not enough to overtake Otago in their sprint to the finish. However, a strong 19-point performance for Bartlett was the focus point of the Bulls’ offence. Additionally, 16 points and eight rebounds for Dominique Kelman-Poto, as well as 10 points and nine rebounds for Timmins summed up a rather productive night for the Bulls’ frontcourt.

The Bulls return to action on Tuesday as they attempt to undo last night’s blip in their record against the Manawatu Jets, a team that could leap-frog them given that they win tomorrow against the Airs. Meanwhile, the Nuggets face an in-form Auckland Huskies in the game to follow, potentially looking at sliding into the top seed with another win.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 7 night preview: Nuggets v. Huskies and Bulls v. Airs

WEEK 3 of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action kickstarts with the top two sides in the Franklin Bulls and Otago Nuggets taking on the bottom two teams in the competition, Taranaki Mountainairs and Auckland Huskies. Each team has shown throughout the season that they have the ability to burst out the blocks and wow the opposition making for an exciting night of action.

OTAGO NUGGETS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting second on the ladder it could be argued that the Otago Nuggets have the upper hand heading into the clash, but the Huskies have proven that they can score quickly and easily when on song despite only winning one game for the season so far. The Nuggets are a formidable unit, with a wealth of players able to pop up and ply their trade across the boards while the Huskies tend to rely upon the services of one key player.

When it comes to scoring the Nuggets sit third while their opponents take out last place, often unable to generate scoring opportunities.  The Nuggets average 91.6 points per game showcasing their attacking mindset and freedom in which they can score at. On the other hand the Huskies only manage an average of 77.6 points per game, meaning they will have their work cut out for them against Otago considering the 13 point differential between the two sides.

In terms of rebounding the Huskies have the upper hand with Auckland averaging 41.4 a game, a clear testament to their skill around the rim and desperation to win the ball back whether it be offensively or defensively. The Huskies will be hoping to exploit the Nuggets weakness in this area with Otago only registering an average of 37 per game the lowest of any team in the competition.

It will be up to Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa to stand up for the Huskies with the guard leading the charge when it comes to scoring with an average of 18 points a game. His efforts don’t stop there, with Mauriohooho Le’Afa contributing on the rebound front with 4.7 and leads the assist column with an average of 4.7 per game. Teammate, Taine Murray has also been solid on the scoreboard with an average of 13.2 while Leon Henry has stamped his authority averaging a double-double thanks to his 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

For the Nuggets the load has been relatively evenly spread despite Jordan Ngatai dominating for his side. The big man is a commanding presence across the court able to have an influence both in offence and defence averaging a whopping 19.6 points and also gobbling up 5.6 rebounds each time he steps out on court. Excitement machine Jarrod Kenny can turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye with the 34-year-old able to shoot the lights out and dish off dimes willy nilly. Kenny averages 12.4 points and 4.8 assists a game proving to be a real playmaker for Otago while the efforts of Jordan Hunt (14.8 points) and Joshua Aitcheson (10 points) do not go unnoticed, making them a very hard team to overcome.

Ngatai will definitely be one to watch for the Huskies if they are any chance to register another win for the season, while expect the Nuggets to put a lot of time into shutting down the influence of Mauriohooho Le Afa. Coming off a loss the Huskies will be desperate to notch up their second victory of the season and really try to get some respectability back on the scoreboard. But with their fourth win in sight and the potential to leapfrog the Bulls into top spot expect the Nuggets to throw everything they have at Auckland to get the job well and truly done.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

 In the second game of the night, the top placed Franklin Bulls take on the Taranaki Mountainairs who have had an up and down campaign so far but are only one game off the top team. With three wins under their belt the Mountainairs will have plenty of belief that they can knock off the top of the table Bulls and jump up the ladder. However the Bulls are coming off a strong showing and on a four game winning spree, a feat they will be hoping to continue tonight.

When it comes to scoreboard impact that is where the Mountainairs can well and truly flex their muscles averaging a whopping 102.5 points per game while their opponents sit second last with 78.5 points, something the Airs will be hoping to take advantage of. Their ability to score with haste and accuracy makes them a real threat to the Bulls able to burst out of the blocks and pile on the pressure.

Another strength for the Mountainairs is their rebounding ability, averaging the highest in the league with 49.7 displaying their ability to impose themselves around the rim and limit their opposition’s chance of regaining possession. The Bulls however are not as proficient in this area sitting fifth in the competition for rebounds with an average of 41.2 which is still impressive.

Although the Airs are a strong attacking team the Bulls have proven to be a tricky team to score against, given their defensive work. The Bulls are cautious with ball in hand, treasuring each possession and only averaging 12.5 turnovers each game, the least amount of any team but the Airs can be sloppy with ball in hand averaging 14.5.

The Bulls have a wealth of options that can hit the scoreboard none more prominent than Isaac Davidson with 17.5 points per game. The youngster has been a focal point in the Bulls line-up able to apply scoreboard pressure, take the court for an average of 30 plus minutes and dish off a dime every now and then. Teammate, Dominique Kelman-Poto has also been influential for the Bulls and will be eager to continue his run of hot form, currently averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Samuel Timmins (12.2 points) and Nikau McCullough (10.2 points) are also valuable avenues to the basket for the Bulls showcasing the plethora of options they have when it comes to posting a commanding tally.

Taranaki have five players averaging over double digits in the points scoring column with Derone Raukawa leading the charge. Raukawa has proven to be a scoring machine for the Airs constantly delivering at the basket and rising up to the challenge time and time again, averaging a whopping 22.5 points per game while also registering 7.3 assists. Averaging a double-double, Marcel Jones will be one to watch for the Bulls with Jones able to explode out of the blocks securing an average of 17.7 points and 15.5 rebounds. Shane Temara and Kenneth Tuffin are other key members of the Airs side with the duo able to knock back shots while youngster Francis Mulvihill is exciting to watch with his drive to the basket  and vision to pass off to teammates.

It will be an enthralling battle with both sides boasting stacked line ups. Despite sitting at vastly different ends of the table expect this match to go down to the wire with the Airs able to fight back from commanding deficits credit to their scoring prowess.

Timmins’ 24 earns Bulls third win on the trot against Nuggets

FRANKLIN Bulls have flipped their 0-2 start to the season on its head, after collecting their third consecutive victory against the Otago Nuggets, securing a top four spot in the process. They won the first and last terms, which was enough to see them get the job done by six points, 85-79 and hand the Nuggets back-to-back losses.

OTAGO NUGGETS 17 | 18 | 26 | 18 (79)
FRANKLIN BULLS 23 | 17 | 19 | 26 (85)

[ … MATCH STATS … ]

With both sides looking to avoid back-to-back losses early on this season, the Nuggets went into Thursday night’s competition looking to place themselves at the top of the standings next to the Canterbury Rams. Whereas, the Franklin Bulls were hoping to place themselves above .500 with their third win of the campaign.

The Nuggets struck first in immediate fashion off the back of a Jarrod Kenny three pointer, but from the get-go, the long ball would be the story of the first 10 minutes, with three attempts from deep finding their mark in the opening two minutes.

With the Bulls edging out a six-point advantage heading into the first break, it was the Nuggets’ Jordan Hunt that was leading the scoring category with a solid nine points under his belt, but oblivious to the fact that his first quarter would be his best. Meanwhile, the Bulls’ Sam Timmins, who had a humble six points, would only begin to take hold of the contest.

The three-ball would again be the initial method of scoring to open up the second quarter, as Hunt’s three ball again found its mark one more time in the first half. But, this time Franklin would answer back with a one-two combo, nailing back-to-back triples two minutes in. The back-and-forth would ensue further, with Joshua Aitcheson joining the fray, adding onto the three-ball totals.

At the conclusion of the first two periods, Franklin’s bigs started to shine through, as Timmins would round off a good first-half stint on the boards with nine points and five rebounds, which was further supported by Dom Kelman-Poto’s seven points on top of that, as the Bulls held on to a solid yet slim five-point lead.

A Jordan Ngatai floater to open up the second half provided promising signs for the Nuggets, as Aitcheson would back that up with a venomous three to give Otago the lead with less than three minutes remaining in the third.

However, the fans that attended Trusts Arena were treated to an intense final couple of minutes, as Timmins once again showed his prowess around the ring putting the Bulls’ noses back in front. This was short lived, as a wrestling match would follow. The Nuggets would force the hand of Franklin, preceding the last quarter off the back of baskets from Jack Andrew and Darcy Knox providing their side with a five-point cushion. It made Kelman-Poto’s three-point play to end the period an important one, cutting the Bulls’ deficit to a single basket prior to the final break.

Sioeli Vaiangina, an unlikely hero to commence the fourth quarter, would go the extra mile on the boards, hustling his way to three rebounds in a matter of passages, aiding his side to level the scoreboard with eight minutes to go. Shortly after, Isaac Davidson would provide one of the best offensive plays to date this season, putting Kenny on skates before converting on a mid-range jump-shot, injecting the Bulls with a shot of adrenaline, thus keeping his side in the game.

Thanks to a dominant inside display, seven straight points fell the way of Timmins late in the clash, which would in turn break open the game single-handedly. Therefore, solidifying the decision to make him man-of-the-match and helping his side to their third straight win, taking out the contest 79-85.

In a surprising twist, Otago would combine for a higher conversion rate from two- and three-point range, however, it was Franklin overall that shot better on the whole, going 48 per cent from the field (31/64) compared to the Nuggets, who shot at a 46 per cent clip (29/62). But the main differences would fall under the categories of free throws and rebounds, as the Bulls owned the charity strike earning 14 points from the line, six more than the Nuggets. Furthermore, a plus-six on the boards only added to the reasons for Franklin’s late game triumph.

Timmins, who played at a consistent level in 24 minutes of court time, notched up 24 points and 12 rebounds in a performance at both ends of the court. Nikau McCullough’s 27 minutes off the bench allowed him to showcase his defensive abilities with 14 points and a game-high four steals, meanwhile 13 points apiece for Davidson and Kelman-Poto would round out the bulk of Franklin’s scoring.

For Otago, four starters would reach double-digits with Hunt securing a team-high 18 points, whereas the number one draft pick in Ngatai amassed 15 points and eight rebounds, which became tainted at the expense of six turnovers in 28 minutes of court-time. Tall Black veteran and Cairns Taipan Kenny would accumulate 13 points with three of his field goals coming from deep.

With both the Bulls and Nuggets sitting near the top of the standings, both teams have the chance to get ahead of the pack. For the Bulls, they hold the opportunity to extend their winning streak to four against the Jets on Saturday, whereas the Nuggets can look forward to a duel against the top of the table Rams, who are keen to undo their blunder that came at the hands of the Giants.