Tag: Kenneth Tuffin

Jets defeat Airs in semi, set up top two grand final with Nuggets

THE Manawatu Jets have knocked out the Taranaki Mountain Airs in a fast-paced second semi-final 105-95, therefore earning the right to compete for the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Championship for just the second time in the club’s history.

MANAWATU JETS 34 | 21 | 12 | 38 (105)
TARANAKI AIRS 23 | 27 | 20 | 25 (95)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Having fallen to them in both of their prior meetings, the Airs had no intention of getting off to a slow start against the Jets. But to make sure they got off on the right foot, Doug Courtney’s side had to neutralise the newly crowned MVP in Thomas Vodanovich. Meanwhile for Manawatu, their priorities laid with halting the league’s most lethal duo in Derone Raukawa (led the League in points and assists) and Marcel Jones (led the League in rebounding).

Both sides traded buckets early on, exchanging the lead seven times in the opening five minutes in a seesawing opening quarter. Five straight points from Ashton McQueen seven minutes in, saw the Jets produce the first noticeable advantage in the game leading by eight with two minutes to go in the first. This was emphasised further after a triple from Nicholas Fee found its mark and as a result, Manawatu found themselves leading by double-digits at the first intermission and shooting at a remarkable 68 per cent.

Taranaki’s frontcourt started to make its mark on the game, as Shane Temara and Tai Wynyard got early buckets in the second, using their strong bodies to gain valuable second chance points. A 6-0 run for the Airs brought the contest back to just a single possession, but the stint was quickly undone after Hyrum Harris converted a momentum killing And-One. Nevertheless, a physical brand of basketball from both teams kept spectators on their toes for the rest of the first half. Even though Manawatu maintained an efficient shooting clip, so did Taranaki. This time it was the Airs’ backcourt that started to make the difference, with individuals like Raukawa and Kenneth Tuffin closing the gap at half-time.

If Zachary Easthope had not fouled Jayden Bezzant on his last second three-point attempt, the Airs would have only trailed by a single basket at the main break. However, that was not the sequence and Bezzant capitalised, making all three shots from the charity strike and gifting the Jets a convenient five-point lead. As both teams shot at 51 per cent, it was Manawatu that could thank their aggressiveness for getting their noses ahead, getting to the line 11 times compared to the Airs who shot just five free-throws.

On an individual level, Jones stood alone at the top of both rosters. The All-Star Five nominee secured 18 first half points and nine rebounds without a missing a second of play through 20 minutes. Meanwhile, guards Bezzant and Raukawa both made noticeable contributions with 13 points each for their respective teams. Wynyard’s size proved too much for Taane Samuel and the Jets early on, with a couple of baskets two minutes into the third and Temara provided the extra points where they were needed. This tied the game at 58 three minutes into the second half and the seesawing affair would resume again. A magical spinning floater in the key from Raukawa with three minutes to go in the third, gave the Airs the lead for the first time since the opening term. This was further compounded following an exquisite pick-and-roll between Jones and Wynyard, extending their fragile lead to three with a quarter to play and a critical quarter overall for the Airs, winning the term 20-12.

The duo of Samuel and Harris proved fruitful in the infant stages of the final quarter, helping their side even up the game and eventually retake the lead two minutes into the period. Then, a 10-0 run from the Jets capped off by a McQueen fast-break three, got Manawatu’s noses in front by eight and regained control back to Tim McTamney’s boys. Manawatu blew the game out of the water at the mid-way stage of the fourth, putting the deficit into double digits once again and forcing Raukawa and Jones to force their hands on numerous trips up the floor. With Taranaki in the bonus with more than four minutes still to play, it made closing the gap on the Jets that much more difficult, as they trailed by 10 in the dwindling moments of the game.

League MVP Tom Vodanovich would contribute to seven of his team’s final 11 points before picking up his fifth foul with a minute remaining, as consistent free-throw shooting topped off a well-rounded night for the Jets, eliminating a resilient Taranaki side 105-95 and earning their second ever Grand Final spot in club history. Even though the Airs shot better overall on the night, it was Manawatu that forced Taranaki to make an abundance of errors throughout the four quarters. While the Jets conceded eight takeaways in 40 minutes, Taranaki were induced into giving up the ball a total of 16 times, 12 of which were as a result of steals. In turn the Jets punished the Airs for this, scoring 25 points from turnovers, being a major factor in their side’s victory.

Vodanovich put together a team-high 28 points along with 11 rebounds, while Harris contributed another multi-faceted game with 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals accounting for more than half of the team’s steal totals. Another surprising participant for the Jets was big-man, Taane Samuel, securing 23 points and five rebounds in over 30 minutes on the floor. In their final outing, like so many times before, the Airs’ highlights came from predominantly two men. Raukawa who was a man on a mission found his way to account for 32 points and five assists, while his right-hand man in Jones submitted 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the loss.

Manawatu Jets’ forward, Harris credited the outcome post-game to a strong second half, noting a change in defensive transition and focusing their attention more on their scoring, but remains confident heading into the grand final.

“I think with us it’s just a mental thing,” said Harris. “We’ve just got to push through those sorts of calls and any stuff that happens, but I think we did a good job of it [tonight] and obviously we came out with the win.”

The Jets look to Saturday’s Grand Final looking to exact revenge on an Otago Nuggets team that has beaten them in all four of their previous encounters to this point (most recently by 25 in the qualifying final). Can Manawatu promote a different result the fifth time round? We will find out tomorrow night.

Huskies continue to be Airs kryptonite, win in OT thriller

FOR the second consecutive time, the Auckland Huskies have upset the league-leading Taranaki Mountainairs in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NZNBL) season’s second overtime contest of the year, 102-99. Tohi Smith-Milner‘s 22 points and 21 rebounds was a huge factor in the result as the Huskies continued their good form over the last couple of weeks as the season builds towards finals.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 24 | 20 | 22 | 17 | 19 (102)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 23 | 24 | 15 | 21 | 16 (99)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Looking at reaching a .500 record for the first time since the start of the season, the Huskies needed to find a way to slow down the one-two punch of Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones.

Auckland also had the challenge of stopping the Airs bench players from contributing further, as they looked to their own secondary players to chip in wherever they could. Meanwhile, a win for Taranaki would make it five in a row, in what has been a perfect start to the second half of the Sal’s NBL season.

Leon Henry and Smith-Milner’s opening field goals started the Huskies off on the right foot. But as expected, Jones and Raukawa got going early for the Airs answering back with field goals of their own.

Only three minutes into the contest both teams traded baskets profusely with 18 points being scored, as defence seemed to come few and far between passages of play. However, the battle between Raukawa and Auckland’s Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa was a fierce one early. Nevertheless, it did not stop Taranaki’s point-guard from collecting 11 of his sides first 18 points.

As a strong post-move from Mitchell Dance and aggressive block from Denhym Brooke made it seem like the Airs might edge out a first quarter lead, a three-pointer by Le’afa gave Auckland the 24-23 lead at the first break, capping off a 10-point quarter for the guard.

In a more casual start to the second quarter, it was not until the fourth minute of play that a Jones three and six straight points by Shane Temara allowed Taranaki to take a hold of the game, leading by eight at the mid-way stages of the second.

After Auckland’s timeout, a Smith-Milner three kick started a 9-0 run for the Huskies, handing them back the lead with a couple minutes still to play in the first half.

Two straight buckets for Jones, following an early exit appearing to be a groin injury to Smith-Milner (would return in the second half), sparked another late run for the Airs, giving the Gold and Black a three-point lead at the main break, 47-44.

Kevin Braswell’s squad despite trailing by just three points, failed to really slow down Raukawa and Jones, with each of them scoring 15 and 16 points respectively, while Jones grabbed seven boards too. For the Huskies, their skipper in Henry led from the front with 12 first half points, aiding his side to a 44 per cent shooting and 11-assist first half.

Three minutes into a rather uneventful third quarter, Jones pulled down his tenth rebound, adding another double-double to his impressive track record. However, Smith-Milner’s hustle on the glass helped his side regain the lead the next play and log a double-double of his own just a couple minutes later.

Two three-pointers from Auckland wing Taine Murray with a few seconds remaining in the third, gave Auckland a four-point advantage with ten minutes to go, 66-62, as the Huskies looked to repeat history by knocking off a strong Taranaki side.

Murray would continue the fourth from deep with his fifth three of the game. But the Airs continued to fight back inside the key, as the front court duo of Jones and Temara hounded the rim earning their points up close and at the free-throw line.

For 20-year-old Reuben Fitzgerald, throughout the game he had found himself in the right place at the right time on various occasions, accumulating five rebounds leading up to the first half of the final quarter, four of which were offensive. This was capped off with a key layup and the foul, putting his side four points ahead late in the game, as well as putting enormous pressure on Taranaki to answer.

Moving on to the end of the game, with both sides tied at 83-83, back-to-back offensive rebounds for the Airs and a missed three on the buzzer by Raukawa, would set up the second overtime contest of the season, the second for Taranaki as well.

A nice swing play to Jones would kick off OT with a hook shot in front of the basket, which was followed by threes from Jones again and Raukawa, putting the Airs up by as much as six. Back-to-back buckets from Smith-Milner and Le’afa brought the game to within a single possession and after Murray’s hanging reverse layup, the game was tied with 100 seconds remaining.

As more buckets were traded in the final minute of play, Le’afa’s bonus free-throws created a three-point deficit with 16 seconds on the clock. As Kenneth Tuffin’s layup would bring the contest back to one, bonus free-throws from Le’afa and Smith-Milner would be enough for the Huskies to once again topple the Airs, squeezing out the 102-99 victory.

Even though the Airs shot a pretty consistent 36 per cent from the field, it was not enough to get their side over the edge. Nevertheless, another great night from the duo of Jones and Raukawa was on display.

For Jones, he finished his night with 36 points and 17 rebounds, while Raukawa walked off the court with 28 points and eight assists under his name. Additionally, Temara completed the game with 15 points and eight rebounds.

In a game of bulk statistics, Smith-Milner made his statement game in Thursday’s opener with 22 points and 21 rebounds. His performance was the first 20-20 game in the NZNBL season to this point. Meanwhile, Murray’s team-high 28 points on six three-pointers led the side in scoring. Finally, Le’afa and Henry’s 21 points apiece, rounded out a strong performance from the Huskies’ starting five.

Auckland’s win earned them a record of five wins and five losses, putting them just outside the top four as they eye up the bottom of the table Nelson Giants on Sunday night.

Following last night’s contest, the Airs will look to bounce back against a top four foe in the fourth seeded Manawatu Jets, who could challenge for the top spot in the following week if they can get the job done this weekend against Taranaki.

Final quarter thriller leaves Airs two games clear at top of the table

HIGH-octane offence combatted stringent defence, as Taranaki Mountainairs came out on top of the Otago Nuggets, 106-105 in one of the games of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. For much of the game, both teams took care of the ball, but it was Taranaki that took home the win despite a fierce second half comeback from the Nuggets.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 32 | 29 | 22 | 23 (106)
OTAGO NUGGETS 21 | 28 | 27 | 29 (105)

[… FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The opening night of week four action rounded out with what was promised to be the game of the season so far between the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs and the third-placed Otago Nuggets. It is fair to say that fans were made good on that promise, and then some.

The promise of plenty of offence was certainly delivered with 53 points being scored in the first quarter. The Nuggets won possession off the tip which resulted in a missed dunk opportunity for Jordan Hunt, one of many shots missed at the rim for Otago. Marcel Jones opened the scoring for the game with a silky post-hook, as the reply came straightaway from Josh Aitcheson with the corner three.

Jones would continue to show why he is one of the best players in the league as he was stealing defensively, facilitating the offence with multiple assists, and banking in threes, it all seemed to be going his way early. His activity was contagious for his team as Taranaki was doing it on both ends.

With the starters beginning to have a break, it was the unlikely performances of bench players Denhym Brooke of the Airs and Matthew Bardsley of the Nuggets who would turn super subs for the quarter. Brooke would go five for five from the floor and end the quarter with 12 points, while Bardsley would drop eight, keeping the Nuggets in the game.

A Francis Mulvihill splash would intervene his efforts as the lead extended to double digits for the Airs. Jordan Ngatai’s only three points for the half would close out the quarter to end 32-21. An evenly poised contest with offence the clear difference. Taranaki was shooting 60 per cent and had twice as many assists than Otago for the quarter as its static offence needed to get moving as the game progressed.

A Jarrod Kenny splash started the second quarter and set the tone for he and the Nuggets as they outworked the Airs early. Kenny looked to score aggressively inside and out and another triple from him prompted a reply from MVP race leader Derone Raukawa, who earned three points the old fashioned way.

To typify a slow scoring night, a Ngatai air ball preceded a big Brooke put back and-one from the weak side, while the offensive explosion began to settle as both teams started to sort themselves out defensively.

Though the Nuggets made in-roads to the early deficit they gave up, another Mulvihill splash pushed the lead out to 12. Backup forwards in Brooke and Zachary Easthope supported Jones and Tai Wynyard, however, it would be Mitchell Dance that would take over, scoring six down the stretch.

Despite new inclusion Aaron Roydhouse knocking down his first shot in the competition from downtown, the Airs would maintain their first quarter lead heading into half-time up 61-49. Though they only shot 10 per cent less from the field, some inconsistent defence from the Nuggets allowed 29 bench points and 38 points in the paint for Airs. Brooke (15 points) and Jones (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) were important for the Airs while Hunt (11 points) led the way for the Nuggets.

Kane Keil opened the second half with a big triple in a quarter that would see him score eight. Hunt’s physicality inside would lead to a couple of baskets as the lead was suddenly back down to five. Much like the start of the second quarter, a renewed energy surge struck the Nuggets, but they were still unable to string that big run together that would see them within a possession of the Airs.

Ngatai forced his way back into the game late in the quarter with a smooth spinning layup and a three-point play, however, Raukawa going coast to coast and a Shane Temara dunk kept the scores at 83-76 heading into the last break. You still could not help but feel the momentum was with the Nuggets as it seemed the Airs starters were starting to fatigue.

The final 10 minutes were some of the most exciting basketball the competition has seen so far. Some big blows either way held the margin until the Nuggets stars in Ngatai and Kenny took control, while Bardsley was so vital down the stretch with his athleticism and hustle all over the court.

Kenny found his way to the line multiple times, but it was free-throws from Hunt that tied the game at 98-apiece with just over two minutes left to play. It was the first time the scores were level since the score line read 0-0.

A go-ahead basket from Kenny was answered with the double-double machine Jones hitting a jumper to tie, as he went back to back with a pretty floater to give the Airs the lead with one minute to play. As he had done all game, Keil came up clutch with a much-needed triple before some Kenneth Tuffin free throws changed the lead again.

With thirty seconds left, who else was going to step up? That’s right, the super subs of the first half decided to end the flurry they began with Bardsley laying it in, and Brooke doing the same to make the game 106-105.

The Nuggets had no timeouts left and went to their star player Ngatai who had some scoring left in him. His baseline teardrop narrowly missed as time ran out on the loose ball, handing the Airs the narrow but well-deserved victory in a thriller.

Jones (26 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals) and Raukawa (22 points, seven assists, 9/9 free-throws) put up another good performance as Brooke (17 points, seven rebounds) played big minutes off the bench. Temara’s (14 points, 12 rebounds) effort flew under the radar as Taranaki sit two games clear on top of the ladder. They face Auckland on Thursday and will be looking to continue their high-scoring winning ways.

Hunt (24 points, eight rebounds) and Kenny (20 points, eight assists) starred for the Nuggets as well-rounded games from Keil (20 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bardsley (18 points, eight rebounds) almost pushed them over the line. Ngatai (11 points, 28 per cent shooting) was quieter than usual and will no doubt come out firing in their match against the Rams on Thursday.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 14: Bulls v. Huskies and Mountainairs v. Nuggets

A TOP four clash is set to headline Week 4 of Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) with the Taranaki Mountainairs playing the Otago Nuggets in the second game of the night while the Huskies will be hoping to continue to bridge the gap between them and the top four with a win over the second placed Franklin Bulls.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting in second spot the Bulls will have to throw everything they have at the Huskies to keep them at bay and maintain their position inside the top four. Last time they met the Bulls prevailed, albeit by four points in what was a hard fought battle, meaning this rematch could definitely follow suit given the progression of both sides throughout the season. Although Auckland are coming in off a mere five points, they have strung together a couple of strong performances, finding some continuity on court.

The Bulls will take plenty of confidence from their last performance and come into the match having won four of their last five outings. Their ability to treasure possession and make the opposition pay is what they pride themselves on averaging 11.8 turnovers a game compared to the Huskies’ 14. In terms of accuracy the Bulls also have the upper hand going at 43 per cent field goal efficiency while the Huskies only manage 39.8 per cent. However from three point range both sides don a similar percentage with the Bulls slightly ahead at 32.6 compared to Auckland’s 31.6.

The Bulls and Huskies are also quite evenly poised when it comes to scoring averaging 82.6 and 82.1 per game respectively, showcasing just how much of a tight battle this match will be. With both sides even in terms of scoreboard output it could come down to rebound ability something the Huskies are renowned for. Auckland are one of the strongest teams in the leagues when it comes to rebounds amassing an average of 45.4 each game an area of the Bulls they will be hoping to exploit given they only manage 38.4 a game, the lowest in the competition.

It has been a more consistent effort from the Huskies in recent weeks however the pressure still solely lies on Izayah Mauriohooho LeAfa to do most of the heavy lifting 18.7 points a game, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds showcasing just how dominant he is across all facets of the game. Teammate Taine Murray has also enjoyed a recent run of hot form, finding the basket with ease averaging 17 points a game, while the influence of Leon Henry has not gone unnoticed for the Huskies with Henry imposing himself on the boards with a team high average of 11.7 rebounds and 11.3 points to average a double-double. Another threat for the Bulls is Tohi Smith-Milner with the bigman showcasing his range sinking 12.4 points a game.

For the Bulls they have no shortage of options when it comes to doing damage on the scoreboard but Isaac Davidson is the main points scorer sitting at an average of 18 points a game. Next in line when it comes to scoring potency is Dominique Kelman-Poto who averages 14.3 points while also being the leading rebounder in the team, collecting 7.1. Samuel Timmins is the only other player to average double figures with 12.9 points to his name and has proven to be strong off the boards with 5.6 rebounds a game.

Given just how dominant Mauriohooho Le’Afa can be when he gets going the Bulls will have to pull out all the stops if they are any chance to nullify his presence on the scoreboard. Expect a high intensity battle considering what is at stake for both teams when it comes to ladder positioning and a creating potential separation between the top four.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS v. OTAGO NUGGETS

The second game of the night will draw plenty of onlookers and attention. Locked in a battle of one versus three expect the Taranaki Airs to try and put the foot down to claim some ascendancy atop of the ladder. When they played earlier in the season the Airs got the job running out with a convincing 26 point win while the Nuggets simply struggled to generate their normal game play. Taranaki have won four of their last five games while the Nuggets have experienced a similar vein of form registering three wins from their past five matches.

Coming in on a three game winning streak Taranaki will be hoping to make the most of their momentum and rattle the Nuggets with their prolific scoring. Although no slouches themselves when it comes to scoreboard impact sitting third in the competition with an average of 93 points a game, the Airs are a class above sinking an average of 101 points a game credit to their explosiveness. Another major discrepancy between the two sides lies in the rebound column with the Airs strong off the backboard with 8.7 more than the Nuggets 48.9 compared to 40.1.

Not only do the Airs have the upper hand when it comes to scoring prowess but so too blocks with the competition ladder leaders recording 3.1 blocks a game, while the Nuggets manage 2.8 a game. However when it comes to turnovers the Airs can be quite costly often throwing ball away in transition with 15.1 per game. Conversely the Nuggets are cautious with ball in hand, looking to flick the ball around and not push the ball until something opens as shown through the side averaging the second lowest turnover rate in the competition with 13.6.

There is no denying that Derone Raukawa is the go to man for the Airs, able to find the basket with ease and ply his trade up and down the court averaging a team high 22.9 points. While his efforts on the scoreboard impress he is also crafty with ball in hand dishing off yet another team high 7.3 rebounds a game. Teammate Marcel Jones is just as influential for the Airs able to light up the scoreboard with an average of 20.3 points while his presence at the rim is just as impressive recording 15 rebounds a game to average a double-double. Shane Temara is another key figure for the Airs sinking 11.6 points a game while reeling in 5.4 rebounds. Kenneth Tuffin has been known to hit the scoreboard while Francis Mulvihill is an excitement machine with the youngster able to find the basket and dish off dimes left right and centre.

It will be up to bigman Jordan Ngatai to lead the way for the Nuggets once again with his influential presence often causing headaches for opposition teams. He leads the team in points and rebounds with 20.5 and 6.3 respectively.  While Ngatai is the most prolific the Nuggets have a wealth of other options such as Jarrod Kenny who has proven he can burst out of the blocks and dominate, sinking them from range with no problem at all. Kenny averages 11.1 points a game and is number one in the team for assists with 4.9. Jordan Hunt is a key play maker for the Nuggets with his drive to the basket sitting at 16.8 points a game and 6.3 rebounds while Josh Aitcheson registers in the top five for points scored, assists and rebounds with 10.1, 2.1 and 4.5 respectively showcasing just how well rounded he is.

Both sides possess very similar attributes however it will come down to whether or not the Nuggets can shut down the ease and freedom with which the Airs can hit the scoreboard that will be the true test. Looking to protect their spot on top of the ladder expect Taranaki to leave no stone unturned and make it two from two against Otago.

Jones and the Airs emphatically end Bulls’ winning streak

TARANKI Mountainairs have leapt to the top of the 2020 Sal’s NBL (National Basketball League) ladder after winning their fourth match, and halting Franklin Bulls’ four-game winning streak in the provess. The Airs welcomed the return of big man Tai Wynyard who was going to have his hands full with in-form Sam Timmins, as Taranaki ran out 102-88 winners to move into first place on the ladder.

FRANKLIN BULLS 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Taranaki started tall on the court as Wynyard immediately posed a problem for Timmins and the Bulls, making the first three shots inside for the Airs to start the game. Having beaten smaller opponents in previous games, Timmins had to find other ways to impact the game.

Young gun and red-hot Isaac Davidson put the Airs on notice early with a clean triple to display his confidence, but it would be his only score for the first half. After a quiet outing last game, Kenneth Tuffin opened his scoring account with a layup off the glass, with big contributor in Franklin’s winning streak Dom Kelman-Poto doing the same soon after. From there, it was all Taranaki.

Mr. Double-Double Marcel Jones would knock down three triples in the first quarter as the lead stretched out to 16. A Kelman-Poto layup would bring the margin back to 14 as the Airs took a 17-31 lead at the first break.

Taranaki were doing it on both ends of the court with seven individual scorers shooting an incredible 81 per cent from the floor, as they forced the Bulls into low quality shots on their way to 33 per cent shooting. Static offence and defence for the Bulls contrasted the Airs’ swift ball movement, as they recorded 10 assists to the Bulls’ 3 in the first term alone.

As the Bulls were looking to move on and get into their stride, Jones hit his fourth three of the game to start the second, on his way to a big night. With Wynyard continuing to lock down Timmins, the Bulls were outclassed in every capacity to give up a 13 points to nothing run, which included a silky dime from Jones for a Shane Temara no-dribble reverse layup.

The Bulls’ first points of the quarter would come four minutes in from Nicholas Barrow, as Jones dribbled it off his foot and out of bounds soon after. This sparked a mini run from the Bulls, until a Dirk Nowitzki-like one leg fadeaway from Mitchell Dance kicked off a huge finish to the half for the Airs. Derone Raukawa and Francis Mulvihill got involved as the lead blew out to a game-high 30, an offensive clinic from the Airs. A Jackson Stubbins triple would end the half, as the Airs would go into the main break leading 29-56.

Quality of shots were still an issue for Franklin as they shot 32 per cent for the half, compared to Taranaki’s 71 per cent, which included 58 per cent from deep. The Airs also recorded 14 more points in the paint, 16 more bench points and nine more assists, as Davidson was held to just three points for the half.

It seemed the Bulls would only be playing for pride in the second half, however, a scrappy loose ball recovery from Timmins would ignite a 23-10 run, bringing the lead back to 14. With a quarter and change to play and plenty of hard work done, the lead no longer seemed insurmountable.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the third quarter was a tale of two halves: their half, and Taranaki’s half. A technical foul called on coach Liam Simmons would bring the Airs back into the game with a four-point play on the back of a Raukawa free-throw and Jones three-ball.

Undoing all their hard work, the Bulls still trailed 60-80 heading into the last break as the potent one-two punch of Jones (25 points, eight rebounds) and Raukawa (15 points, nine assists) were on fire for Taranaki.

With Kelman-Poto (14 points, six rebounds) leading the charge for Franklin, and Davidson fresh from a big third quarter, a mammoth comeback was set for the Bulls. A strong start saw the lead cut back down to 14 with six and a half minutes left and as Kelman-Poto and the bulls started getting to the line, a comeback win wasn’t out of the question.

Coach Simmons went small with Kelman-Poto at the five position and instructed his team to take it on down the stretch. Unfortunately for Franklin, Taranaki would hold firm as they would trade baskets in what ended up being an anti-climatic finish to the game.

Despite being outscored 13 points in the second half, the Airs would win 102-88 on the back of their two stars Jones (29 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Raukawa (21 points, 10 assists). Tuffin (10 points, eight rebounds) enjoyed a better outing than his last as Temara (12 points, four rebounds) and Wynyard (10 points, four rebounds, three assists) rounded out a great team display. They will face the Nelson Giants on Thursday sitting in first place, hoping they can replicate this shooting performance.

Kelman-Poto (18 points, 10 rebounds) was Franklin’s best as Davidson’s second half saw him finish the game with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Timmins (12 points, three rebounds) and Stubbins (11 points, six assists) were serviceable as they will be looking for more performers in Wednesday’s matchup with the Canterbury Rams.

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.

Jets fly high over Taranaki to round out week two action

The Manawatu Jets backended another week of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action as they took on the Taranaki Mountainairs. With both teams looking for back-to-back wins, an action-packed and offense stacked game would see the Jets taking the win 102-93.

No Hyrum Harris through a hip injury would again require a performance increase from some role players from the Jets as the third quarter would again prove pivotal in the result.

MANAWATU JETS 22 | 27 | 39 | 14 (102)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 23 | 28 | 23 | 19 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A physical yet scrappy contest from the outset, the fast-paced nature of the game was displayed early. The first score come after four possessions from Nick Fee, followed soon after with a triple from Taane Samuel, continuing his great start to the season. A Shane Temara layup would open the scoring for the Airs as he would have increased minutes with the absence of Tai Wynyard through illness. Derone Raukawa entered the game soon after with a hop-step close-range shot drawing the foul and converting the and-one to tie.

The anticipated matchup of high-scoring guards Jayden Bezzant and Raukawa would steal the show as they traded three balls as Francis Mulvihill joined the party soon after. The Airs would go on a nine-point scoring tear to give them an early lead, until the Jets mounted a run of their own which included a vicious Tom Vodanovich slam, his first points in the game. Confusion lead to one second being left on the clock as Ashton McQueen banked in a three to make it a one-point game the Airs way heading into the first break. Mulvihill and Raukawa led the way with nine and eight points respectively, but the Airs could not close out what was an otherwise controlled quarter of basketball on their behalf.

The second quarter maintained the rampant pace of the first as both teams were shooting early in their possessions and transitioning with pace. Though both teams were shooting the ball better, neither team could force consecutive stops defensively. McQueen provided the performance the Jets needed in Harris’ absence as he found himself with eight points mid-way through the quarter.

Not to be outdone, a Mulvihill triple saw his points tally creep up to 14. With scorers all over the court, Vodanovich struggled to get his shot going from deep as he seemed to be struggling find other ways to score despite his athleticism and strength.

The two teams would trade baskets the whole quarter as the Airs’ lead never exceeded six. A high-arcing Bezzant mid-range jumper would end the half with Taranaki leading 49-51. Bezzant (12 points), Fee (10 points) and McQueen (10 points) were leading the way for the Jets as the two guards Mulvihill and Raukawa had 14 and 13 respectively for the Airs.

A see-sawing affair in the first half promised much of the same for the second half as it went back and forth again for most of the third quarter. Manawatu’s big men in Samuel and Vodanovich come alive in the third as they took the lead and then lost it for almost seven minutes of action.

With good offense and poor defence a theme all game, the Jets strung together one minute of solid defence and they managed a seven-point lead, seemingly from nowhere. The damage didn’t stop there for the Airs as three consecutive triples including two in a row from Kalib Mullins and the final from Bezzant saw the lead blow out to 16 in the matter of two minutes.

After some replies to and from again, the third quarter ended with the Jets up 14 points. A scintillating few minutes of basketball on both ends from Manawatu all but ended the game thanks to 19 assists. Some great ball movement after some rigid defence allowing them to get on top with ease.

Much like the previous game, the Airs needed to come out strong, and they did with Kenneth Tuffin scoring his second basket of the game and Temara lighting it up as well. All of a sudden, the lead was back to single digits and thanks to some Raukawa magic with the and-one taking his points tally up to 20, it was a five-point ball game. The teams must have missed the action from the start of the game as they would continue to trade buckets, however, a Vodanovich three would ice the game, leaving them nine-point victors.

With Mullins and his eight points, the Jets’ points from the bench reached just 12. When the starting five performed the way they did tonight, though, it doesn’t require much more. Bezzant (24 points, seven assists) and Samuel (24 points, 11 rebounds) were the best players for Manawatu while Vodanovich’s big second half took his stats to 17 points and 12 rebounds. Fee (15 points, six rebounds) and McQueen (10 points, seven rebounds) also stepped up as the inclusion of Harris would be a scary proposition for opposition teams if the Jets can fire on all cylinders the way they did tonight.

Scoring 93 points won’t lose you many games and after a poor third quarter, the Airs should take some confidence knowing there was plenty left for them to do and they didn’t get blown out in the end. Raukawa (25 points, eight assists) and Temara (21 points, nine rebounds) kept the Airs in the game while double-double machine Marcel Jones (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Mulvihill (14 points) were solid contributors. They face first-placed Franklin Bulls on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back.

Mountainairs stun Nuggets with 68-point second half

COMING off a loss last night the Taranaki Mountainairs came out with a real fire in the belly downing the Otago Nuggets (107-81). It was a game of two halves with the Airs taking full control in the second half and going on a scoring spree to overrun the Nuggets who simply could not keep up with the frenetic pace of the game.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 20 | 19 | 37 | 31 (107)
OTAGO NUGGETS 26 | 20 | 19 | 16 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

It was a shaky opening couple of minutes for both sides, littered with turnovers, forcing the ball to swing up and down the court. But the Nuggets were the first team to settle with Kane Keil delivering and Jordan Hunt quickly following suit. 

After not hitting the scoreboard in his previous outing and opting to share the ball around, Jarrod Kenny announced himself for the Nuggets hitting an important triple and backing it up hitting three consecutive threes. With five minutes left in the quarter the Nuggets seemed to have the control establishing a commanding nine point lead 7-16. The good times kept on rolling for Otago with big man Jordan Ngatai sinking a huge triple from down town before Marcel Jones fired back for the Airs in what turned out to be a good old fashioned three point shoot out with both sides knocking back a collective eight triples before quarters end.

The free scoring continued with Francis Mulvihill kicking off his campaign in style amassing nine points for the term. Despite both teams shooting from range they were plagued by inaccuracy, unable to capitalise on their scoring opportunities and often sending the ball rocketing down the other end in the blink of an eye given the speed of the game. The quarter was dictated by the Nuggets and their perimeter passing along with their vision to look long down the court and deliver to a teammate on the break holding a six point lead. 

The second quarter was just as exciting with the Mountainairs able to dwindle down the lead by a point at half time. Shane Temara got the Airs off to a good start sinking a timely jump shot before Kenneth Tuffin chimed in with his strength around the rim to drag down a couple of big rebounds and impressive block. With increased pressure across the court it was starting to show on the scoreboard with the Airs sitting at 39 per cent and Nuggets at 38 for field goals showcasing just how intense the battle was. 

Struggling to get into the game Derone Raukawa found his stroke hitting his first points of the game at the six and a half minute mark to reduce the margin to a mere one point. Moments later things were all tied up with the Airs pushing hard. But the class of Ngatai shone true with the Nuggets big man on song and  finding his stroke with ease, while his sides slick ball movement caused havoc for the opposition. Raukawa continued his good form using his burst of speed to explode out of the blocks and score but was rivalled by Hunt for Otago. 

Despite the Mountainairs getting back within one point midway through the term the Nuggets managed to push the lead back out to five points credit to the likes of Ngatai and Hunt who were hungry for the ball and able to convert when within range. 

With play seeming to rest with the Nuggets the Airs came out with a renewed sense of intensity and hunger, suffocating their opponents every move. Their offensive pressure was well and truly up with Mulvihill hitting the scoreboard with ease especially when it came to shooting from beyond the arc while Temara elevated his game even further. The duo dominated heavily in the opening couple of minutes of play with Jones also having an influence. 

Tuffin continued to find his stride, sitting at 15 points for the game with just under seven minutes left in the quarter. The efforts of Temara and Jones did not go unnoticed with the two hustling hard to win the ball back for the Airs and peg away at the deficit. 

Team efforts from Taranaki saw the side take the lead at the seven minute mark and while Ngatai level things at 56 points apiece Raukawa fired back, sinking two from two at his free throw to regain some control of the game. Although Jones struggled to make his jump shot it did not seem to trouble the steam train that was the Mountainairs in the third term, out rebounding their opponents 38-22 and scoring with ease. The youngster in Carlin Davison started to have an impact for the Airs, finding the rim with ease and most importantly delivering, catching the Nuggets off-guard to a certain extent. 

The Airs seemed to have all the momentum in the final minutes of the quarter with the Mountainairs taking the lead and extending it to a whopping 11 points. It was a complete performance from Taranaki in the third quarter with the side piling on a staggering 37 points while restricting the Nuggets to 17 in comparison. 

With the win up for grabs, the Airs did not look like backing down with Jones sinking it from down town and subsequently pushing the lead out to 15. As the game went on the Airs played with more and more confidence with Raukawa and Temara seeming to have the ball on a string. 

Despite the best efforts of Ngatai and Kenny it was simply not enough to get their side back in the contest with the Nuggets only managing 27 points for the second half compared to the Airs who went on a tear with 57 points. The Mountainairs played with speed and were simply unstoppable with the ball pinging across the court and players shooting from here there and everywhere to run out with an impressive 26 point victory. 

All of the Airs starting five reached double figures with Raukawa top scoring with 23 points along with four rebounds and six assists. Temara was next best with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Mulvihill was not far behind with 17 points while Jones starred with a whopping double-double consisting of 15 points and 18 rebounds. 

For the Nuggets it was a three man show with Ngatai leading all comers with his 22 points while efforts from Kenny (18 points, six rebounds) and Hunt (16 points, seven rebounds) shone true but was not enough to get over the top of a rampaging Airs side.

Huskies claim first scalp of the season with impressive win

YET to register a win this season, the Auckland Huskies pulled out their bag of tricks, getting the job done against the Taranaki Mountainairs in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. With the lead getting out to as much as 20 points plus throughout the game the Huskies walked away with a 16 point victory (109-93). The Huskies were on song from the opening quarter finding their shooting stroke and making the Airs pay with their accuracy from both inside and outside the arc.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 16 | 20 | 29 (93)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 32 | 34 | 21 | 22 (109)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies struck first with Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa taking no time at all to assert himself on the game, draining a three after what was a disappointing outing the game before. Mauriohoohoo Le’afa proved to not only be a real playmaker in the opening quarter but so too scoring prospect with his ability to shoot from range or dish off to teammates. For the Airs, Derone Raukawa was solid, opening the account for his side with an important shot but his efforts were quickly quashed with Mauriohoohoo Le’afa and Taine Murray draining back-to-back threes to open up a seven point lead with just over seven and a half minutes left in the term.

Despite the best efforts of the Airs, the Huskies refused to take their foot off the pedal pressing at every opportunity and most importantly converting. Marcel Jones slowly started to build into the game, finding his rhythm to basket and knocking back a crucial three to reduce the margin to 10 points. From there on the Airs seemed to wrestle some momentum back from their opponents stringing together some strong passages of play with Raukawa and Jones having a huge influence. With the margin hovering at the 10 point mark the Huskies tried to pull away pushing out it out to 11 points but the Airs did not lie down instead a Kenneth Tuffin inspired couple of minutes saw the lead diminish to five points, after sinking a huge three pointer and proving he was here to play. The intensity lifted from both sides, with neither willing to give an inch. 

Despite getting within one point in the opening minute of the quarter thanks to a handy long bomb from Jones, the Huskies snaffled that pressure, denying the Airs any opportunity to go to the rim only managing a mere 16 points for the term. Auckland simply had a hand in everything, spearheaded by Mauriohooho Le’afa who was causing headaches for the Airs across the boards. Australian NBL Melbourne Boomers player Tohi Smith-Milner showcased his skill getting involved in the action to put some points on the board and establish a more commanding lead for the Huskies.

Moments later Leon Henry lent his hand to the points scoring tally with a jump shot while Mauriohooho Le’afa continued his merry way, finding the basket with ease. For the Airs, Raukawa and Jones plied their trade, working tirelessly to win ball back and apply offensive pressure but simply could not do enough to worry the Huskies who seemed in control. Tuffin and Tai Wynyard also impressed in the early stages of the quarter but were quickly overrun with the Huskies exploiting their opponents’ every weakness. Murray was a constant for Auckland with Nathan Wilson also contributing. Within a blink of an eye the Huskies were out to a commanding lead notching up 66 points at half time and shooting at 71 per cent in what was a complete turnaround from their outing on Sunday. 

Holding a 22-point lead the Huskies did not look like giving up any time soon and despite both sides going toe-to-toe throughout the term did not lose their cool. Wynyard landed the first blow of the second half, converting a free throw while teammate Denhym Brooke chimed in moments later with another free throw to get back within 20 points. But it did not take long for Auckland to find their range with Smith-Milner imposing himself.

The ball bubbled about with both teams almost going goal for goal throughout the team. Despite having a wealth of the play in the mid part of the quarter the Airs simply could not convert, letting the Huskies off the hook multiple times. Efforts from Henry and Murray  did not go unnoticed for Auckland with the two getting their hands to plenty of ball but a flurry from the Mountainairs in the final five minutes of the quarter provided plenty of excitement with Taranaki dwindling the margin down to the lowest of the second half to 15.

Anamata Haku delivered the settler for the Huskies sparking his side back into attack while Wilson also got busy with less than two minutes left on the clock. Heading into the final change the Huskies held a 23-point buffer with Mauriohooho Le’afa wreaking havoc. 

With their first win in sight the Huskies put pedal to the medal but it was not without pressure as the Airs worked to reduce the margin. Strong performances from the likes of Tuffin and Jones the Mountainairs seemed to find their groove in offence able to hit the scoreboard while Mitchell Dance provided a much needed spark sinking them from inside the post with confidence.

After somewhat of a quiet game Francis Mulvihill also found his stroke delivering a crucial three-pointer to get his side back within 18 points. Following in Mulvihill’s footsteps, Raukawa knocked one back from down town with the deficit standing at 15 points with five minutes to go. With the Airs coming hard, Mauriohooho Le’afa stood up to push the margin back out before Shane Temara sunk back-to-back threes to give his side a fighting chance with the deficit standing at 10 points but it was little too late with the Huskies doing enough earlier in the game to secure their inaugural win. 

The scoring was shared for the Airs with Raukawa and Tuffin finishing with 19 points apiece while Raukawa dished off nine dimes for the game. Recording a double-double for his efforts Jones collected 13 rebounds to go with his 14 points with teammate Mulvihill the only other to reach double figures with 11. For the Huskies it is no surprise that Mauriohooho Le’afa took out the number top scorer with 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Next best was Henry who like Jones collected a double-double finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds but his performance was marred by an incident with Raukawa. Henry was charged with “unduly rough play” and offered a two game suspension for his actions. Three other players also hit double points with Smith-Milner registering 16 while Murray and Wilson sunk 15 apiece in a strong outing by the Huskies. 

Rams buckle Airs, extend undefeated start to 3-0

ONLY two teams would remain undefeated in the NZNBL (New Zealand National Basketball League) following Saturday night, after the Canterbury Rams would pull away from the Taranaki Mountainairs in the final period off the back of Taylor Britt and Samuel Smith.

Good shooting and ball movement would also prove to be deciding factors in helping the Rams to build their season record to a league-leading 3-0 start, sitting next to the Otago Nuggets as the only other team yet to be handed a defeat in this season’s fixture.

CANTERBURY RAMS 31 | 25 | 25 | 31 (112)
TARANAKI AIRS 35 | 21 | 17 | 28 (101)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A completely different situation to the previous match on the day, the Canterbury Rams and the Taranaki Mountainairs knew that following their clash, one of the teams would receive their first loss of the season, with the winner to take pole position in the NZNBL standings.

After coming to this realisation, it was Canterbury’s Sam Smith and Taranaki’s Tai Wynyard that got things going for their respective teams trading buckets straight away, but, it was Shane Temara’s two-hand jam that got people on their feet shortly after. The dunk would precede what would turn out to be a high-octane action packed first quarter, as both teams would combine for 66 points to open up the contest.

Despite Taranaki leading by just two possessions heading into the second of four quarters, the Rams had plenty of reasons to be hopeful, with one of them being a certain New Zealand Tall Black in Taylor Britt. Britt who found his rhythm early, would settle for a modest 13 points by quarter time and carry that over into the second half.

Beginning the second quarter, Britt would make the first half his own, earning himself an and-one and capping off a 6-0 start for Canterbury, opening up the second period, thereby flipping the script and gifting the Rams a two-point lead within a minute of play. The Perth Wildcats development player would finish with 22 points through 20 minutes of game time by the main break, as both sides were deadlocked at 56-56 at half-time.

While Derone Raukawa was maintaining the fact that he could provide on the scoreboard for the Airs, it would take a whole half for Marcel Jones to get going. However, he would make his presence known at the start of the second half with an impressive jump hook and fadeaway against a tough Rams defence three minutes after the main break.

Starting with six minutes remaining in the championship quarter, two made free-throws from Rams center Thomas Webley would kick off an 8-0 run thanks to three consecutive layups by Webley once again, Mason Whittaker and Tom Cowie, extending their lead to 74-64. In the plays to follow, both teams would trade baskets until Kenneth Tuffin had the final word of the third period with a nice finish around the hoop, cutting the Airs deficit to eight points.

Neutralising Taranaki’s motivations early on with a mid-range jump-shot from Britt to open fourth quarter proceedings, the Rams would keep the Airs at arm’s length for the remainder of the matchup. Taranaki would get within four points on three separate occasions, but it was Smith once again that would polish off the Airs with four minutes remaining, sparking a 10-point scoring run to put his side up by 14, eventuating in a 112-101 triumph for the Rams, as they extend their undefeated season to three games, while Taranaki was defeated for the first time this year.

While both sides would shoot at a relatively good percentage, the Rams outshined the Airs in the three-pointer categories, out-shooting them seven three-pointers to four. But, one of the takeaways Canterbury took to heart heading into their next matchup, was their carelessness taking care of the ball, allowing 12 turnovers, which in turn was the cause of 22 Taranaki points.

It was no surprise that Britt would take man of the match honours following a 30-point performance in little over 31 minutes of game time, but he would also fall one assist shy of a triple double having secured 10 rebounds too. Alongside Britt, Smith would pour it on in yesterday night’s outcome, logging 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, meanwhile Webley and Whittaker would each tack on 12 points apiece.

Looking at Taranaki’s stars of the night, Raukawa continued his good run of form with 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting from the field (58 per cent), whereas a slow first half from Marcel Jones would not stop him from finishing off strong, hustling himself to a 19-point and 14-rebound performance. Furthermore, 14 points and six rebounds summed up a respectable game for Tuffin.

For the Mountainairs, they will have to wait until Tuesday to make amends and get back into the winner’s column, as they are set to take on a winless Huskies outfit. Meanwhile, the Rams can sit idle and rest until Wednesday, where they are scheduled to size up a Manawatu Jets team that is in good form, hot off the stove following their convincing win against Auckland, in what will be a battle of two of the most highly touted teams in the competition.