Tag: mick downer

2020 Sal’s NBL Top 20 Players: #7 – Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams)

IN our newest countdown series wrapping up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, we look at our top 20 players that took to the court this year. While it was an incredibly difficult list to create, we have had a mix of pure domination, defensive efforts and eye-catchers to form this list.

#7 TAYLOR BRITT

He was the shining light throughout the 2020 New Zealand NBL season for the Canterbury Rams. Britt was one source of reliable scoring and all-round security that coach Mick Downer could rely on from first tip-off to final buzzer. Many of his teammates went down with injuries, and the Perth Wildcats development player had to lift his younger teammates up and helped keep them strong through a tough 10-game losing streak. It helped them come good in the finals series, where the Rams were able to share the load and Britt was still able to contribute without the weight of knowing he had to do the bulk of it like earlier in the season.

Britt was simply sensational and unlucky not to make the All-Star Five. He worked hard throughout the season and ranked sixth overall for points for with 19.5 per game. He spent 27.7 minutes on the court which was the second least of the top 10 scorers, but he still averaged the 6.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game which gave him a terrific balance both offensively and defensively. Pair that with 1.3 steals per game and Britt genuinely had the whole package. His most deadly attribute was his free throw shooting where he made 4.0 of his 4.4 attempts per game at an elite 90.1 per cent efficiency. That ranked him second overall of those with more than one make per game, behind only Derone Raukawa. His two-point accuracy was just over 50 per cent, and while he was not as fluent from long-range, his tendency to be fouled allowed him to pick up points at the line.

One of the few to never drop into single-digit scoring, at one stage Britt had a 20-plus point streak going over three games on two separate occasions. He hit the 30-point mark twice, both of which came against the Taranaki Mountainairs. The first outing he shot at 60 per cent from the field on his way to a massive almost triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, before a slightly quieter – but still dominant offensive effort – of 31 points, four rebounds and one assist, but also had three steals. While he did not pick up more than 20 more points in his last six games he was able to still influence his teammates with much higher numbers of assists, and bring others into the game.

STATS:

Points: 19.5
Rebounds: 6.1
Assists: 4.6
Steals: 1.3
FG%: 48.0
2P%: 51.7
3P%: 29.3
FT%: 90.1
Minutes: 27.7

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #9 – Webley’s third quarter helps Rams charge into Semis

LOCKING up the ninth-best moment of this year’s NZNBL season, comes from the lowest performing team in the competition’s regular season. The Canterbury Rams’ stellar third quarter against the Auckland Huskies in their Elimination Final encounter sits proudly amongst Draft Central’s list. Thomas Webley and his teammates produced one of the most efficient quarters throughout the entire season, capping off a historic postseason run.

For the full match report between the Rams and the Huskies – Click HERE

In a season that was hindered by injury and bad luck, Mick Downer and his coaching staff at the Canterbury Rams faced numerous challenges throughout the NZNBL regular season.

Nevertheless, in a season that saw the Rams finish bottom of the table with a record of four wins and 10 losses, how Canterbury finished the season, no one could have expected, with the Rams’ miraculous finals run culminated in one quarter of play from a determined squad with everything to prove.

Putting some context behind the Rams’ third quarter in the second round of Finals week against the Huskies, Canterbury began the season in as good of form as anyone within the league.

Exploding out of the gates with three wins in three games, Canterbury sat at the top of the standings to begin their campaign. But a flurry of injuries, and a squad restructure as a result, destabilised the side’s rotations and sent them cascading down a miserable path of defeat for the remainder of the season.

The Rams endured one of the longest losing streaks in New Zealand basketball history, coming out second best in 10 straight games between their fourth and final clashes of the season. However, momentum eventually found the red and black just in time for the postseason.

Managing to topple the mid-tabled Franklin Bulls in the final game of the regular season ending their double-digit winless run, it put them in good stead for their opening elimination game against fellow bottom-dweller, the Nelson Giants.

After strong second and third quarters from the Rams, as well as surviving a late charge from the Giants in the fourth period, the Rams took the first step in redeeming themselves throughout the finals.

The next day, it was time for the Rams to really test their mettle, as they now stared down a Huskies outfit that was hot off a convincing win against the Manawatu Jets to conclude their season.

Finishing in the third seed on the standings, it was no surprise that Auckland were the heavy-handed favourites heading into their matchup against the Rams. While Canterbury’s bigs had the monstrous task of slowing down the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry.

As was expected of the underdogs during the first two quarters, the Rams found themselves down by six at the end of the first half. Despite the deficit, Downer urged his side to work one possession at a time and to play a selfless brand of basketball. Following the huddle, the message rang true for Webley in the third, putting on one of the season’s most impressive periods of play for the entire season.

To begin the third quarter, Webley got the ball rolling immediately, kick-starting the term with a slam dunk and following up with two more baskets to get his side within a basket two minutes in.

Even though Webley carried his side for the majority of the third, much needed assistance came in bunches from the side’s captain and shooting marksman, Taylor Britt and Samuel Smith. Before anyone was able to blink, Canterbury surprisingly found themselves five points ahead a minute later after Webley’s fourth basket of the quarter.

Both sides traded buckets over the course of the next couple of minutes, as Quintin Bailey, Toby Gillooly and Reuben Te Rangi made their presence felt for the Rams. Meanwhile, Henry and Auckland guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (finished his night with 39 points, six rebounds and five assists) found their range with each of them knocking down a triple to keep the Huskies within arm’s reach, as the score stood 55-54 with four minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the third.

However, after Gillooly’s three with four and a half minutes left in the term, Webley and his teammates pulled together their best stretch of play for the entire season all the way to the final break.

A 20-8 scoring run concluded a 39-point third quarter for the lowest ranked team in the NZNBL, as Canterbury miraculously produced a 75-62 lead with a quarter to be played. In turn it flipped the contest on its head and set the Rams on their way to a semi-final matchup with the would-be champion Otago Nuggets, as Canterbury held on for the 98-84 upset win.

While many of Webley’s teammates contributed to the comeback third quarter, it was the 18-year-old that led the charge from the front. The 208cm-tall center accounted for 14 of his 21 total points in the third term. He also went on to snag seven rebounds and shoot an unwavering 69 per cent from the field, as he helped his side to a semi-final spot they were not meant to have.

Despite losing to the Nuggets by 18 points in the Semi Final a day later, the third quarter for the Rams in their contest against the Huskies stands firm as one of the most exhilarating and dominant performances for a team throughout the entire competition this year.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Canterbury Rams

CANTERBURY RAMS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Rams finished on the bottom of the ladder at the end of the regular season but won through to a semi-final after upsetting both Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies, before going down to eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 6
Lost: 11

KEY STATS:

Points: 86.4 (4th)
Rebounds: 44.4 (3rd)
Assists: 15.4 (6th)
Steals: 7.1 (6th)
Blocks: 2.9 (5th)
FG%: 44.8 (4th)

BEST WIN: defeated Auckland Huskies by 14 points

It was a remarkable win to the Rams in the elimination final, after really struggling in the first half with just 13 points in the second quarter, and trailed by double-figure points during the second term. A remarkable third quarter saw them run away with a 39-20 term to hit the front then hold on in the final term to win 98-84. Thomas Webley had a huge third term on his way to 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Taylor Britt came close to a triple-double with 16 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, while Toby Gillooly (12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists) had a double-double. Reuben Te Rangi (13 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Sam Smith (16 points) and Quintin Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were also prominent scorers in the win.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 25 points

Unfortunately the Rams had plenty of losses to pick from with 10 straight losses during the season. The biggest was that to Franklin Bulls, going down by 25 points where the Rams lost each of the four quarters. Alex Talma was a shining light with 25 points and seven rebounds, but Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Isaac Davidson (20 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals) went to town and led their side to a memorable victory.

TOP PLAYERS:

Taylor Britt 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Reuben Te Rangi 12.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals
Sam Smith 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals
Thomas Webley 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals
Alex Talma 10.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Canterbury Rams came good at the pointy end of the season which counted and strung together three consecutive wins to reach the final four. It was a deserving finish for a team that had to overcome plenty of challenges along the way, particularly when it came to injuries. They had a number of standouts and young players who stepped up and gained valuable minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The 10-game losing streak and injuries galore. Unfortunately for the Rams, injuries to Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green before the first tip-off had Canterbury on the back foot. Then Gillooly had an extended stint out and even Britt and Talma missed games. It truly was a tough season for the Rams, but led by Mick Downer, they did a remarkable job to reach the semis.

SUMMARY

Canterbury Rams started the season the same way they ended it: on fire with three wins. Unfortunately the injuries and 10 losses in between made it a game of catch-up for the side on the bottom of the table following 14 regular season games. They refused to let that stop them though, taking down the higher ranked Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies to enjoy a remarkable run that was only cut short by a super side in eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. Fully fit and with a good team chemistry, the Rams will be a team that could go all the way next year with very few changes likely to be needed.

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.

Webley leads third term Ram-raid to tame Huskies

AN inspired third term by the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown last placed side, Canterbury Rams has continued the unthinkable dream with a come-from-behind 98-84 triumph over Auckland Huskies last night. Led by Thomas Webley who set the tone in the third term after his side had a slow start, the big man turned it on with unbelievable athleticism to drag his team back from the brink and over the line despite a remarkable 39-point effort from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 26 | 16 | 20 | 22 (84)
CANTERBURY RAMS 23 | 13 | 39 | 23 (98)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The first term belonged to the two talented Tall Blacks guards with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Reuben Te Rangi going head-to-head on the respective scoring fronts. The Auckland Huskies guard set up Tohi Smith-Milner with the opening basket of the game with a pass through traffic, and soon the size of Aaron Bailey-Nowell on offence added a couple more. Te Rangi would sink the first three-pointer of the game after being left wide open courtesy of a screen, but Bailey-Nowell immediately responded with a couple more points. Huskies had a number of chances but were missing them early, though that began to change when Mauriohooho-Le’Afa got cooking.

Te Rangi was still causing all sorts of issues for the Rams defence, piling on seven points, all of the Rams score in the first half of the term to get his side within four, and then assisted Quintin Bailey for a two-point deficit. But as would be the case, all the Rams scoring would come as a struggle, whilst the Huskies began draining treys like there was no tomorrow – which technically was correct for the losing side. Whilst Mauriohooho-Le’Afa was getting going, it was Leon Henry with a couple of triples and then a massive three first-quarter blocks that was intimidating the young Rams defence. At quarter time, the Huskies led by three after Taylor Britt’s first basket of the game with 40 seconds left got his side back into it.

Webley was having a promising game, and started well with three points and four rebounds, something he would build on in the second term. Despite the lead, Huskies coach Kevin Braswell was not happy with the defence on Te Rangi imploring his guards to double-team the Tall Black. They managed that better in the second term as he would not add to his seven first quarter scores, also gaining a bit of a breather as Sam Smith came on and piled on the baskets to be the most influential Ram with Webley in the second term.

But it was truly the Mauriohooho-Le’Afa show in the second quarter as he drained triple after triple to race to 20 half-time points courtesy of a 13-point second term. Between his offence and Henry’s defence, the inexperienced Rams were struggling to score. At one point, the Huskies guard was outscoring the Rams as Canterbury was two from 10 from three-point range, whilst the Huskies were draining a third of their chances.

The match was summed up by a fourth Henry block with four and a half in the term, followed by a Mauriohooho-Le’Afa trey putting the Huskies out to 12-point lead. With just 29 points to the midpoint of the term, the usually calm Mick Downer told his chargers that it was “the most selfish individual display I’ve seen from us this whole campaign and this is why we have 29 points.” The Rams managed to respond from that to cut back to six points as Smith drained a couple of layups. With 46 seconds remaining, Henry bowled over Ben Carlile-Smith and won the free throws, showing confidence with a stare down over his opponent on the ground. The half-time buzzer sounded with the Huskies up by six, 42-36.

It is unsure what went on at half-time, but whatever it was, it turned the Rams offence on. Whilst the Huskies defence was worried about Te Rangi and Britt, it was Webley who came to play, draining the first six points of the term and went on to finish the term with double-figure points as the big man was dropping floaters and slamming athletic dunks. He not only dragged his team back into it, but he lead the Rams to up to a lead themselves with a 16-4 run early in the term.

Mauriohooho-Le’Afa continued his form though with four points, but he was up against a team offence that had finally clicked. If it was not Webley, then it was Bailey or Toby Gillooly who were making the Huskies hurt. The biggest issue was the Huskies’ big men were getting into four trouble with Henry (three) and both Smith-Milner and Bailey-Nowell (four each) all close to being fouled out. Henry was still being aggressive on the offensive effort to try and help Mauriohooho Le’afa out, but everything the Rams touched turned to gold. Britt dropped a couple of treys off rare Henry fumbles out of bounds and the lead went out to 11 at one point.

Everything was going wrong for the Huskies as they were desperately trying to get some baskets, but a rushed pass from Smith-Milner was intercepted by Britt who went to the basket and was fouled to put the lead out to 13 by the final term. No one could quite understand what had occurred in the third quarter following a massive 39-20 term. What was even more remarkable was the fact that Te Rangi had not scored since the first term, and Britt only had 12 points – most of which came late in the term. For the Huskies, Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa and Henry combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds but needed more support.

The Huskies had 10 minutes to try and stay in the Sal’s NBL Finals Series, but it was not going to happen with a triple from Jack Exeter to push the lead out to 14 in the first 90 seconds. Henry responded with a last second trey before the shot clock expired. The Rams were still being aggressive on offence and throwing everything at the Rams in the last term. Henry was being incredible both inside and outside, and when Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa dropped another basket, his side was back within nine.

Six minutes in the Rams called a timeout with the 11-point lead and Downer implored his players to keep up the aggression on offence without going too far. The Huskies kept trying for long-range attempts, but the treys were now not dropping. Instead, Te Rangi was fouled shooting for a triple of his own and had three free throws, making two of them for a 12-point lead with five minutes remaining. The work by Canterbury’s defence to double-team Henry on the way to the hoop forced a miss, and Te Rangi almost ended the game with a triple but it rolled in and out.

With 3:47 remaining, Bailey-Nowell was fouled out for an offensive foul and a 11-point deficit. Henry continued his unbelievable work on defence and it led to a Huskies basket up the other end with Anamata Hatu scoring his first points coming on for Bailey-Nowell. Reuben Fitzgerald was using his speed to get to the basket but split both free throw opportunities in the final term with eight points the difference. When Smith-Milner was offensively fouled by Te Rangi with 2.31 on the clock, the Huskies had possession again and Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa was fouled on the way to the hoop and made no mistake with his free throws to go up to a massive 39 points and getting his team within six points.

Unfortunately for the Huskies that was as close as it got with Te Rangi draining an important basket, Britt doubling up with two nice jumpers and with just over a minute remaining the Rams held a 12-point lead. The Rams managed to wind down the clock and when Smith sank a trey with 30 seconds remaining, he iced the game to guarantee the Rams a most magnificent victory, 98-84.

Webley finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists, shooting at 69 per cent from the field, while Britt (16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists) ended up having a prominent night after a slow start. Te Rangi quietened down after his ripping first term but finished with 13 points, and still contributed with eight rebounds and six assists, while Gillooly picked up the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Smith (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were the other double-figure Rams. For the Huskies it was a two-man show with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa dominating everywhere with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry threw himself desperately at every ball to end with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks. Smith-Milner was the other Huskies player to pick up double-digit points with 16 but outside of the trio, the remainder of the team contributed just 11 points.

Whilst the Huskies exit the competition after some terrific basketball this season, the Rams advance to take on the top of the table Otago Nuggets tomorrow night, having to recover for the second straight night. While it is unheard of to think the last placed side could take out the title, the Rams so far have shown anything is possible.

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

CANTERBURY Rams have remained in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series following a tight four-point win over Nelson Giants, eliminating their opponents in the process. In what was a battle between the bottom two sides and the first of four sudden-death finals should one of these sides have made it to the grand final, the Rams were able to build on their last round win and record a narrow 93-89 victory thanks to strong play through the middle two quarters.

NELSON GIANTS 30 | 17 | 19 | 23 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 26 | 23 | 27 | 17 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Despite their low finishes on the ladder, a salivating matchup always beckoned as arguably the best back court in the league of the Rams contested arguably the best front court in the league of the Giants, and that was where the game started. Mike Karena won the tip emphatically and set the tone for the Giants’ offence early as the ageless Mika Vukona drove straight to the cup for two. Up the other end, Taylor Britt opted to be the facilitator and dropped a dime to offensive leader for the first half in Quintin Bailey for two at the rim for the Rams. Britt then found Toby Gillooly on the perimeter for three who was looking to have an impact early after fouling out in their last outing. With both teams knowing it was a do-or-die match, the intensity was red hot and Giants captain Tom Ingham stepped up with the reply from deep. It was game on.

All the stars were involved early as Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi used his strength to score inside, and Dane Brooks split the Rams defenders to earn his way to the free-throw line for two. The Giants controlled the early stages of the game as seven individual scorers saw them get out to an 11-point lead. With Karena getting on the board with his trademark post-hook, Rams coach Mick Downer had seen enough and called a timeout. He was not happy with his team’s tempo offensively and some errant passes, a sign that there was a lack of cohesion and chemistry due to not having a full-strength side for much of the season, as well as their defensive effort labelling it as “garbage”.

Canterbury managed to find another gear to finish the quarter much like their game on Saturday as Sam Smith hit his first of three triples for the game, and Alex Talma got it done at both ends of the floor. The game was back to a one possession lead until the experienced front court of the Giants managed a couple of baskets late in the quarter as the scores read 30-26 at the first break.

High intensity and efficiency offensively for Nelson saw them shooting 66 per cent from the three-point line while it was Bailey, who got the starting nod for the game, and his 10 first quarter points keeping the Rams within arms-length.

Britt made his way to the free-throw line to score his first points of the game two minutes into the second quarter, but he still hadn’t made a shot from five attempts on the floor. Ingham also hit from the charity stripe to find his way to double-figure scoring, as five quick fire Te Rangi points tied the scores for the first time since the early part of the game. Britt eventually made his first shot from the floor, but it was Ingham again stealing the show with a corner three, before forcing Gillooly to roll his ankle with a vicious step-back jumper on their next possession.

Jack Exeter returned from concussion with a corner three of his own, and Talma’s tough defence on Karena led to him draining a triple from the wing up the other end. He managed to keep Karena to just six first half points as the Rams led 49-47 at the main break thanks to their resurgent defensive effort. Bailey (13 points) and Talma (7 points, five rebounds) led the way for Canterbury while Britt was restricted to just four points (1-8 shooting). Nelson’s 10 turnovers were a concern with five of them coming from Vukona, but his nine points and eight rebounds (three offensive) were also very valuable in keeping the contest tight.

Josh Bloxham tied the game again with a layup to start the second half until the Talma and Karena matchup started to fire up. Both fired shots at each other from both ends in an impressive showcase of skill and speed from the big men. Talma eventually went down with an ankle injury after landing on it awkwardly in a shot contest. He would ice up and not return for the rest of the game. Nelson tried to expose the defensive hole that was left as Karena bullied his way to two offensive rebounds and an and-one. With Vukona securing a double-double with a quarter and change left to play, a Canterbury big needed to step up, and they did. The 18-year-old Tom Webley kept the pressure on Karena at both ends and ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, playing a big role in many of their defensive plays. His involvement sparked another late-quarter run for the Rams as they dominated the final three minutes to take a 76-66 lead heading into the last break.

Turnovers were again a big reason the Giants found themselves down having recorded eight in the third quarter alone, something they needed to rectify if they had any chance of keeping their season alive. Despite Webley’s solid play, Karena continued to attack him with an and-one starting the Giants on the right path of a comeback. Nelson oozed full court defensive pressure and active offence as the Giants knew it was all or nothing. Despite this, they could not quite take a big enough dent out of the Canterbury lead.

With just under four minutes left, a Tysxun Aiolupotea runner sparked a seven to nothing run to be back within four points with just a minute and a half left. This was the finish the fiery first half promised fans. The Giants managed another stop and had a chance to dig into the lead again. The ball pinballed around the court as neither team could quite recover the ball cleanly, until it slipped into the hands of Britt and he wasn’t letting go. Looking to extend their lead, he took off but was stopped and fouled at half court with 37 seconds left. The referees deliberated on whether it was an unsportsmanlike foul, and with enough contact, that call was made. After making the two free throws and getting to the line on their retained possession, the lead was back to eight and it looked like game over. That was not the case.

Brooks hit a three on his second attempt in the possession and in his typical athletic fashion, he forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a huge dive. A quick Ingham three bounced off the rim and into the hands of Karena who is not known for his exploits from deep, yet he understood the situation of the game and Reggie Miller step-backed behind the line and drained it. The game was back to two points but unfortunately for Nelson, the lead only extended with the Smith free-throws the last scores of the game.

A valiant fightback fell short as the Rams won 93-89 and with them back at full strength, four wins in five days to win the championship isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Despite a quiet first half, Britt led a team-binding win with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Bailey’s 19 points and eight rebounds was important for their first half efforts. Te Rangi (11 points, five rebounds) was important, while fans wait on news on Talma’s (10 points, five rebounds) injury.

Karena (19 points, five rebounds) and Ingham (19 points) were the best for eliminated Nelson outfit, as Vukona did what Vukona does and put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. As the Giants head home from the competition, the Rams now take on Auckland Huskies for a spot in the semi-finals. If the Rams get up, they will face the red-hot Otago Nuggets in the semi-finals.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.

Vukona return sparks Giant win over Rams, ends four-game slide

THE Nelson Giants’ runaway fourth quarter has led to the ninth straight downfall of the Canterbury Rams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL), as the return of Mika Vukona helped spark a strong performance, despite a limited run on the floor last night.

NELSON GIANTS 13 | 29 | 22 | 16 (80)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 15 | 20 | 7 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

While it remains very unlikely for either the Giants or Rams to make the top four, both teams had a lot of pride on the line before squaring up last night in Saturday’s opener. The Giants, who looked at ending their four-game skid, had to knock off a Rams side that was desperate for a win, having lost eight straight contests prior to the matchup.

Good news for Nelson straight off the bat, New Zealand Hall of Famer and 162-time Tall Black in Vukona made his first appearance for the Giants, coming off the bench in his side’s bid to gain some room off the bottom of the standings. Meanwhile, the Rams’ chances looked bleak, as key guard Taylor Britt was absent due to an elbow injury.

Nevertheless, Reuben Te Rangi, Benjamin Carlisle-Smith and Alexander Talma got their squad going early, opening up a 6-0 start to the clash of the two South Island sides.

The advantageous start for the Rams would set the tone for the majority of the first term, pushing their lead to as much as nine points off the back of two free-throws from Te Rangi. The conversion rate was the ultimate factor in obtaining the 22-13 lead at quarter-time for Canterbury, as the squad shot over 40 per cent from the field compared to the Giants, who shot under 30 per cent.

After Vukona made his first basket of the season 37 seconds into the second period, it seemed as though Nelson started to gain a little bit of momentum. But, a well organised and prepared Canterbury side parried most of their runs during the first few minutes of the second.

Following an injury scare to the Rams’ Samuel Smith, Canterbury continued to outperform the Giants in all methods of scoring. Methods varied from points in the paint to second chance points to points off the bench, as Mick Downer’s squad flexed their depth late in the first half.

An unsportsmanlike foul on Te Rangi allowed Nelson back into striking range, as Nicolas Trathen’s technical free-throws and Theo Johnson’s three helped cap off an effective 13-0 run giving Nelson the lead for the first time in the game. Te Rangi’s three tied the contest up, but a Dane Brooks and-one and dunk solidified the half-time lead at the main break, giving his team the five-point edge 42-37. Thanks to his last-minute run of plays, Brooks led the way for his team in scoring and rebounding prior to the third quarter, adding 10 points and five rebounds to the cause, while Te Rangi was held responsible for his 11 individual points.

A glaring red light for Canterbury’s first half downfall was in the category of points from turnovers. Nelson’s defence led to eight points from forcing takeaways, as the Rams were yet to produce in that fashion. Despite this, the Rams contributed 15 second-chance points, compared to Nelson’s 11, highlighting one of the few good things the bottom-dwellers of the league did up until half-time. The Rams’ Jack Exeter knocked down a lead-off three to get Canterbury off on the right foot, as Canterbury quickly levelled the playing field a couple minutes into the second half with both sides sitting on 44 points apiece.

With both sides going basket-for-basket in the middle stages of the third period, Nelson could start to exploit the Rams’ holes in their defence, separating themselves from their opponents and after Johnson’s And-1 dunk, they could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel leading by as much as seven points with just over a quarter to play.

That lead would remain for the rest of the third phase as a Mac Stodart’s alley-oop layup on the buzzer gave the Rams a modicum of hope going into the final ten minutes, as they continued to search for answers to lock down the key (the Rams allowed 38 points in the paint through three quarters).

Nelson’s frontcourt started get results as the big-man duo of Mike Karena and Vukona helped extend their team’s lead into double-digits for the first time of the night, leading 72-57 with just under eight minutes remaining. Following this, everything started to fall, as Alexander McNaught added to his impressive performance with a three-pointer of his own.

Another scoring run from the Giants would put the result beyond all doubt all the way to the final whistle, as Nelson ran away with the contest by a potent 16-point deficit, 80-64. It therefore ended their four-game losing stretch and improving their record to four wins and seven losses. On the other side of the tape, the Rams move a game and a half back on the standings, losing their ninth straight after a string of close defeats over the last few weeks.

Brooks led the charge for the Giants, standing with Karena as one of the only two players to reach double digits in scoring. The shooting guard remained reliable from the field, hammering home 26 points and eight rebounds in his man of the match performance. For Karena, 11 points and five rebounds completed a modest performance off the bench, as Vukona made a substantial impact in his return to the hardwood (eight points, three rebounds and two assists).

While each basket for the Rams seemed to be a challenge, Te Rangi continued his good start to the season with a team-high 15 points and four rebounds. Meanwhile, Toby Gillooly earned his salt at the free-throw line attributing five of his ten points to the charity strike, going five from six.

Both sides encounter the Auckland huskies in their next on-court appearances, with Nelson to face the side in the next 24 hours and looking to close the gap for fifth spot in the standings. Next up for the Rams, they can look forward to some rest as the injury woes continue for the Red and Black, lining up against the Huskies on Wednesday night looking to avoid a double-digit losing streak after their ninth consecutive loss last night.

Rams fail to strike gold, Nuggets triumph in South Island Derby

OTAGO Nuggets have rebounded back from their disappointing result on Thursday night against the Franklin Bulls, knocking off Canterbury last night in the Battle of the South. The result caused the Rams to enter a three-game losing slump in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown as a handful of their players were feeling under the weather prior to tipoff, in particular Taylor Britt.

CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 20 | 12 | 23 (77)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 28 | 9 | 22 (87)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A certain matchup that fans were excited to see, was the duo of Canterbury’s Britt, who is a current Perth Wildcat, and Jarrod Kenny, a former Wildcat himself. In true fashion, both of the men would open up the scoring for their respective sides in an accurate first quarter.

For the Rams, 17 shots were hoisted up in the opening period, 10 of which found the mark (58 per cent). Whereas, for the Nuggets, they shot 52 per cent, but made up for that in attacking the rim and getting to the line. With Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt leading the charge, Otago would convert on six attempts from the charity strike, compared to Canterbury who never made it to the free-throw line once in the introductory 10 minutes.

With both sides landing punches in most of the following quarter, neither team could genuinely gain the upper hand and bend the contest to their will, which made Matthew Bardsley’s eight second-quarter points and five rebounds a section of the game to watch with intent. Bardsley shot four of five from the field during the second quarter in just five minutes of court time prior to the end of the first half, helping the Nuggets to grab the game with both hands, leading 42-56 after two quarters.

As Britt exited the game temporarily due to illness, everyone was expecting the Nuggets to run away with the contest, as the Rams were without their marquee player. But Mick Downer’s squad were not going down without a fight, as they not only outscored the Nuggets in the third quarter, they held the other team to just nine points, putting them in good stead for a late game charge in the final 10 minutes.

Early in the fourth, a layup through contact and a three from Quintin Bailey would bring the deficit to just six points for the Rams, kickstarting a late run that Canterbury were hoping for at the end of the third, and after his return three minutes into the fourth, Britt’s layup would make the clash a one possession game, at 65-68. Furthermore, when big man Thomas Webley followed up with a nice finish around the rim, it cut the Nuggets’ lead to just one point with 6:16 left capping off an 18-7 run, providing a game that anyone could snag.

But Otago was not going to let another match slip through their fingers, as a barrage of triples from Richard Rodger and Kane Keil would round out a stellar night for the Nuggets eventuating in the 87-77 triumph.

While the Rams shot better as a team through all four quarters, going 33 of 68 (48 per cent), the factors in the final result came down to the three ball and free throws, as the Nuggets attacked the rim hard and found the open shooter at an extraordinary rate, accumulating 11 three-pointers and 12 free-throws in the win.

Secondly, the Nuggets’ bench proved to be much more effective, outworking the Rams in points off the bench 36-24, allowing stars like Ngatai and Kenny to gain valuable rest heading into their next contest against the Huskies on Tuesday.

For Ngatai specifically, he finished his performance with a team-high 19 points, as well as five rebounds, four assists and three steals, boasting another all-around game for his side.

While Kenny would squabble for just one three-pointer in 21 minutes of game-time, he managed to pass the rock well, providing five assists for his side. Meanwhile, Keil was a major surprise, accounting for 16 points, with 12 of which coming from behind the arch, allowing him to make his first notable mark on the season so far.

High scoring totals are becoming the norm for Britt in the Sal’s NBL competition, hoarding 21 points in 21 minutes on the floor along with six rebounds and five assists. Also putting up solid points and rebounding numbers was Samuel Smith and Alexander Talma, who gathered 12 points, seven rebounds and 11 points, eight rebounds respectively, as Benjamin Carlile-Smith pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Rams now face a pivotal crossroads in their season, as another loss would place the team outside the top four while also pairing the squad with a four-game losing streak, bearing in mind they need to figure out how to defeat a red-hot Franklin side. To Otago, they could challenge for a top-two seed if they can topple the struggling Huskies in a few days.

Gigantic first quarter helps Giants upset Rams

IN an unexpected turn, the bottom seed has upset the top seed, as the Nelson Giants earned their second win of the season, toppling the Canterbury Rams in yesterday night’s second game. The Giants produced the biggest quarter of the season by any side to pile on 39 points to 22, before going on to win in a tight one, 97-90.

CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 14 | 27 | 22 (90)
NELSON GIANTS 39 | 16 | 20 | 22 (97)

[ … MATCH STATS … ]

The Giants achieved the feat despite missing their marquee draft pick in Mika Vukona further, due to testing for appendicitis. Replacing Vukona, 27-year-old Michael Karena made his presence known early getting his name in the scorers’ column within 60 seconds of the opening tip. The Giants would come out firing on all cylinders, converting four of their six opening attempts from the field. As a result, Nelson would cap off one of the season’s best starts across all seven teams, getting out to a 21-5 lead.

Shortly after Dane Brooks’ mid-range jumper with 12 seconds remaining, the Giants would be sitting pretty ten minutes into the game, accumulating 39 first quarter points and leading the Rams by a formidable 17. The main proponent of Nelson’s awesome start was Nicolas Trathen’s 10 points from eighty per cent shooting, where as a team, the Giants would shoot 17 of 23 from the field (73 per cent) and earning 22 of their 39 points in the paint.

While Quentin Bailey of the Rams struck first on a hook shot in the post to start the second, Canterbury would fight inside around the bucket to claw their way back into the contest. But, the Giants would counter every strike for the rest of the first half in a grinded out effort from both sides. However, the constant remained, as Karena continued to do his part in place of Vukona. Back to back to back buckets by Mason Whittaker and Thomas Webley would cut the Rams’ deficit to 17 (7-0 run), with 90 seconds remaining. Nevertheless, with Karena successfully adding two buckets to the score line, it would stop the Rams in their tracks, extending the Giants lead to 36-55 at the end of twenty minutes.

Despite the highlights being few and far between for the Rams in yesterday’s contest, Webley led his side at the end of three quarters in scoring with 11, as Canterbury would outscore the Giants 27-20 in the championship quarter. This was due to the Rams’ depth, as Canterbury’s bench accounted for 31 of their 63 points three quarters of the way through the match (a plus-15 compared to Nelson).

In what was a period of scoring streaks from both sides, it was Nelson who got off on the right foot first, scoring the initial five points of the home period. The Rams parried this with 10 points in a row of their own, which was quickly undone by another scoring run by the Rams.

In what seemed like a hopeless task, the Giants had an answer for anything that Mick Downer’s side would throw at them and despite the insurmountable odds, a Taylor Britt layup would set up for a somewhat close finish, as the Rams would get as close as seven points. But straight out of a timeout, a running hook shot by Tysxun Aiolupotea would put the result beyond doubt, as the Giants took one massive step to getting their season back on track. The Rams would go into the bonus with a minute to go, allowing Aiolupotea to cement the win for the Giants with free throws, polishing off Canterbury and doling out their second defeat of the season, with a final result of 90-97.

After the two teams settled their differences on the hardwood, it could be summarised as a shooting exhibition on the part of the Nelson Giants. Which, when coupled with their extraordinary start, became their game to lose before the halfway stage of the game, leading by as much as 24 points.

Remarkably, the Rams would come out victorious in virtually all the non-scoring categories, but when a team like the Giants shoots at a 54 per cent efficiency (40/73), good ball movement sometimes isn’t enough to get the job done.

Michael Karena certainly proved his mettle on the night, encompassing a complete game in almost all facets. Karena’s stat-line read 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, as he would take man of the match honours. Alongside Karena, Thomas Ingham’s 20 points was a major contributor to Nelson’s second win in five outings.

For the Rams, leading the team once again in points, Britt would finish with 21 next to five assists in a good night of facilitating the ball. Samuel Smith and Alexander Talma also made their performances noteworthy with 12 points each.

The Rams can redeem their winning form in Saturday’s contest with the Nuggets in a top four duel, whereas the Giants take on the newly appointed bottom of the table Auckland Huskies on Sunday.