Tag: Mika Vukona

QSL Stats: Quarter finals

WITH the quarter finals done and dusted of the Queensland State League (QSL) Draft Central takes a look at both the Men’s and Women’s biggest contributors across the weekend. Gold Coast Rollers and Ipswich Force got the win in the women’s competition while for the men the Brisbane Capitals and Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal got the job done which was ultimately reflected in the stats as a couple of big name players stepped up to the plate for their sides’ win.



Jason Cadee topped the table when it came to points scored across the weekend with the star player sinking an impressive 43 points in his outing for Brisbane.  The next closest contributor was Christopher Cedar who played on the opposing team – Logan Thunder – nailing 33 points. In the other quarter final Jamaal Robateau was a key reason his side got over the line flexing his muscles on the scoring front with 31 points to his name. Nicholas Stoddart was another standout for the Capitals managing 24 points while Thomas Ammar rounded out the final top five for points scorers over the weekend with 20.


Timothy Soong inflicted a wealth of pain not only on the scoreboard with 18 points despite not being in the top five, but so too on the rebounding front. Soong led the charge for all four sides with his 14 rebound effort for the Capitals with an even split between defensive and offensive. Nelson Kahler takes out second spot for the most amount of rebounds in the quarter finals reeling in 11 for Sunshine Coast with eight of them defensive while Southern Districts Spartans Tyrell Harrison and Cedar managed 10 apiece. There were a couple of players tied on nine rebounds with Callum Dalton for the Spartans and Didan Toto for the Capitals showcasing their strength off the boards.


Leading the way in the assists column was Robateau and Cadee with the duo registering eight apiece in their respective winning sides. Both players proved to be key playmakers with ball in hand able to dish off dimes with great ease and control. Soong also had a hand in just about everything registering seven assists for the Capitals while Jonathan Jassen and Anei Muorter were the next closest with five to their name for their respective clubs.  There were a number of players that recorded four assists including the likes of Mika Vukona, Capitals duo Jarred Bairstow and Stoddart along with Cedar.



When it came to scoreboard pressure, Amy Lewis led all comers with 32 points to her name in a strong showing for Ipswich Force. Meg Essex also proved to have a hot hand in the quarter final against the Force with the Brisbane Capitals representative notching up 26 points. The next closest was Skye Mason with 21 points in Gold Coasts win while Emma Read and Ashleigh Karaitiana managed 18 points apiece in their respective outings across the weekend.


Brisbane Capitals’ Anna Cameron came up big on the rebound front dragging down a whopping 16 for the game, 12 of them offensive in an impressive effort off the boards. Hot on her tail was Charmain Mellars who finished with 12 rebounds for the RedCity Roar while Essex popped up for 11 in an all-round impressive performance by the 24-year-old. Kisha Lee was handy for Gold Coast Rollers collecting 10 rebounds nine of which were defensive while there were three players that all registered eight rebounds respectively in Sarah Ambrose, Karlene Kingi and Catherine Macgregor.


Madison Woodford topped the table for most assists for the round with nine to her name in the Capitals narrow defeat. Her skill with ball in hand was on show throughout the game although her side failed to get over the line. A trio of Rollers including Ambrose, Lilly Rotunno and Siarn Woods starred with 15 assists shared equally between them in their win.  A number of players registered four assists in their outings over the weekend with Rachel Mate from Brisbane Capitals one of them while Lee was the other.

Picture: Joy Hooper

QSL Men’s Round 8 wrap: RedCity go two wins clear as Thunder win back-to-back matches

REDCITY Roar have moved two games clear on top of the table in the Queensland State League (QSL) Men’s competition, one of two sides to notch up back-to-back wins alongside Logan Thunder who moved to seventh only a win away from the top six.

Logan Thunder (118) defeated Toowoomba Mountaineers (69)

Logan Thunder produced the performance of their season to completely dominated Toowoomba Mountaineers and leapfrog on the ladder. The home side won by a whooping 49 points much to the delight of those in the stadium, taking out the one-sided contest 118-69. They dropped 11 three-pointers and shot at more than 60 per cent from the field, whilst the Mountaineers ran at below 40. Meanwhile the Thunder also won the rebounds (47-39), assists (36-19), steals (19-4) and second chance points (28-6) in a complete domination. Atem Bior led the way with a double-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, sharing the load with Elijah Puna (21 points, nine rebounds and three assists). Also in double-digit points were Ranko Puseljic (14 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals), Kian Dennis (12 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Thomas Ammar (10 points, six rebounds and three assists in a real team effort. Jakobe Hunter led the way for the Mountaineers, putting up a team-high 16 points, as well as five rebounds and six assists, while Bailey Nwanevu (13 points, six rebounds) and Joseph Johnson (10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists) were both strong.

Gold Coast Rollers (74) defeated Northside Wizards (72)

Gold Coast Rollers held on in a thriller against Northside Wizards to move one win ahead of their opponents and into seventh on the table. Whilst they are two wins behind sixth, they have two games in hand and will be keen to have a strong finish to the season in the next few weeks. The Rollers made the most of their long-range shots with nine of 28 compared to four of 23, and also stood up defensively to win the steal count, 13-8. In most other areas it was the Wizards who led the way, including rebounds (49-39), assists (19-18), blocks (5-3) and second chance points (15-6). Jaze Morris put up 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the win, teaming up with Jalen Patton Croker (19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals) and Adrian La Fleur (12 points, four rebounds and two steals). For the Wizards, it was Cameron Thew who dominated off the boards with 15 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while Luke Stewart (13 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and two steals) also recorded a double-double. Jacob Arthur (20 points, seven rebounds and two steals) and James Ringholt (17 points, four rebounds and two blocks) also went big, but scored the majority of the team’s points.

North Gold Coast Seahawks (70) defeated by Ipswich Force (113)

Ipswich Force sits in outright fourth after a strong win over the winless North Gold Coast Seahawks on the road. The Force amassed 113 points in the 43-point victory, to move to 6-2 for the season and remain a title contender. Statistically speaking, the Force controlled play with a high 59 per cent from inside the arc and 43 per cent from outside it, as well as leading the rebounds (47-39), assists (23-13), second chance points (22-17), blocks (6-1) and steals (14-8), while the Seahawks had more triples (12). Ryan Jeffries had a match-high 22 points, as well as three rebounds and two assists in the win, while it was Mitchell Poulain (16 points, 12 rebounds) who recorded a double-double for the winners. Jesse Ghee also had a good day out with 22 points, three rebounds and two assists. For the Seahawks, Loseli Shortland was the star with a double-double effort of 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Maika Shortland also tried hard, notching up 15 points and six rebounds.

RedCity Roar (94) defeated South West Metro Pirates (75)

The top of the table undefeated Roar had their first win of the weekend with a 19-point triumph over a gallant South West Metro Pirates. The Pirates moved to a 5-5 record from 10 games but showed they could compete with the top side in a solid performance. The Roar were just deadly from long-range, dropping 15 triples at 34 per cent, but could not find the same range from two-point range. They also led the assists (25-17), steals (13-8), blocks (4-1) and second chance points (16-3), while the Pirates topped the rebound count (52-48). Harry Froling was the difference between the sides, dropping 33 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks, recording a massive six triples on the night. Verle Williams III was the other prominent scorer for the winners with 16 points, nine assists, three rebounds and four steals, while Darryl McDowell-White (10 points, two steals) notched up double-figure points. For the losers, Tanner Krebs tried hard with 17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Max Kearle (10 points, two rebounds) and Atem Atem (eight points, eight rebounds and two assists) were solid.

Southern Districts Spartans (94) defeated Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal (79)

In a battle of two contenders, Southern District Spartans got a crucial win to dislodge Brisbane Capitals from second spot and sit with seven wins from nine games. For Phoenix Teal, they remain on five wins, but now sit two wins away from the top three. The Spartans were far more accurate than Phoenix Teal, shooting at 38.5 and 57.8 per cent from three and two-point range respectively compared to 16.7 and 44.6 per cent. In terms of other numbers, the Spartans were too good in the rebounds (48-33), assists (19-9) and second chance points (18-13), while the Phoenix Teal had more steals (13-9) and blocks (3-0). Anei Muorter recorded a team-high 20 points, as well as a consistent five rebounds, five assists and two steals in the win. Callum Dalton (19 points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Tyrell Harrison (14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals) were both strong, while veteran Mika Vukona played the most minutes he has all season with 21, and put up nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals. for the losing side, Jamaal Robateau had a match-high 27 points and nine steals, as well as two rebounds and three assists. Picking up a double-double, Nelson Kahler (18 points, 11 rebounds) was prolific, while Jonathan Janssen (13 points, seven rebounds) also contributed.

Brisbane Capitals (83) defeated by RedCity Roar (106)

In a top of the table clash, RedCity Roar picked up their second win of the weekend and went two games clear on top with a ninth consecutive win. The Roar shot at 42 per cent from long-range, dropping a mind-boggling 19 triples, as well as more than 50 per cent from inside the arc. RedCity also won the rebounds(46-36), and blocks (6-0), though the Capitals got on top in the assists (23-18), second chance points (11-6) and steals (9-8). Froling had another double-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals, as McDowell-White picked up a match-high 28 points to back up his effort the day before, whilst brother William McDowell-White had a much larger influence on the game with a double-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks. For the Capitals, Jason Cadee helped himself to 27 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and four steals, while Ben Wilson (15 points, six rebounds, two assists and four steals), Timothy Soong (13 points, seven rebounds and three assists), Nicholas Stoddart (12 points, four rebounds and four assists) all stood up strongly.

USC Rip City (73) defeated by Logan Thunder (86)

Logan Thunder also made it back-to-back wins for the weekend, picking up a 13-point victory over USC Rip City. The win saw the Thunder move up to 4-5 for the season as they begin to play some of the lower sides and get on a roll. In the 86-73 victory, the Thunder was the more accurate team from inside the arc, scoring at a 66.7 per cent clip, whilst USC did it at 44.9 per cent. The Thunder also had plenty of rebounds (55-38), and had more second chance points (14-10), but Rip City was on top in the assists (20-19) and steals (15-10). Dennis picked up a match-high 26 points, as well as three rebounds and two assists, while Chris Cedar sank 18 points, as well as six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Mitchell Young was prominent with a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds in the win, while Bior finished with 12 points and four rebounds. For USC, it was Riley Cordwell picking up a team-high 19 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Flyn O’Toole (14 points, eight rebounds and four steals) and Tyler Allen (13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) were also prolific off the boards.

Picture: Brad Anderson

QSL Men’s Round 5 wrap: Force leapfrog Mountaineers as top four continue strong form

IPSWICH Force was able to jump up into the top five with a big win over Toowoomba Mountaineers, as the top four sides enjoyed victories in Round 5 of the Queensland State League (QSL) Men’s competition.

Brisbane Capitals (92) defeated North Gold Coast Seahawks (57)

The Capitals handed the winless Seahawks a sixth straight defeat on Saturday, running out 35-point winners. The 5-1 Capitals were more effective across the board with 12 more rebounds (52-40), 10 more second chance points (15-5), seven more assists (26-19) and a greater accuracy from inside the arc (51 to 35 per cent). Jarred Bairstow led the way with 27 points including 66.7 per cent from the field, as well as 10 rebounds and two assists. Jason Cadee dropped four of 10 triples on his way to 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals, while Lachlan Venus picked up a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. For the Seahawks, both Jordi Anger (10 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Donovan Russell (10 points two steals) reached double-figure points, as Jesse Lomax (six points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals) was strong off the boards.

Ipswich Force (106) defeated Toowoomba Mountaineers (73)

Ipswich moved into the all-important fifth spot and remained in touch with the top four as the home team collected its third win in five matches. The Force were far too good for the Mountaineers, winning by 33 points and posting an accurate 32.4 per cent from long range, and 53.8 per cent from inside the arc. The Mountaineers were good from inside the arc themselves, registering a 61.9 per cent accuracy, but only made six of 36 attempts from outside the arc. A plus-20 differential in assists for the Force was the difference on the day. It was no surprise to see Brisbane Bullets’ Nathan Sobey again dominating, putting up 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Mitchell Poulain (17 points, six rebounds and three assists), Kane Bishop (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Ryan Jeffries (10 points, five rebounds and five assists) were also busy. For the Mountaineers, Jakobe Hunter racked up 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals to be the clear standout, while Joseph Johnson (13 points, nine rebounds) and Kresto Wal (11 points, seven rebounds and three assists) were also strong.

Northside Wizards (60) defeated by Southern Districts Spartans (86)

Second placed Southern Districts Spartans proved too much for the struggling Northside Wizards, posting a 26-point win on the road. They are at opposite ends of the ladder, but the Wizards still competed throughout, only having two less assists, and picked up three more steals. The Spartans dominated the rebound count though, notching up 45-27, as well as a 14-6 second chance points tally. Anthony Drmic was unstoppable on the scoring front, notching up 28 points – including six triples – as well as three rebounds and three assists. Returning to Queensland after his New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) stint, Mika Vukona notched up eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Tyrell Harrison had eight points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the win. For the Wizards, Cameron Thew recorded the most points with 14, as well as six rebounds, while Jacob Arthur (13 points, two assists) and Luke Stewart (10 points, two rebounds, three assists and six steals) also reached double-figure points.

Logan Thunder (73) defeated by Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal (83)

Despite only having one win for the season, Logan Thunder took it up to top four side Sunshine Coast Phoenix Teal, only to fall 10 points short of victory. They teams were evenly matched for the most part, but it was the rebounding (54-37) where Phoenix Teal took control, helping the visitors record a favourable 17-8 second chance points tally. Five players recorded double-figure points for the winning side but it was Nelson Kahler‘s massive 17-point, 21-rebounds and four-block outing that had fans talking. Almost as impressive, Jonathan Janssen had 15 points, 14 rebounds and three assists, while Jamaal Robateau (16 points, five rebounds and eight assists) and Josh Walters (12 points four rebounds, five assists and three steals) were all impressive. Michael Cedar recorded the most points for the Thunder with 18, as well as five rebounds and three assists, while Atem Bior (14 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Mitchell Young (11 points, six rebounds) were also busy.

RedCity Roar (103) defeated USC Rip City (70)

Top of the table RedCity Roar continued their undefeated start to the season with a 33-point victory over USC Rip City. The Roar sank two less three-pointers but were more accurate from inside the arc (64.7 to 35.7 per cent) and at the free throw line (75.9 to 47.3 per cent). They also led the rebounds (57-43), assists (21-13) and steals (17-14), while USC topped the second chance points (26-19). Harry Froling had another massive outing off the boards, raking up an enormous 25 points, 23 rebounds and eight assists to be clear best-on. Partner-in-crime William McDowell-White recorded another double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, whilst the likes of Verle Williams III (11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals) and Heath Gameren (13 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals). For USC, Matthew Hancock was the standout with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Flyn O’Toole (13 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Dane Glover (10 points, four rebounds).

South West Metro Pirates (101) defeated Gold Coast Rollers (89)

South West Metro Pirates moved past Gold Coast Rollers on the QSL Men’s ladder with a 12-point victory which was their third of the season. The Pirates were more accurate from the field, recording 52.8 per cent from two-point range compared to the Rollers’ 40 per cent. Both teams were proficient from outside the arc with 16-14 in favour of the Pirates, whilst they also led the rebounds (43-32) and assists (23-20). The Rollers had one more steal and balanced out on three blocks apiece. Jonathon Mines had a big day out with 28 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals, while Mathiang Muo (20 points, six rebounds and four assists) was also strong. Tanner Krebs notched up 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Atem Atem had 12 points and nine rebounds. Jalen Patton Croker (28 points, two rebounds, seven assists and two steals) and Jaze Morris (24 points, five rebounds) both sank big numbers, while Adrian La Fleur (14 points, four rebounds and seven assists) also stood out in the defeat.

Picture: Winifried Parker

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #8 – Nelson’s statement win over Otago to conclude season

FOR most of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, the Nelson Giants struggled to string together many triumphs in the 14 games of their campaign, finishing with a record of five wins and nine losses. But when the final game of the regular season came around, the Giants were hell bent on finishing on a good note.

The NZNBL this year has been touted as one of the most even in terms of the skill and the ability of all seven teams. Nelson’s final matchup with the first ranked Otago Nuggets is truly a testament to this statement, as it makes an appearance in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.

Full the full match report between the Giants and the Nuggets – Click HERE

Coming off of two demoralising defeats at the hands of the Auckland Huskies (67-96) and the Taranaki Mountain Airs (95-102) in their two prior outings, Nelson was in need of some dire momentum if they were to put themselves in as good of form as possible heading into finals week. However, to do this the Giants had to be flawless for a full four quarters if they were any chance to conquer minor premiers, Otago Nuggets.

While Otago limited the minutes of their marquee duo in Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny before their Qualifying Final as well as both bigs in Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil being absent due to “niggles” according to coach Brent Matehaere, the point still stood that Nelson needed to make a statement before finals.

The opening 10 minutes of play did not bode well for the Giants, as the Nuggets blew out of the starting blocks with their shooters ablaze, knocking down six first quarter threes led by Darcy Knox and Richard Rodger who had two each in the opening term. Otago produced an attractive 28-21 quarter time lead and it was obvious what Nelson needed to limit them for the remainder of the contest.

Mike Fitchett managed to hammer home the message of limiting Otago’s long-range shooting, as the Giants held the Nuggets to just four threes in total over the next three quarters and contribute to their fantastic defence during the stretch of play.

Through multiple stops and neutralising Otago’s scoring avenues, Nelson found themselves in the lead halfway through the second after a corner three from Thomas Ingham. The majority of the second entailed the trading of buckets, but a 7-0 scoring run thanks to Mike Karena and Tom Gargiulo, capped off the first half in dominant fashion and gave their side an eight-point advantage at the main break.

Despite a couple of big plays from Otago, the Nuggets could not eat into their double-digit deficit as Karena and his side continued their good defence in the final quarters of the encounter. Next to Karena, Zeb Lovell and Mika Vukona provided supplementary points down low in the paint as the Giants pummelled their South Island neighbours around the basket.

A final layup by Tysxun Aiolupotea with 27 seconds left in the game put the stamp on the one-sided affair, with the Giants putting on a defensive clinic over a Nuggets side that now had to quickly shift their focus to the Manawatu Jets a couple days later.

Nelson held the Nuggets to just 46 points in the last three quarters, as the Giants accumulated 76 points of their own in the same period of time. The winning side tallied 52 points in the paint, compared to the Nuggets’ 30, helping the Giants achieve a 52 per cent shooting average on the night.

Karena led the game in scoring with 26 points and three assists, while Ingham added a further 17 points and five rebounds. On the other side of the aisle, Knox displayed his offence for the Nuggets by serving up a team-high 17 points off the bench in 23 minutes of court time.

Nelson’s 97-74 demolition job of Otago marked their fifth and final win of the season and slotted them into sixth position to conclude the campaign. But the fact that Nelson was able to trounce the eventual champions of the season, fully embodies the level of competition the NZNBL had on display this year.

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Nelson Giants

NELSON Giants are first up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Giants ended up the bottom placed team after a sixth placed regular season finish, going down to Canterbury Rams in the first elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 5
Lost: 9


Points: 84.0 (6th)
Rebounds: 41.1 (5th)
Assists: 14.7 (7th)
Steals: 7.3 (5th)
Blocks: 2.3 (7th)
FG%: 44.2 (5th)

BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 5 points

It might be easy to say the Giants’ best win came against eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets in the final week of the season, but realistically taking into account what the motives were in that game in terms of management ahead of Finals, the narrow victory over a full-strength Manawatu Jets side earlier in the season takes the cake. No Jets player scored more than 18 points, as Theo Johnson put on 20 points and three rebounds, while Mike Karena had 17 and six, and Nic Trathen had 11 and six.

WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland by 29 points

The game was over by quarter time after the Huskies shot a lights-out 17 from 17 to start the match, piling on more than 40 points in the best first term of the season. The Giants managed to match it with their opponents after that, but the gap was a bridge too far despite the best efforts of Karena (15 points, eight rebounds).


Mike Karena – 17.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Thomas Ingham – 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Dane Brooks – 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals
Nic Trathen – 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals
Mika Vukona – 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals


Nelson Giants always looked like a dangerous team at times given their big man out on court, Karena was the best center in the competition, and his ability to be able to go inside or outside, and shoot at a high 54.2 per cent clip from two-point range and 37.5 per cent from three-point range was always going to be hard to stop for opposition clubs.


A slow start to the season caused by injuries to Karena, Dane Brooks and Mika Vukona, the latter of whom did not return until late in the season. If the Tall Blacks legend had played a full season, there is every chance the Giants might have finished higher on the ladder, with his experience crucial to the side.


The Nelson Giants might have finished seventh overall post-finals, but given the losses of key players to injury, the team was always playing catch-up basketball. At their best, the Giants were clearly able to match it with the best sides, and it was more the fact they struggled to get their full side on the court often enough. There were enough signs there to suggest if they can retain their big guns for another season next year, the Giants could be more competitive when the whips are cracking, and more consistently as well.

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)


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.

Airs keep top two hopes alive with win over Giants

TARANAKI Mountainairs have kept their dreams of finishing in the top two of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown alive after downing Nelson Giants by seven points last night. In what was a team effort – five players scored double-figure points – the Airs reached the hundred mark yet again in the 102-95 win.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 20 | 26 | 28 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 24 | 27 | 16 | 28 (95)


Both teams were able to gets shots off early, but back-to-back threes by Thomas Ingham and Dane Brooks gave the Giants an early advantage. Denhym Brooke countered with a triple of his own for the Airs, and the big guns in Derone Raukawa, Mika Vukona and Mike Karena all got on the board with some points. Trailing by as much as six, the Airs drained three consecutive treys – one to Marcel Jones and two to Shane Temara – to hit the front themselves. They did not lose it again for the rest of the quarter as both teams share the points around.

The Airs long-range shooting was a huge feature of the opening term as the Giants looked to get as close to the basket as possible. The teams traded baskets in the last couple of minutes as Nic Trathen had a late triple to follow on from Mitchell Dance, but it would be Zach Easthope who had the last say with a layup as the clock ticked down to four seconds for Taranaki to lead by four at the first break.

The second term opened with Ken Tuffin scoring his first points of the game with a jump shot after missing his earlier three-point attempt, as the Giants kept in touch with the third placed Airs through another Trathen triple just two minutes into the game. Raukawa and Jones scored the next seven Airs points, but then their side went three minutes without scoring. Despite the long period, Nelson did not fare much better with a Karena driving layup a minute earlier the first time the Giants had been in front since midway through the first quarter.

The teams traded buckets in the second half of the term, as the Giants through Ingham and Karena built a handy lead. Temara scored five late points for his side to cut the deficit to three points by the main break. Having had a break later in the term, Raukawa returned to the court for the second half to try and spur his team on after conceding the lead in the second quarter.

Just nine seconds into the quarter and Tuffin got to the rim with a nice layup and Vukona fouled Jones on a three-point attempt to send the big man to the line which he duly delivered to give his side a two-point advantage. Vukona soon made up for his error with a two-pointer of his own, and the teams again traded passes. Josh Bloxham cleverly picked up a steal off a Raukawa pass and Karena fed the ball to Ingham for a triple to hit the front. No sooner had the Giants went ahead, and Raukawa quickly drained a triple of his own to give his team the advantage.

The Airs maintained that advantage throughout the term, as the Giants got as close as three points with 2:22 left in the quarter. However the last two baskets – to Raukawa and Tai Wynyard – extended the lead out to seven at the final change, with no score added in the last 74 seconds of the game as the Giants kept having chances but not nailing them. Four consecutive shots resulted in three offensive rebounds for Nelson, before Wynyard finally grabbed a defensive board, only for Jones to turn the ball over again. Not long after the siren sounded with the Airs up by seven.

Still within striking range, the Giants continued to push as Karena, Trathen and Ingham all scored early baskets. Temara produced an entertaining dunk, while Raukawa was still making life difficult for the opposition with his shooting. Midway through the term, the game was well and truly alive with the Giants drawing within a point on a number of occasions. Vukona capitalised off an and-one chance with two minutes and 43 seconds remaining and the scores 89-88 in favour of the Airs.

That seemed to wake the third placed team up a little as Jones and Brooks both contributed with jumpshots to push it out to six points and the Giants never got closer. Karena’s basket with 56 seconds on the clock put the Giants to within six, but then the deliberate fouling was on and the Airs made sure to get the ball in the hands of Raukawa who delivered from the charity stripe. An Ingham turnover in the last 38 seconds resulted in a Tuffin basket, and while Theo Johnson nailed a late triple, it was too little, too late for the Giants who went down 102-95.

Raukawa finished with a double-double of 15 points, 11 assists and two rebounds, while Jones picked up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in another big performance. Temara had 20 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench, while Dance (13 points) and Brooke (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the Giants, Ingham top scored with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Trathen came off the bench for 20 points of his own to accompany five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Karena (18 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Brooks (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) both picked up double-figure numbers while Vukona aided his teammates well with five rebounds, three steals and two assists to go with eight points.

Taranaki takes on Franklin Bulls tomorrow in a must-win clash if the Airs are to secure a top two spot, while Nelson plays its final game on Saturday against Otago Nuggets knowing it is set for the first elimination final on Tuesday.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 22: Airs v Giants and Rams v Huskies

EACH 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown side only has two games left in the regular season as the finals seres has already taken shape. With the top two teams winning overnight, it all but locks up the qualifying final unless one massively stumbles, while the bottom two are also secured with Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams set to play off in the first elimination final. Both play tonight against a couple of top four sides hoping to have a strong run in the last couple of games. The remaining matches in the competition are the third encounters between the teams.


Taranaki Mountainairs are the only side that can upset the current order of play with the top two sides in the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets. Whilst the league’s most high-powered offence can level the top two sides on eight wins after this game, the Airs have to hope they win their last game while both teams lose their final two encounters. For the Giants, they sit in the bottom two and are preparing to play the Rams in the first elimination final next Tuesday in which there will be no turning back. In saying that, claiming a huge scalp or two in the final week could do wonders for the confidence.

While the Airs dominate across the board in most statistical areas such as points (plus 19.8), rebounds (plus 9.1) and assists (plus 4.5), the biggest differential might be in the shooting efficiency from the charity stripe. The Airs are the top side at capitalising from the line, making 79.3 per cent of their free throws, while the Giants are last with just two thirds on their free throws going in. The Airs are the most efficient side in the competition which sets them up for finals, shooting at an average of 47.5, while the Giants are 43.3 per cent, ranked sixth of the seven sides.

In the first encounter between the sides back on opening night, the Airs got up 112-96 over an understrength Giants side missing Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Derone Raukawa (28 points, six rebounds and 10 assists) had a night out, teaming up with Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) who both were not too far off triple-doubles. Five Airs reached double-figure points in the opening game of the season, while it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tysxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds) who picked up 68 of the Giants’ 96 points on the night.

The Airs doubled down on their hold over the Giants in their second match on July 9, albeit needing overtime to finish them off. Leading by a whopping 21 points at half-time, Taranaki watched its lead dissolve as the Giants stormed home. Lucky for the Airs, they won overtime 20-13 to claim a 95-88 victory. Raukawa (24 points, three rebounds and seven assists), Jones (21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Ken Tuffin (10 points, 13 rebounds and three steals) all went to work in the win. For the Giants, Brooks topscored with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Zeb Lovell picked up a double-double courtesy of 10 points and 12 rebounds.


Auckland Huskies’ top two dreams might have been dashed with the loss to the top of the table Otago Nuggets last night, but third spot is still within reach if the Huskies can string together a couple of wins. They sit in fourth currently, but could still slide to fifth if they go down here and the Franklin Bulls get up. The Rams are locked into the bottom two, but have the chance to overtake the Giants with a couple of wins in the last two games and get off the bottom. In saying that, Canterbury is on a nine-game losing streak after winning its first three matches, so will need to lift in order to break that run.

Both these sides are evenly matched when it comes to the stats, with the Rams marginally ahead in points per game (86 to 85.3), while the Huskies shade them in rebounds (44.6 to 43.9). Auckland is one of the stronger assist sides, averaging 17 per game compared to the Rams’ 14.9, though Canterbury is far more accurate from the field, with a 45.5 per cent efficiency rate compared to the Huskies’ 40.3 per cent. Thought a lot of that damage was done early in the season, with the Huskies boosting their field goal numbers on the weekend having sunk the first 17 baskets against Nelson Giants. Not much separates them from a three-point shooting perspective, but the Rams are ranked second in free-throw shooting percentage.

The other game on opening night was a throwback to sweeter times for the Rams as they produced what would be their best performance of the season with a 102-70 triumph over the Huskies. The Rams dominated from the first tip-off and won three of the four quarters on their way to a 32-point victory. Taylor Britt lit up the court with 22 points and eight rebounds, well aided by Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks), as the side looked to have compensated for the loss of Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green on the eve of the season. The Huskies had a dirty shooting night, sinking just 33.8 per cent of their field goals compared to the Rams’ 52.1 per cent, with Tohi Smith-Milner‘s 15 points at 62.5 per cent, and Nate Wilson‘s 10 points at the same efficiency the only proficient and efficient scorers.

The second encounter on July 9 resulted in a Huskies victory, but not without a sluggish start. Auckland trailed by six points at quarter time, then poured on 58 points to 30 in the middle two terms to race off to a 22-point final break lead. The Rams tried to storm back with a dominant 27-12 final term, but fell short going down 88-81. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa played in this one after missing their early encounter and had a whopping eight steals to accompany 19 points. Inaccurate on opening night, Leon Henry (17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals) and Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds) both contributed at a higher rate. Britt had another impressive night with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, while it was Thomas Webley (15 points, six rebounds) and Sam Smith (12 points, two rebounds) who stepped up in the absence of Gillooly who had joined the injured group.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 19: Giants v Huskies and Jets v Airs

THE weekend to close out week four of competition is the first of the short 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) season where all seven teams take to the court. Manawatu Jets and Taranaki Airs face off after a little break from their last matches, while Auckland Huskies also enter the fray for the first time, fresh up against a Nelson Giants outfit that played last night.


In the opening match of the night, a Giants side fresh off snapping its four-game losing streak come up against an improving Huskies side with fifth spot on the line in this clash. After a slow start to the season, dropping their first few games, the Huskies have rebounded nicely to notch up four of the pat five games and really look a damaging threat. Impressively, they have been able to knock over three of the top four sides and looked great in doing so, even when most of their wins have been low scoring, but effective. Their performance against the Airs on Thursday reaffirmed they could stick at it for longer and notch past 100. The Giants on the other hand have only scored above 80 once in their past five games, but managed to win last night by reaching that total and conceding just 64 points to the Rams.

The Giants were thrilled to welcome back Mika Vukona for his first game of the season, putting up eight points, three rebounds and two assists off just over 12 minutes in the match. With more time on court expected in this game, he could be a real danger for the Huskies who need to find a way to stop him. Along with Vukona, the Giants also have the top center in the league with Mike Karena also returning last night and he averages 17 points, five rebounds and two assists this season. For the first time, Nelson may well have its strongest starting lineup without minute restrictions, and the duo along with Dane Brooks (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Thomas Ingham (15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds) loom as a team not to be underestimated as they eye off consecutive wins.

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa has been sensational since coming into the team, averaging 19.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Leon Henry has shown his experience guiding the team with an identical points and rebounds balance of 11.7. Tohi Smith-Milner had a huge 20-20 game on Thursday to guide his side to the win, which resulted in his average going up to 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. The other crucial one to watch is teenager Taine Murray who has shown plenty of potential on the scoring front with 17.5 points per game to be a real game changer for the Huskies.

The match is a danger game for the Huskies who can join the top four, two wins clear of their opponents, or slip back level with the Giants. The stage is set for it to be a massive encounter.


A top four clash between Manawatu Jets and the top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs promises to be an absolute pearler to close out week four of competition. With only a week left until finals, the Airs have been the most prolific scoring team, but have also conceded the most points on average too. Their run-and-gun high octane style of basketball is exciting and they back themselves to match it with any other side. Franklin Bulls have beaten them twice, but have only lost two of the remaining nine contests. The intriguing note is that one of those losses was to the Jets back on July 5, which means Manawatu could be level on top by the end of the night. The Jets have transformed themselves from an inconsistent side to a really strong one, winning four of the past five, and only a disappointing 36-point shocker in between.

Impressively, the Jets have hit 100 in all of their most recent wins, so are the next highest scoring team behind the Airs. Both Jayden Bezzant (21.8 points) and Tom Vodanovich (21.5) are prolific scorers, though it would be remiss not to include Taane Samuel (18.3) and Nelson Kirksey (14.8) of whom the latter has filled the role of the recently injured Hyrum Harris (14.0). Harris is nearing a return which will only strengthen the Jets, as he and Vodanovich both maintain double-double averages thanks to 13 and 12 rebounds apiece respectively. The Jets have the same top five in different orders for points, assists and rebounds showing the importance of their top-end talent, and have the best starting team in the competition.

The Airs have not done too much wrong since the Jets loss, and won four consecutive games against quality opposition. They were all fairly close, but were able to notch up wins and move two games clear on top of the Sal’s NBL table. A disappointing defeat to Auckland Huskies on Thursday night bumped them back a bit, so they will not want to lose here and surrender top spot. Derone Raukawa is on track to win the competition’s MVP and is clearly an elite talent. He averages 23.3 points and 7.5 assists, able to do it himself or set up his teammates. He has been incredibly supported by the work of double-double specialist Marcel Jones. The big man time and time again gets it done with 22.3 points, 14.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists. The pair are near-unstoppable, and with Shane Temara (12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Ken Tuffin (10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds) providing great support, the team has a strong core.

Given these teams are the two highest scoring teams in the competition, expect the game to produce a couple of tons and plenty of electrifying baskets.