Tag: nelson kirksey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #4 – Otago baffles Manawatu with 130-point display

WHILE the end result of the Otago Nuggets and the Manawatu Jets ended in a blowout, both teams put on phenomenal scoring totals. But in their second of five encounters throughout the 2020 NZNBL season, the Nuggets strung together perhaps the most dominant display of basketball across all fixtures this year securing the number four spot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the season.

For the full match report between the Nuggets and the Jets – Click HERE

Heading into the contest, neither of the eventual grand finalists were yet to establish themselves as a serious top-two team. The Nuggets had only a modest .500 record with three wins and three losses to their name. Meanwhile for the Jets, they sat just half a game above Otago, earning four wins to this point thanks to an extra-game 30-point win over the Nelson Giants in their last outing.

Both sides would ensue in a back and forth opening period, as Manawatu’s newly signed wingman Nelson Kirksey got his stroke going early to open up proceedings. But Otago emerged with the more aggressive style of play by pushing the floor and attacking the rim, which in turn forced three early Jets turnovers and created a 12-5 lead as a result.

However, a late run of points from center Taane Samuel and guard Haize Walker tied the score with less than a minute to go in the first. Two free-throws in the dwindling moments of the opening term from Jordan Hunt were responsible for the Nuggets’ two-point lead at the opening break, but the good shooting from both sides of the aisle continued well into the second quarter.

Otago once again got out to an early advantage, pulling away with another 12-5 scoring run. Unsurprisingly however, Thomas Vodanovich became the main focus point for Brent Matehaere’s side. As the multi-time Tall-Black started to catch fire in an impressive first half, managing to convert four of his seven attempts, with three of them triples as the Jets trailed by just a single point after 20 minutes.

The Nuggets decided they needed a different approach if they were to pull away from a persistent Jets outfit and through the deep ball, Otago found a solution. Creating a quick 8-0 run, the team from Dunedin got themselves out to a comfortable double-digit lead and began a dominant one-sided second half in turn.

Otago shot a ridiculous 56 per cent from the field in an authoritative third term, as the lead quickly grew out of control. Outscoring the Jets 38-23 in the championship period, Tim McTamney’s side needed drastic measures if they were to claw their way back from a 16-point deficit in the final quarter. Ashton McQueen started the fourth off in good spirits knocking down a lead-off three, but when Jordan Ngatai and Kane Keil started to heat up, there was nothing that the Jets could come up with to slow down the South Island onslaught that was the Nuggets’ second half.

Otago pushed all the way to the finish line, outscoring Manawatu 35-15 in the concluding 10 minutes, capping off a 73-point performance in the latter two periods of the game and gliding away with the 130-94 demolition of the Jets.

Collectively for the Jets, both Jayden Bezzant and Vodanovich led the way for their side with 18 points apiece, but five different individuals for the Nuggets reached double digits. Keil’s game-high 29 points, six rebounds and four assists led the way for Otago, as Ngatai and Hunt combined for a massive 55-point haul.

As a team, the victors completed their performance with a script of impressive stats. Firstly, they concluded their shooting with a 57 per cent accuracy rate, going 47 from 82 on the floor. Otago managed to knock down 14 triples and 22 free-throws, and lastly, a plus-six on the boards and a plus-10 in assists would round out the highest scoring performance from a team all season. Furthermore, the Jets’ 94 points of their own helped bring the overall total of the game to 224, the largest points total in a contest form both troops all season long.

A lot went right for both sides in this high scoring affair, but the Nuggets put the rest of the league on notice with the 130-point effort against the Jets. For this masterclass at both ends of the floor, there’s no arguing that this moment slots in at number four in Draft Central’s list.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #5 – Hyrum Harris’s Triple-Double vs Airs

IN terms of production from a single player throughout the NZNBL competition this year, Manawatu Jets’ forward Hyrum Harris was next to no one in this respect. His triple-double against the Taranaki Mountain Airs on July 19 was the only triple-double for the entire duration of the season and just one example of his work ethic during his campaign. The rarity of this feat earns itself fifth spot on the countdown for Top 10 moments throughout the NZNBL season.

For the full match report between the Jets and the Airs – Click HERE

After being selected as a development player for the Illawarra Hawks in last year’s Australian NBL competition, Harris was a top prospect heading into the NZNBL’s draft night. Luckily enough for the Manawatu Jets, they snatched him up early in the second round next to Thomas Vodanovich, and they would not regret it.

From the beginning of the season, Harris quickly assumed the role of workhorse, as he secured double-digit rebounding numbers in three out of his four opening matches. However, the 24-year-old hit a bump in the road suffering a hip injury against the Canterbury Rams on July 1 sidelining him for almost three weeks.

Harris’s return to action came at an opportune time, as the Jets were in the midst of compiling a sizeable winning streak, looking to make it three in a row with a win over the Airs and make a claim as one of the elite sides in the League. From the get-go, Harris facilitated the ball well, finding Ashton McQueen for an easy layup and the Jets’ first score of the game. A solid first quarter for the youngster saw him head into the first break with four points, three assists and two rebounds as Manawatu trailed the Airs, 22-25.

A lone three-pointer for the Jet rounded out Harris’s scoring output for the second period, but a strong 32-23 second quarter for the side altered the scores dramatically, with Tim McTamney’s squad now leading 54-48 at half-time. An increases work rate in the second extended to Harris’s defence a lot more, accumulating seven points, six assists and five rebounds over 20 minutes of play. He also added a couple of blocks to his stat-line as he looked to finish off his comeback game with an even stronger second half.

It was clear that Harris focused more on scoring to start the third quarter, as over the next seven minutes of court time he found the net on numerous occasions. Leading into three-quarter time, he tripled his scoring total with the final quarter still to be played.

Harris amassed 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists over the duration of three terms and stood just a couple of rebounds and assists away from achieving the season’s first triple double.

Within just over a minute of the fourth quarter, Harris had his ninth rebound and ninth assist, after he found Taane Samuel down low for the spinning layup. Then another minute later, he secured his tenth rebound off a Derone Raukawa missed three-point attempt and it was only seven seconds later that Harris found a cutting Vodanovich to complete the feat, the league’s first triple double.

After securing the milestone, coach McTamney saw fit to take Harris out of the game. After reinserting Harris with just a few minutes to play to close out the contest, he converted on just one more basket and a free-throw to help his side over the line and defeat Taranaki with an impressive 118-103 scoreline.

As Harris led the way with an all-around 24-point, 10-rebound and 10-assist outing he could not have won his team the game without strong performances from his peers. Samuel was the next highest scorer, polishing off the Airs with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists, while Nelson Kirksey provided a major boost with 19 points off the bench. Other double-digit scorers included Vodanovich (17), Jayden Bezzant (12) and McQueen (12).

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Manawatu Jets

MANAWATU JETS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Jets finished second on the ladder and backed up their regular season with an impressive finals series to reach the decider and only agonisingly fall short of glory. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 9
Lost: 8

KEY STATS:

Points: 94.6 (2nd)
Rebounds: 43.3 (4th)
Assists: 18.2 (3rd)
Steals: 8.7 (4th)
Blocks: 2.5 (6th)
FG%: 45.3 (3rd)

BEST WIN: defeated Taranaki Mountainairs by 10 points

There were plenty more wins that might have been better in terms of quality difference, but the win against the Airs was one that would have been relieving for the side that lost the last three games heading into the do-or-die semi-finals clash. A topsy-turvy contest, the Jets led by 11 points at quarter time, but found themselves trailing by three at the final break, before steadying with a dominant 38-25 final term to win 105-95. Tom Vodanovich stepped up to record 28 points, seven rebounds and an assist, with Taane Samuel’s 23 points, five rebounds and four assists also impressive. Hyrum Harris did his thing in a clear standout performance of the night though, almost picking up an unheard of quadruple double thanks to 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, five assists and three steals) and Ashton McQueen (11 points, three rebounds and four assists) were also busy.

WORST LOSS: lost to Otago Nuggets by 2 points

There was only one it could be, and it was not for lack of effort nor intensity, but rather the stakes and knowing they came so close to taking home the 2020 Sal’s NBL title. Entering the grand final against Otago Nuggets, the Jets were 0-4 so not many expected them to change that, but they showed up on the night, turning it on from early to lead by two and four points at the first couple of breaks. The Nuggets stayed with them and cut the deficit to three by the final change, then the ladder leaders finished stronger with a 27-22 final term to win 79-77. Jordan Hunt (21 points, seven rebounds), Josh Aitcheson (16 points, six rebounds), Kane Keil (15 points, seven rebounds) and Jordan Ngatai (11 points, six rebounds) helped the Nuggets dominate off the boards, as Vodanovich (24 points, 10 rebounds and four steals) and Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals) did all they could to sway the momentum.

TOP PLAYERS:

Tom Vodanovich 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals
Taane Samuel 17.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals
Jayden Bezzant 17.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals
Hyrum Harris 14.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.7 steals
Nelson Kirksey 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Jets put themselves in a title-winning position with a fairly consistent season, always being thereabouts. They had the point-scoring and rebounding machine in Vodanovich who won the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, as well as Harris who was the only player to pick up a triple double in the competition. The late inclusion of Kirksey was a good one, and they almost went all the way to the title, but could not quite get there.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Realistically, they just could not beat the Nuggets. While they were strong against all the other sides, no matter the lineups, the Nuggets had them when it counted. Five matches, five losses, and it was arguably the one side the Jets did not want to face in the final. They got close and almost upset them, but were pipped at the post.

SUMMARY

Manawatu Jets can be proud of their efforts in 2020, especially considering they have struggled in recent years. They drafted well, used the combinations effectively, and the key will be whether they can keep these combinations together in future years when the other teams return. If they can, then watch out, but the Jets have some quality coming through for the future years as well.

Otago strikes gold, defeating Jets for first ever NZNBL title

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Sal’s NBL Grand Final preview: Otago Nuggets vs. Manawatu Jets

THE conclusion to an entertaining and seesawing season is here, with the top two teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) going head-to-head for the chance to claim this year’s title. What makes the decider even more intriguing is the fact that both competitors – the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets – are yet to win a New Zealand (NZ) NBL title. The Jets came closest back in 1992 when they went down to Canterbury Rams in the grand final. With the Nuggets’ win over the Rams, Manawatu avoid lightning potentially striking twice, but have their own troubles overcoming a Nuggets team this season. Otago has won all four previous encounters, and in its first season for six years, already making an impact in the league.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

There is no turning back for either side in a clash that has witnessed the two best teams of the season reach the decider in the Nuggets and Jets. The Nuggets have accounted for the Jets on all four prior occasions, and only once was the margin in single digits, with two wins 25 points or greater. The most recent clash was on Tuesday when Otago got up 105-80, though once the result was decided, both teams rested their key starters, and the Jets were also without Tom Vodanovich. In the other heavy loss, 130-94, the Jets were missing Hyrum Harris who is equally as key to their chances. So in the two matches at full strength, the Nuggets have still won, but by an average of eight points.

 

PAST MATCHES:

Manawatu Jets 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
Otago Nuggets 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

The match was neck-and-neck for the most part, and the Jets even raced out to a six-point lead at half-time. The Nuggets fired up in the third term to regain the lead, and held on in the final term to record a big win. Otago marginally won the rebound game (35-34) as well as the assists (20-18), but crucially had less turnover (10-16).

Jayden Bezzant top scored for the game in an ultimately fruitful effort with 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, as Vodanovich (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Harris (nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) had big games, as did Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds). Despite the quartet’s impressive numbers, just 13 of the team’s 100 points came outside them, whilst for the Nuggets, they shared the ball around.

Jarrod Kenny had what would be a season-high 28 points in the Nuggets’ return game, also picking up six assists, while Jordan Ngatai went on a tear with a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists). Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) were influential off the boards, while Kane Keil (12 points) also reached double-figure points.

 

Otago Nuggets 28 | 29 | 38 | 35 (130)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 30 | 23 | 15 (94)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

After a tight first half with the Nuggets up by a point at the main break, Otago went berserk piling on 73 points in the biggest half to-date, completely dominating the Jets who could only manage the 38 points in that half. It meant the final margin blew out to 26 points as the Nuggets also tallied the highest score of the year. They shot at a remarkable 57.3 per cent from the field compared to the Jets’ 48.1 per cent, including 42.4 to 30.6 per cent from long-range. They almost had half the amount of turnovers (11-20), and more than double the steals (17-8), whilst winning the rebounding statistic (42-34) and assists (25-15) in a one-sided thumping.

Keil led the way with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, not that far ahead of teammates, Ngatai (23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals) and Hunt (22 points, two rebounds and three assists). Kenny had a handy 13 points and three rebounds to go with a game-high seven assists and four steals, while Aitcheson notched up 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals in a strong effort.

In a dirty night for the Jets, Vodanovich (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Bezzant (18 points, six rebounds and five assists) were the best, though Samuel (14 points, four rebounds and two assists) tried hard. New face, Nelson Kirksey picked up 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in defeat, while Ashton McQueen had 11 points and three rebounds.

 

Otago Nuggets 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

After trailing by three points at quarter time, the Nuggets blasted away yet again to secure a 12-point victory over the Jets in the final round of the season. The 97-85 triumph earned the Nuggets top spot on the NZNBL table heading into the finals series, but realistically both teams knew they would face off again the next Tuesday. Once again the Nuggets dominated the assists (20-13), but only had one more rebounds, as the Jets made good on some second chance opportunities. Neither team’s shooting was anything to write home about, but the Nuggets marginally shaded the Jets from the field, 46.7 to 42.3 per cent.

Ngatai was the difference between the sides, putting in one of the greatest performances of the season on his way to 37 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. He was one of four Nuggets to reach double-figure points with Keil (16 points, six rebounds and five assists), Hunt (15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) and Aitcheson (14 points, five rebounds and two assists) all busy. Kenny only had the seven points, bur amassed nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a real team game.

Vodanovich was the key scorer for the Jets, posting 28 points, six rebounds, two steals and one block, while Harris had 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in the loss. Bezzant helped out with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Samuel had the nine points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

 

Otago Nuggets 30 | 23 | 27 | 25 (105)
Manawatu Jets 19 | 16 | 17 | 28 (80)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

In the latest one-sided contest, the Jets struggled from the get-go without Vodanovich on court as the newly-crowned MVP was missing for the qualifying final clash. The Nuggets bolted out of the gates and never looked back, piling on 80 points to 52 in the first three terms to end the contest and rest up for the semi-finals. Both teams knew they would make it through to the semis, and looked to manage their stars accordingly. The Nuggets smashed the Jets off the defensive boards (41-26), whilst also had their measure in assists (26-20) and again dominated the scoring accuracy with 53.2 per cent from the field to the Jets’ measly 38.1 per cent.

Hunt was the top scorer this time around, picking up 23 points as others were managed for minutes. Ngatai (11 points, nine rebounds and six assists) and Kenny (eight points, five rebounds and three assists) had an easy day at the office with plenty of rest, particularly for the last 15 minutes of the match. Instead, every Nuggets player scored at least four points on the night in a stunning team effort, as Jack Andrew came off the bench for 16 points and three rebounds. Keil (nine points, 12 rebounds), Darcy Knox (eight points, three rebounds) and Richie Rodger (eight points, three rebounds) also contributed.

Samuel recorded the most points coming off the bench with 17, as well as five rebounds and two assists. Kirksey (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals) was busy, as was McQueen (13 points, five rebound, three assists and two steals) and Nick Fee (11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals).

 

THE STARTERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 22.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.5 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 16.1 assists
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals

Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 15.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets)** 24.7 points, 9.3 rebounds
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 10.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists
Taane Samuel (Jets) 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Ashton McQueen (Jets) 6.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals

** Only played three games

THE STARTERS – SEASON STATS:

Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.4 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals

Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 22.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals
Taane Samuel (Jets) 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 steals
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2.7 steals
Ashton McQueen (Jets) 6.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists. 0.7 steals

TEAM STATS: Otago Nuggets | Manawatu Jets

Points: 93.4 | 95.7
Rebounds: 48 | 57
Assists: 20.2 | 18.6
Steals: 9.3 | 8.2
Blocks: 2.8 | 2.5
FG%: 47.4 | 45.4
2P%: 56.8 | 56.1
3P%: 35.4 | 33.8
FT%: 69.7 | 68.4
Turnovers: 13.6 | 14.3
Personal Fouls: 16.9 | 19.4

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Nuggets need to do what they have done four times before because it has worked each time. They know it will not be easy with the Jets team at full strength pushing the top team on both those occasions. With an ability to share the points around both on the court and coming off the bench, the Nuggets can rely on anyone on their roster coming in and playing a role. Their shooting accuracy is terrific, particularly from inside the arc, whilst their assist game is the best in the competition.

The biggest strength of the Nuggets is that they do not really have a weakness in their game, and that the opposition has to play incredibly well to beat them because Otago does not just give up games. Their rebounding numbers might look low in comparison, but they do so well on the court to limit the opposition putting up shots, they play possession basketball and can dominate from the outset.

For the Jets, when at full strength, they can be a real danger. But unlike the Nuggets, they have had some unbelievable performances, and then they have had some games to forget. Their top four are high-volume shooters who can easily share between 20 points a game, whilst Kirksey has shown to be very capable coming off the bench – though could even get the start in this one. The issue with the Jets is that they struggle with points off the bench, and tend to fade out of games late with a lot of fouls – 19.4 per game is the worst in the league – which does not help.

You could make a case for having the best 1-2 combination in the league with Vodanovich and Harris, but if you are conceding points while they are having a breather, it is hard to play out four quarters of basketball. What the Jets really need is at about 15-20 points off their bench so it can keep the score ticking over while the starters are resting. Because the Nuggets are so deep, they are hard to matchup on for four quarters, so getting a strong start is crucial and then if the Nuggets start to get a roll on, the Jets cannot afford to let their frustrations show, and just try and stem the flow until they can grab the momentum back.

WHO WINS?

The clash looms as potentially the closest contest these teams have fought out, or at least something similar to their four-point thriller back in week one. If the Jets can get off to a good start and really apply scoreboard pressure, then there will be a game. But if the Nuggets can start strong, fans have come to know just how good finishers the Otago-based side is, and they have really slammed home the point in the second half. Neither of these teams have won a championship title, so no matter what happens, history will be made. Good luck to both teams and may it be a thriller.

Nuggets justify top seed with big win over MVP-less Jets

OTAGO Nuggets have justified their top seeding from the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) regular season with a vital 25-point qualifying final win over a Manawatu Jets side missing the league’s best player this season. Otago went in full strength for the top of the table clash, and came out with its fourth win in as many attempts, dominating the opening three terms to rest up in the final term ahead of the semi-final. With Sal’s NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Tom Vodanovich a late out of the contest, life was always going to be difficult for the Jets, who struggled to have the same scoring output without their number one big man, going down 105-80.

OTAGO NUGGETS 30 | 23 | 27 | 25 (105)
MANAWATU JETS 19 | 16 | 17 | 28 (80)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Once word that Vodanovich would miss out got out, the Nuggets went from favourites to raging favourites, but they still needed to get it done on the court. Knowing that the top ranked side in the semi-finals would play the lowest ranked remaining team, posting a win in the qualifying final became important. With all their big guns in the line-up, the Nuggets hoped to get off to a strong start, and that they did.

Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt had a couple of baskets on the board in the opening minute, as a couple of missed shots and then a turnover by the Jets already had them on the back foot. Ashton McQueen quickly came to the party with five points of his own off Hyrum Harris assists for the Jets to regain the lead, only for Josh Aitcheson to take it straight back. The teams traded blows in those opening few minutes, before the Jets started to make some mistakes through turnovers and fouls.

Otago took full control of the moment, piling on nine straight points to lead 16-7 with less than five minutes to play. Taane Samuel finally broke the drought for the Jets with a couple of free throws, but a layup from Akiva McBirney Griffin followed by a Richie Rodger triple – off a Jets turnover – extended the lead out to a game-high 12 points. McQueen and Samuel seemed to be the biggest resistance from the Jets, as they and Jayden Bezzant got the second placed side back within eight points. Six consecutive points to the Nuggets – four from Kane Keil and two from Jarrod Kenny – blew the lead out to 14 with 37 seconds to play, but a late Nelson Kirksey trey helped draw his side within 11 at the first break.

The second term did not give Jets fans much more hope as the Nuggets piled on the first five points of the quarter to build a handy 16-point lead and each time the Jets trained a shot, the Nuggets responded, both from the inside and outside. The top two teams have not been afraid to register points from beyond the arc, and that was on show again, while Harris was producing some nice dimes throughout the first half to keep his team alive. Then the facilitator got his first points with an important triple with four and a half minutes left on the clock, countering that of Darcy Knox moments earlier, but the Jets were still 14 points in deficit.

Following a Nicholas Fee three-point jumper with 3:43 left on the clock, the Jets trailed 35-46 and needed a spark. Instead, this was where the game was won, as the Nuggets piled on the last seven points of the quarter to blow the half-time margin out to 18, with a Kenny layup in the last few seconds exemplifying why the top side was in firm control of the contest with a 53-35 advantage at the main break.

The Nuggets showed no signs of slowing down in the third as they pushed the lead to beyond 20 thanks to baskets from Kenny, Hunt and Ngatai, and answering each of the Jets’ makes with one of their own. Manawatu was rattle and it showed when Kalib Marsich-Mullins fouled Keil from outside the arc midway through the term and then the long-range shooter drained all three free throws for his team to hold a 24-point lead.

Each time the Jets would score, the Nuggets would answer, as Jack Andrew came off the bench to string a couple of baskets together including an impressive dunk, as Samuel was trying all he could to get his side going. By this time, the Nuggets trio of Hunt, Kenny and Ngatai would rest up with Coach of the Year Brent Matehaere confident his chargers would finish the job off in the last 15 minutes.

Six straight points to the Nuggets leading into the final minute of the quarter had a game-high lead of 27 points, something that went out 28 not long after with Kirksey’s layup matched by Rodger’s long-range bomb just two seconds remaining in the term. The final break had the Jets leading 80-52 and in complete control with the game’s largest margin.

The game was done and dusted by then, with the Jets making the decision to sit both Harris and Samuels out of the contest for the entire quarter in readiness for Thursday night’s semi-finals. To the losing side’s credit, they managed to chew back some of the deficit as the bench players came to the party, though it was always going to be a case of too little, too late, with the Nuggets rotations holding off Manawatu enough to record an impressive 105-80 victory to advance through as the top ranked team in the semi-finals.

The Nuggets were more deadly from the field, with less attempts, but more makes, shooting at 53 per cent efficiency compared to the Jets’ 38, including a 66 to 52 per cent differential from inside the arc. Whilst the Jets had more steals (11-6), the Nuggets recorded the only four blocks of the game, as well as dominating the rebounds (52-39) and winning the assists battle (26-60). Both teams had 15 turnovers in what was a fairly solid performance, but the class of the Nuggets and the loss of Vodanovich proved key in the end.

Hunt top scored in the match with a remarkable 23 points off less than 18 minutes, including 10 of 14 from the floor. Keil stepped up with the most minutes of any player – 27 – just missing out on a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. With just 20 minutes, Ngatai still recorded 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists, which equates to a triple-double if you factor in 40-minute averages, while Kenny spent more time on the bench than on the court, for eight points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Andrew off the bench amassed 16 points and three rebounds in a really handy performance.

The Jets had four players who recorded double-digit points, led by Samuel off the bench with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Kirksey (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals) and McQueen (13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals) also tried hard. Harris only played the 18 minutes in readiness for the semi-finals, but had six rebounds, four assists and two steals to go with his one trey, while Fee finished with a solid 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The next matches for both sides are uncertain at this stage, with the elimination finals tonight to determine the winners. If favourites win, then the Nuggets will look to take on Taranaki Mountainairs, while the Manawatu Jets face Auckland Huskies, though nothing can be certain with both Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams both in contention.

Huskies slide into third ahead of finals, outlast Jets

IN an extremely tight-knit rendezvous of two of the top four teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, the Auckland Huskies have held on just long enough to see off a tenacious Manawatu Jets side, to lock up third spot ahead of Finals Week.

The 93-82 win sets the Huskies up for a meeting with the winner of Tuesday’s elimination final between the Nelson Giants and the Canterbury Rams.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 25 | 19 | 24 | 25 (93)
MANAWATU JETS 24 | 21 | 21 | 16 (82)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Leading up to last night’s encounter, the Huskies had some writing on the game. A win would see them take on the winner of the first elimination final between the two bottom teams in the league, whereas a loss would see them face the Franklin Bulls, a team they only beat by four points last time out. So, it was safe to assume that Kevin Braswell’s side was looking for a victory against the second-seeded Jets.

Both teams made their shots count in the infant stages of the match, with each side seeing more than 60 per cent of their shots drop early on in the first half of the opening period, perfectly encapsulated by a beautiful turnaround fadeaway from Nelson Kirksey five minutes in. With both teams deadlocked through nine minutes of basketball at 20 points apiece, a pull-up three by Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa would give Auckland the one-point lead at quarter-time, 25-24, also thanks to the Huskies’ five second chance points and Leon Henry’s seven.

Continuing into the second term, neither side could effectively pull away from the other in the quarter. However, a couple of buckets from guards Haize Walker and Jayden Bezzant helped squeeze out a momentary lead just before half-time. Succeeding this, another three from Le’afa tied up the joust with 90 seconds yet to be played, tying the game at 43. A lovely running floater by a crafty Ashton McQueen, put the Jets up two with less than a minute to go in the half, shortly before a lone Isaac Miller-Jose free-throw cut the difference by one, rounding out a seesawing affair through 20 minutes.

In total, 11 lead changes took place in the first half, and it did not look like the pattern of scoring would not change anytime soon. With little to separate the two teams at the halfway point, it was the efforts of Le’afa and Hyrum Harris leading the way for their respective teams. Le’afa’s 15 points and three assists, shone through with a couple of triples, as Harris was putting in work early, stacking up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

Two quick buckets got the Huskies up and running, as they kicked off the second half with a 12-4 run and therefore putting themselves in the driver’s seat with 16 minutes to play. Each side struggled profusely to be accurate from three-point range and because of this, the contest would be a grind. Both sides had to fight for tooth and nail to get even a decent look at the rim, forcing scorers to earn their points more often than not in the key.

Eventually a breakthrough arrived and both offences started to flow, as Kirksey knocked down two consecutive threes, therefore returning command over the game back to Manawatu. Marvin Williams-Dunn answered back with one of his own to initiate a 7-0 run finishing off a strong response by a crafty Auckland side.

The Huskies grasped the slightest of leads with a quarter to go and only a strong, focused and diligent line-up would be needed to take the team to the finish line. Two layups in a row for Aaron Bailey-Nowell put the Huskies back on the right track, but for every attack Auckland made, Manawatu had a counterattack own – like Nicholas Fee’s three to answer back to Auckland’s.

But the exit of McQueen due to too many personal fouls and an early departure for Vodanovich, the Jets were without one of their best defenders and one of their best offensive threats, which made obtaining the win drastically more difficult. A beautiful assist to Fee and steal from Harris was a critical point in the contest with three and a half minutes left, taking a huge chunk out of their deficit.

Two further free throws from Harris tied the game, but Tohi Smith-Milner and Henry went for the jugular with two minutes remaining, fabricating an 8-0 run out of thin air and in the space of three possessions ending the game. Finding their form in the fourth and final quarter, the 93-82 result did not reflect the true character of the game for Auckland. The character could be described as an extremely close grinded out contest, with the Huskies only blowing the game out of the water in the last couple of minutes.

Nevertheless, the Huskies eighth win of the campaign equals the record of the Taranaki Mountain Airs, but due to percentage, Auckland now lifts itself into the third seed. Because of this, the team now looks forward to facing either the Rams or the Giants on Wednesday night.

For the Jets, they conclude their NZNBL regular season with an overall record of eight wins and six losses and look to earn a semi-final position with a win over the minor premier Otago Nuggets on Tuesday.

Auckland had five players in double-digit figures for scoring, headlined by Le’afa who continued his terrific run of form in the late portion of the season. The 23-year-old locked up 26 points and six assists, as well as four shots from deep (40 per cent efficiency). Smith-Milner (19 points and 10 rebounds) and Henry (13 points and 13 rebounds) both enjoyed the spoils of war with each Husky nabbing themselves a double-double, whereas Bailey-Nowell and Nathan Wilson produced 12 and 11 points respectively.

For the season’s runners-up Jets, Harris collected another unconventional stat-line, falling three assists and one steal short of a quadruple-double in another all-around effort. The Illawarra Hawk from last season tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and nine steals. Meanwhile Taane Samuel strung together a team-high 25 points through 33 minutes.

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

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vodanovich drops 43 points in sizzling long-range effort to help Jets fly over Bulls

TOM Vodanovich has broken his own season-high record of 38 points after dropping a mammoth 43 last night – including 10 triples – on his way to leading Manawatu Jets to a vital 15-point victory over Franklin Bulls. The win goes a long way to ensuring the Jets lock up a top two spot and qualifying final, and Vodanovich was unstoppable on the night.

MANAWATU JETS 31 | 24 | 26 | 18 (99)
FRANKLIN BULLS 20 | 20 | 18 | 26 (84)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

It was fitting that Vodanovich dropped the first points of the night, albeit a couple of free throws as Taane Samuel got warmed up from the field with five early points to counter Dom Kelman-Poto‘s opening triple within 30 seconds of the tip-off. Hyrum Harris was starting to get involved, and when Vodanovich sank his first basket from the field – a hookshot – the Jets led by six points. Kelman-Poto was having some sort of night early however, scoring nine points in the first half of the quarter, but the Jets team was able to match him as Harris and Jayden Bezzant were assisting Vodanovich on the scoring front.

Just as the Bulls got closer, the Jets would pull away leading by as much as eight points prior to a Jackson Stubbins‘ triple with four minutes left on the clock. The Jets again extended their lead via free throws as Vodanovich and Nelson Kirksey forced the opposition to foul them, and Samuel’s finish to the term helped the Jets hold an 11-point lead at the first break.

Immediately out of the break, Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape heated up with a mammoth first couple of minutes, sinking nine points in that time, as he cut the deficit to seven after Vodanovich’s first triple of the night. It would be an omen for what was about to happened as he drilled four consecutive triples for his side, and then Nicholas Fee caught whatever fever the power forward had by nailing a triple of his own and the margin was back to 14 points.

Leusogi-Ape returned to the court and immediately had an impact with a driving layup, and just as it looked like the Bulls would draw closer – getting within 10 – Fee and Vodanovich sank seven more points and the latter had five treys for the match. Isaac Davidson managed to nail a jump shot in the last 20 seconds, but his side still faced a 15-point deficit.

Franklin needed a lift and it came in the form of Stubbins from long-range, and then the teams traded treys as Bezzant, Everard Bartlett and Samuel all struck gold from long range. Vodanovich continued to rack up the points as Kelman-Poto and Davidson tried to cut into the deficit, but when Vodanovich brought up his sixth triple with four minutes remaining in the term, the Jets were out to a 21-point buffer. Yet again his hot hand followed with another two triples as the Bulls led by as much as 25 points at one stage before a late Sam Timmins layup put the final break deficit back to 23.

Any chance of an unlikely comeback by the Bulls was snuffed out early in the final term as the Jets answered each challenge. Samuel put down the opening basket after a miss from Davidson, and while Bartlett’s stuck from long-range, his effort was matched by Vodanovich with a remarkable ninth triple. No matter what the Bulls threw at the Jets, they could not get within 21 points as Bartlett nailed another triple, then Vodanovich brought up number 10 from long range with four and a half minutes on the clock. He was subbed out shortly after having a well-earned rest as his teammates finished the game off.

The Bulls went on a late 10-2 run in the final couple of minutes, but it was only to cut the final deficit as the game was largely over through that third term when Vodanovich went haywire. In 34 minutes on court, the big man sank 43 points including 10 of a possible 16 triples, and 61 per cent from the field, while picking up 11 rebounds – 10 off the defensive boards – and three assists. His team shot 38 per cent from three-point range compared to the Bulls’ 25 per cent, and they averaged a greater efficiency overall from the field with 45 to 42 per cent. Their capitalisation at the charity stripe was also important (76 per cent to 36 per cent).

Aside from Vodanovich, Samuel picked up 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and one block, while Harris narrowly missed out on a double double of nine points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Fee (12 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Bezzant (10 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals) also reached double figures. For the Bulls, Kelman-Poto was productive with 21 points at 56.3 per cent from the field, as well as 11 rebounds and two assists. Davidson (16 points, two rebounds) was solid, though inaccurate, while Bartlett (11 points) and Leusogi-Ape (11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals) stepped up in different moments.

The Bulls take to the court tomorrow night against Taranaki Mountainairs in their penultimate game, with the Bulls to follow later in the night against Otago Nuggets.