Tag: nicholas fee

Hawks, Nuggets and Rams all produce huge wins

THE bottom three sides in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) were all on the receiving end of some hefty losses, as Hawkes Bay Hawks, Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams all staked their claims for a Final Four finish. The second placed Hawks shot down the Manawatu Jets by 28 points, the fourth placed Nuggets produced the most dominant performance of the year to win by 40 against Franklin Bulls, and the fifth placed Rams kept in touch with the top four courtesy of a 24-point win over cellar dwellers, Taranaki Mountainairs.

Hawkes Bay Hawks were red hot from the opening tip-off, putting up 28 points to 13 to race out to a 15-point lead. Whilst the second term was even in a high-scoring affair, the Hawks once again took control in the third to all but end the contest as it pushed the difference to beyond 30 points. A rallying effort in the final term cut the Jets back to within 28, but they were no match for the Hawks, going down 61-89.

Devondrick Walker won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the night for his 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds, ahead of Jordan Hunt (17 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Hyrum Harris (10 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. All five starters hit at least one shot from long-range, as Rhys Vague also picked up a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Ethan Rusbatch (10 points, two rebounds) was the other Hawks player to hit double-figure points.

For the Jets, Daishon Knight stood tall with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, leading the way from Jayden Bezzant (16 points, two steals) and Deandre Daniels (12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks). Tukaha Cooper came on for less than 11 minutes and contributed eight points – including a triple – in that time.

In the Otago Nuggets’ complete domination of Franklin Bulls, the home team never looked like losing, piling on 23-9 in the opening term. The high-scoring second term of 34-28 showed perhaps the game might get back on even terms from that point, but it was not to be as Otago again put the defensive pressure on, scoring 26-9 in the third term to lead by a whopping 37 points with a quarter to play. The final term was tighter, but the home team still won it by three, notching up a massive 40-point win, 104-64.

Sam Timmins won another MVP award for his effort, notching up 24 points and a massive 19 rebounds – 17 defensive – whilst recording two assists and two steals for his troubles. Isaiah Moss provided the long-range daggers with six of 13 from beyond the arc on his way to 23 points, four rebounds and three assists. Both players spent less than 28 minutes on court in the win. Gerasimos McKay (14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals) and Richie Rodger (11 points, three rebounds were productive, whilst the lopsided scoreline allowed five bench players to spend more than 10 minutes on court, and six of the seven coming on to score.

For the Jets, Kyrin Galloway did all her could with a massive 17 rebounds – 13 defensive – to match his 13 points, while Denhym Brooke (12 points, two rebounds and two assists) also tried hard. Coming off the bench, Nicholas Fee (11 points, three rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (10 points, three rebounds and two steals) notched up double-figure points.

In the third game, Canterbury Rams kept their finals hopes alive with a solid 24-point win over last placed Taranaki Mountainairs. The Rams produced the goods early in front of home fans, applying 26 points to 16 to lead by 10, then extended that margin out to 16 by half-time. The Airs cut into the deficit by two heading into the final term, before the Rams stepped up to produce an identical quarter to the first one (26-16) to win, 92-68.

EJ Singler took the MVP honours with 24 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals on the night, just ahead of Deshon Taylor (21 points, five assists, four steals and two rebounds). Alex Talma (12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists) also recorded a double-double, whilst Sam Smith (12 points, eight assists and four rebounds) and a returning Max Darling (10 points, four rebounds) both hit double-figure points in the win as well.

Marcel Jones was back to his double-double best in a hard working 16-point and 10-rebound effort, shooting three of six from long-range and also collecting a couple of steals. Tai Wynyard (16 points, four rebounds) and Carlin Davison (14 points, three assists and two rebounds) also reached double-figure points, as Francis Mulvihill (seven points) and Deu-Leo Leusogi-Ape (six points, three rebounds and two assists) were the next best.

Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams tip-off the next round of action on Thursday, with a battle between the Taranaki Mountainairs and Manawatu Jets on Friday. The Hawkes Bay Hawks host the Franklin Bulls on Saturday, whilst the Otago Nuggets rest up until a home game against Auckland Huskies on Sunday.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Selby and Waterman lead Bulls to win in Bailey-Nowell’s 300th

FRANKLIN Bulls have triumphed over Taranaki Mountainairs for the Bulls’ second win of the season thanks to a dominant second half at TSB Stadium last night. Celebrating veteran, Aaron Bailey-Nowell‘s 300th game, the Bulls managed to stand up when it counted thanks to huge efforts from Josh Selby and Zane Waterman cancelling out yet another double-double from Airs’ Marcel Jones. With a 56-39 second half, the Bulls got up by 16 points, 101-85.

The Bulls started off the night with an early lead, taking a one-point advantage into quarter time following a 24-23 opening term. The Airs, in front of a home crowd, were not going to lie down though, grabbing the momentum and the lead by as much as nine points. Having had narrow leads in the opening term, the nine-point advantage midway through the second quarter looked to have the home team on top. A late charge from the Bulls though cut it down to just the one point by the main break.

Taranaki started off strongly in the third to quickly hold momentum in the opening few minutes and lead by as much as four points, but once they surrendered the lead at the 7:19 minute mark of the third term, they never got it back. For the last seven minutes the Bulls piled on 19-10 to lead by nine points at the final break. Once the Bulls started to pile on the scoreboard pressure, there was no stopping them and they hit the double-digit lead early in the final term, never looking back, wining the last quarter 26-19 for a comfortable 101-85 victory.

The Bulls shot at a higher efficiency, with 58 to 50 per cent from two-point range, and nailing 15 three-pointers compared to the Airs’ 11. The Bulls also got to the free-throw line more often with 10 of 16 compared to a 100 per cent success rate from just four chances for the home team. Across the board the Bulls had the ascendancy with more rebounds (43-39), assists (17-15) and steals (11-5), but it was the personal fouls count that really stood out, as the Airs committed 20-6, and also had three more turnovers (15-12), with the Bulls punishing them from turnovers with 21 points to 15. The Airs were better in the paint though, picking up 44 points to 36, and had 11 second chance points to seven.

Selby won Player of the Match honours with 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round performance, dropping a massive seven of 10 from three-point range for an overall efficiency of 65 per cent. Waterman was not far behind with a huge double-double of 27 points (57 per cent efficiency) and 16 rebounds – seven offensive – to go with four assists. Joseph Nunag was the other key scorer for the Bulls with 14 points and three assists, while Nicholas Fee put together a valued performance of eight points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.

Jones was far and away the best for the Airs, picking up another double-double of 33 points (54 per cent efficiency and six of 11 from long-range), 10 rebounds and two assists. Tai Wynyard had 18 points, three rebounds and two steals, Haize Walker finished with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Bailey-Nowell had the two points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in his milestone game.

Franklin Bulls have a short turnaround with a game against the Nelson Giants tomorrow, whilst the Airs have an extended break until Sunday, May 16 when they lock horns with Otago Nuggets.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Bulls hold on in thriller over Jets as Nuggets find gold with big win over Airs

TWO counter-contrasting matches in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) competition saw the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls reign supreme to collect their first wins of the season. Whilst the Nuggets managed to do it fairly comfortably with a dominant 27-point win over Taranaki Mountainairs, the going was much tougher for the Bulls, surviving a momentum-swinging game and a tense final minute to salute by the barest of margins.

In the Bulls and Jets thriller, the Bulls led by as much as six points with 3:09 on the clock in the final term. Daishon Knight was threatening to spoil the party, with back-to-back baskets – and a Deandre Daniels block on Josh Selby – cutting the deficit to just two points with 2:29 left. Nicolas Fee‘s successful free throws just pushed the lead out to two baskets with 2:13 on the clock but no less than 12 seconds later, Daniels hit a three-point jumper and the Jets were back to within one point. Despite these baskets, the next two minutes would be a battle of nerves and attrition as neither side scored in that time. The Bulls had three shots and missed them all, with the Jets having two, as well as a couple of turnovers, and an offensive foul, with Knight’s dying seconds jump shot from inside the arc missing and Dane Brooks grabbing the defensive rebound, and the win.

Earlier in the match, the Bulls took a three-point lead into half-time after the teams could not be split following a quarter of action. The Jets were soon to take off though, piling on 29 points to 21 in the third term to race to a five-point advantage by the final break. Despite having the momentum, it was the Bulls who hit back early in the fourth and both teams were trading baskets – and the lead – until a Denhym Brooke triple with 4:09 on the clock gave the Bulls what would be the final lead change of the night. From there they got out to that six-point advantage before the last three minutes of tight basketball ensued.

The Bulls were costly from the field, shooting at just 42 per cent, though making up for it with 12 triples to the Jets’ six. They also took their chances from the charity stripe with 16 of 18 free throws made, whilst the Jets had the 15 of 20. The visitors led the rebound count by eight (50-42), as well as the blocks (5-1), though the winners had more assists (14-9) and steals (9-4) showing off their better ball-handing skills. The huge difference was Manawatu’s ability to punish the Bulls in the paint, with a whopping 60 points in there compared to the Bulls’ 38, who opted for the jumpers. The Bulls penalised the Jets off turnovers – despite having two more than Manawatu – with 19 points to 11 in that area.

Selby top-scored with 27 points, eight rebounds and four steals, whilst Zan Waterman was outstanding, collecting a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds. Joseph Nunag came off the bench for 20 points, while Brooks (10 points, six rebounds) was also handy. For the Jets, Jayden Bezzant was electric with 29 points – at 70 per cent from the field – as well as seven rebounds and two assists. It was the work of Shane Temara (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Daniels (15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks) off the boards that kept the Jets in the contest, while Knight notched up 23 points, three rebounds and three steals in the loss.

In the more one-sided contest, the Otago Nuggets took control after quarter time and never really looked like losing against the Taranaki Mountainairs. The Nuggets took a two-point lead into quarter time – after trailing for the majority of the opening term – but never looked back once they hit the front late in the quarter, scoring 49 points to 26 over the next two terms to race out to a 25-point lead at the last change. It was a tighter fourth quarter, but the Nuggets still capitalised with 23 points to 21, winning 93-66.

The Nuggets dominated every facet of the game with a higher field goal shooting percentage (45 to 41), more rebounds (47-36), assists (23-12), steals (14-12), blocks (5-4) and less turnovers (19-24). They also had two less personal fouls (16-18), and won the battle of points in the paint (40-28) and points from turnovers (26-13), in what was a really complete performance from the Nuggets in front of home fans.

Sam Timmins was enormous in the win, picking up a double-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds – five offensive – five assists, three blocks and two steals, teaming up well with Isaiah Moss (28 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals). Richie Rodger (10 points, three rebounds, three assists and five steals) was also lively across the court, and Josh Aicheson (nine points, four rebounds and five assists) made the most of his 21 minutes on court. For the Airs, four players did most of the damage, with Marcel Jones (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Tai Wynyard (11 points, 10 rebounds) picking up double-doubles in defeat. Baxter Fenwick (12 points, three rebounds) and Francis Mulvahil (11 points, four assists and three steals) were the others who tried hard.

Of the four sides, both the Bulls and Airs back up the quickest, set to clash on Thursday night, with the Jets to take on the Canterbury Rams on Friday night, while the Nuggets meet the Jets in Manawatu’s second game of next round on the Saturday evening.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Huskies hold nerve in tense finish against Bulls

AUCKLAND Huskies have saluted in the tightest of matches to secure a win in the ‘Battle of the North’ clash, defeating Franklin Bulls by three points thanks to a late Jeremy Kendle dagger. The Huskies got up 99-96 at the Bulls’ home court last night, trailing by six points at the final break, but then scoring 30-21 in the last term to grab the victory. It was far from a simple run home though, with the Bulls in front in the dying 30 seconds, before the Huskies held their nerve and regained the lead by the final buzzer.

The first term saw the Bulls start off strongly, scoring 24-17 to take and early seven-point lead into the break. The home team was making it count from beyond the arc, with Denhym Brooke and then Jaylen Gerrand (twice) grabbing their side an early lead. Kendle was getting on the Bulls’ minds though and was already beginning to have an impact in the paint. The Bulls were hitting the scoreboard in a big way though, with another Brooke triple with five minutes on the clock, and the lead had ballooned out to 17-6. The Huskies hit back to score nine of the next 13 points to cut the deficit to six, as Nicholas Barrow was starting to add to his total. Brooke was still a problem though, securing an and-one chance, and then Bulls took the first break with a strong advantage.

The early going in the second term went all the way of the Huskies as Zach Riley, Theo Johnson and Kendle piled on eight consecutive points for the visitors to hit the front within 90 seconds. Josh Selby steadied the ship for the Bulls, but he Huskies were beginning to hit their straps. They got out to an eight-point lead when Dontae Nance nailed a triple, but the Bulls kept the Huskies within arms-length to head into the break only four points down, but it was a dominant last 15 minutes from the Huskies who were on a 46-31 roll since being 17-6 down.

A Nicholas Fee triple in the opening 10 seconds of the second half show that the Bulls were up for the fight, but Barrow responded a minute later for the Huskies. After leading by six points with seven minutes on the clock in the third term, the Huskies watched their lead evaporate as it was the Bulls’ turn to take control. Fee hit a triple and then Selby nailed back-to-back layups and the Bulls were back in the lead. The Huskies regained it back with a few minutes remaining, but Selby and Dane Brooks proved to be a problem and the Bulls held a handy six-point buffer at the final break.

The intensity was high early in the final term as neither team could strike in the first 90 seconds, but it was Gerrand who hit the two-point jumper for a seven-point Bulls lead. It was never going to be enough the way the game was going, and the Huskies kept getting it back to within a single basket with every chance they got. Each challenge was answered, and with six minutes left, the teams traded baskets – and the lead – multiple times.

Once Brook Rosuco-Taiaroa put his Huskies in front 86-85, then nailed a triple moments later, the lead was beginning to grow. Shot after shot missed, with Adam Dunstan eventually breaking the drought for the Bulls, and Nance responding almost immediately for the Huskies. Joseph Nunag handed the Bulls the lead with two minutes on the clock as the sides prepared their final substitutions for the run home. When Brooks scored a two-pointer, the lead was three and the Bulls were in a better position. He would miss the next two-point jumper though, and Barrow made a free throw, and Kiana Saxon produced a successful jump shot and scores were level with 38 seconds on the clock.

Selby held his nerve with two successful free throws in the last 30 seconds, and the Huskies made the decision two points down they would take out the clock until an opening, which they found through Kendle who made no mistake. With nine seconds remaining, the Huskies were 97-96 up. The Bulls hoped Selby would be the man to win the game a second later, but the shot missed, and a deliberate foul on Nance after collecting the rebound sent him to the line where he hit the winning free throws for a 99-96 victory.

Kendle racked up a massive 32 points, shooting seven triples from 13 attempts, and also collecting six rebounds, there assists and two steals. Nance (18 points, four rebounds and three assists), Barrow (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Ruscoe-Taiaroa (17 points, eight rebounds and two assists) also worried the opposition across the court. For the Bulls, Selby knocked down 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds), Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Nunag (14 points, three assists) were all lively.

Auckland Huskies next face Manawatu Jets on Friday, while the Franklin Bulls take on the Jets the day after in a quick turnaround for their opponents.

Picture credit: NZNBL

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #3 – Vodanovich drops 43 to conclude MVP season

MANAWATU’s star forward and eventual Most Valuable Player of the NZNBL 2020 season, Thomas Vodanovich had an action packed campaign, as he led his side to a grand final appearance with multiple impressive outings.

These included a dominant 25-point and 12-rebound performance against the Rams, multiple 28-point performances (including the grand final) and a 38-point masterclass in the second game of the season against the Huskies. But his best individual performance came at the very end of the regular season against the Franklin Bulls.

The multiple-time Tall Black’s display against the Bulls in late-July was so impressive, he outperformed teammate and statistical gatherer Hyrum Harris in the plus-minus statistic by more than 10 and for this, features as number three in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments.

For the Jets and Vodanovich’s full match report against the Bulls – Click HERE

Prior to their tipoff in the season closer, the Jets had a lot at stake, as a loss against Franklin would mean losing their qualifying final slot and a chance to gain a trip straight to the prelims. So, it was apparent to Tim McTamney’s squad that they needed to start off strong, and who better to help get that going than their first-round pick and captain.

Funnily enough, Vodanovich got the scoring going, opening up the contest with the game’s first points. But, the rest of his starting five proved pivotal in allowing Manawatu to obtain a double-digit lead heading into quarter time. Harris, Jayden Bezzant and Taane Samuel each contributed to the scoring load in the opening 10 minutes, but the main man was still yet to catch fire putting up eight points in that time (four of which came from free throws).

But all notions of Vodanovich having a quiet night were quickly dashed, as he went on a three-point tear, knocking down four consecutive threes for his side and putting up 12 of his team’s first 14 points in the second term. He hit home with a fifth triple, three minutes later finishing off a 17-point second quarter and extending his team’s advantage to 15 points at the main break.

For the majority of the third quarter, Vodanovich’s teammates held down the fort, keeping the Bulls at bay. As the combination of Dominique Kelman-Poto and Jackson Stubbins failed to cut significantly into their deficit. Four minutes in, Vodanovich found his first points of the second half making four free throws in a row, which was promptly followed by a triple as a result of Nicholas Fee rebound. The three mentioned would prompt another scoring run, as he found the target on two more attempts and brought his total from behind the arc to eight. Heading into the final break, Vodanovich had already compiled an unbelievable 37 points.

With the final term underway a minute and a half later, Vodanovich topped his season high and cracked the 40-point mark with his ninth three-pointer of the contest, thanks to a Harris assist. But feeling good and with fresh legs, the sharpshooter continued into the sixth minute of the final quarter, and after nailing his tenth triple exited the game.

Despite a late charge from the Bulls, it was nothing more than a formality, as the Jets ran away with the matchup 99-84, earning the win after a monumental effort from their leader and talisman.

Vodanovich summarised his night with 43 points (a career-high), 11 rebounds and a few assists to round out his 34 minutes of court time. Harris also had a respectable night, racking up numbers as usual with nine points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Whereas Samuel (16), Fee (12) and Bezzant (10) got into double digits.

A career night that saw Vodanovich help his side to a top-two spot to finish the season, it is no wonder why his 43-point performance finishes so high on Draft Central’s list.

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Bulls continue rodeo against Jets, extend winning streak to four

FRANKLIN Bulls have cemented themselves as the hottest team in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) right now after earning their fourth straight win, with another convincing victory over a physical and scrappy Manawatu Jets side without Hyrum Harris.

FRANKLIN BULLS 25 | 16 | 29 | 13 (83)
MANAWATU JETS 17 | 20 | 18 | 17 (72)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Jets, who were in-form at the opening tip following their rout of the Canterbury Rams on Wednesday night, had to figure out how to handle the Bulls on the boards and around the basket, as they were without their rebounding machine, Harris. It was announced that Harris would be out for the next one to two weeks due to a hip flexor injury sustained in their clash against the Rams.

However, thanks to the quick start from 202cm tall forward in Taane Samuel, the Jets took the early lead with their noses in front 9-5, with Samuel taking credit for five points in swift fashion. As the Bulls quickly un-did Manawatu’s early start out of the blocks with an 11-0 run of their own, Franklin found themselves with a seven-point lead at the midway point of the first.

With Franklin shooting well in the first quarter, nailing 50 per cent of their opening 20 attempts, the Bulls were threatening a double-digit lead heading into the first break. A Jayden Bezzant jumper from the elbow would keep the opening period rather level-headed, as the Bulls boasted an eight-point buffer for themselves, 25-17.

It was evident early on in the second quarter that Manawatu focused in on Sam Timmins, crashing the boards hard and giving him extra contact where possible in and around the key. Timmins would work for his eight first half points, but Manawatu’s Ashton McQueen would help his side bite into the deficit that the Bulls created by putting up eight of the Jets’ points in a row. As a result, Manawatu were now forcing a two-possession game towards the end of the first half. A Bezzant dribble jump-shot with a few seconds remaining capped off a stellar second quarter for the Jets, allowing them to sit just four points behind an ever-growing confident Bulls side.

McQueen’s accuracy carried over the 20-minute break between halves, evident in him hitting his third three-pointer to open the second half. But Timmins’ ability to flip the switch was once again a prominent aspect of his performance, as a hook shot and a three-point play from the center would give his team some breathing room.

With further back-and-forths occurring frequently on the offensive and defensive ends for both teams, a testy and hard-nose brand of basketball would take place at Trusts Arena. But, this did not deter the hottest team in the League, as the Bulls would string together an awesome 17-2 run, which included a run of 10 consecutive points putting Franklin in the driver’s seat up 70-55 with a quarter still to play.

Despite two quick baskets for the Jets in their bid of a comeback, a put back-jam from Timmins all but deflated Manawatu a couple of minutes into the concluding quarter. A couple threes from Jets Guard Nicholas Fee made his team’s last breath a gallant one, but an early ejection for Thomas Vodanovich hindered any ability to make a serious attempt at a late charge. A beautiful no look assist by Jackson Stubbins to Dominique Kelman-Poto concluded the contest nicely, with the Bulls running away with their fourth win in a row, 83-72 being the final score line.

The Bulls could look reliably on their ability to score from the free-throw line, as they pummelled the Jets inside and around the rim, converting 15 of the 19 attempts they earned at the line compared to Manawatu’s seven of nine. The Bulls also stockpiled 46 points in the paint, dwarfing the Jets’ trivial 18 points in the area.

Notable contributors to Franklin’s night include Samuel Timmins, who grinded away to get his 17 points and eight rebounds. Whereas three other individuals in the starting five collected double-digit point totals, with Kelman-Poto securing 15, Everard Bartlett’s 13 and Isaac Davidson who scraped away with 10. Lastly, it is worth noting Nikau McCullough’s 11 points and six rebounds.

Bezzant’s 20 points and two steals were the biggest eye-catchers in Manawatu’s performance, while Taane Samuel’s 17 points and eight rebounds encapsulated a solid night’s work and Vodanovich falling one basket short of a double-double (eight points and 12 rebounds) might have been different if he was not ejected minutes prior to the final buzzer.

The Jets are yet to secure back-to-back wins up to this point in the season, but perhaps they can bounce back with a win over Taranaki later tonight. Meanwhile, Franklin too face the Airs come Tuesday night and can start to take control of the rest of the League as they eye down a fifth straight win.