Tag: nicolas trathen

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #10 – Season Tip-Off and Opener

TO begin this edition of Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments, we look back at the season opener between the Taranaki Airs and Nelson Giants and the steps taken to get the NZNBL season underway, in a year filled with unpredictability.

For our full match report between the Airs and Giants – Click HERE

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking the world by storm the NZNBL season did not look likely to happen, however New Zealand’s swift response to the outbreak enabled them to eradicate cases and regain some form of normalcy on the the sports front.

The league’s season opener could not have been more of a success, as both sides from Taranaki and Nelson arrived at Trusts Arena with a fire in the belly and an eagerness to get out on the floor. Before too long, the opening tip was conducted, and the 2020 season was off and running.

While both sides lacked accuracy in most facets of the early stages of the contest in an adrenaline filled building, Airs bigman Tai Wynyard converted on a layup around the rim to not only set the game in motion, but the rest of the league as well, putting the first points on the board for this year’s NZNBL.

As neither team could separate from one another after 10 minutes, in what was a tit-for-tat opening quarter, the scoring prowess of eventual All-Star Five selectee and league leader in points and assists, Derone Raukawa came into effect.

Capping off 30-23 second quarter, Raukawa alongside teammates Francis Mulvihill and Carlin Davison were able to keep themselves in the driver’s seat with a six-point lead heading into the main break.

Following the second intermission, onlookers at the season-opener saw first-hand what the second half of the Airs’ duo was capable of, as Marcel Jones, the eventual leader in rebounds across the competition, proved why Doug Courtney selected him in his squad on Draft Night collecting a stockpile of offensive and defensive rebounds.

Meanwhile, Shane Temara proved why he would become one of Taranaki’s most prolific role-players as the Airs continued their good play extending their lead to double digits with a quarter to play.

Despite Nelson’s best efforts in the fourth thanks mostly to Thomas Ingham and Tysxun Aiolupotoea, the Airs proved to be too strong in their initial matchup of the fixture in a relatively even fourth quarter as Taranaki earned the 112-96 victory.

Raukawa recorded the first of many Man of the Match honours with a 28-point and 10-assist night, as Jones fell three assists short of a triple-double in what was an exemplary start to an exceptional season with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Whereas for the Giants, it was Nicolas Trathen with a game-high 25 points, while Aiolupotoea and Ingham combined for 53 points between them.

The free-flowing contest the game would become set the tone for an entertaining and meaningful season for the seven teams that participated in the NZNBL, as well as New Zealand basketball as a whole. Therefore, it fits in handsomely at the number 10 slot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.

Giants trounce Nuggets, gain essential morale before finals

ANOTHER upset win for the Nelson Giants can be added to the books, as they came away with an impressive 23-point shellacking of the top of the table Otago Nuggets in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) middle game of the triple-header.

NELSON GIANTS 21 | 31 | 22 | 23 (97)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 15 | 15 | 16 (74)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Knowing full well the outcome of last night’s result was to have no effect on each team’s positioning for next week’s Finals, the Nuggets were without starting big-man Jordan Hunt and stretch-four shooter Kane Keil. As a result, both Brent Matehaere and Mike Fitchett could tinker around with their sides before their games next week, despite it being a clash between first and second last. It also allowed both coaches to allow any players with “niggles” to gain much needed rest.

Even though young Kiwi big-man Akiva McBirney-Griffin got the starting nod from his side, Mike Karena quickly reminded him of the pecking order to begin the game, converting on a running hook. Nevertheless, Joshua Aitcheson knocked down a triple to get the ball rolling for the Nuggets. It was evident early on that each team went about scoring in totally different fashions. For the Giants, it was attacking the rim hard and getting up close and personal with Otago’s frontcourt, as 14 of their first 17 points came from inside the paint. For the Nuggets, they knocked down five shots from deep in their first ten attempts, signalling a more distant approach to getting on the scoreboard. The quarter time totals would reflect a slight advantage in favour of the Nuggets, who’s 28-21 lead came as a result of their bench’s contributions, outscoring Nelson’s 12-2 in the first 10 minutes. Eight points of which, came by way of Darcy Knox, along with Matthew Bardsley and Samuel Aruwa hitting a shot each.

To commence the second, Nelson slowly but surely began to crawl their way back taking the lead halfway through the quarter, thanks to a corner three from Thomas Ingham. But, both sides would remain within earshot of one another, dealing blows to back and forth for most of the remaining few minutes in the first half. Consecutive fast-break layups from Karena and a three-pointer from Tom Gargiulo handed Nelson a commanding nine-point lead heading into the main intermission after a 31-15 period, due mainly to instrumental rebounds, which in turn translated to a bunch of second chance points in the paint over the first two periods (14-4). Karena and Knox both led their teams in scoring at halftime, with the Giants’ center compiling 17 points in eleven and a half minutes of court time, before getting the second half started with an and-one.

A nice Euro-Step by Jordan Ngatai got the number one draft pick going after a rather quiet first half, making just one three in the initial 20 minutes of game time. With this being just one example of lacklustre performances through three quarters, Otago struggled to cut into the double-digit deficit that the Giants had created. An enormous dunk by Ngatai looked to spark an injection of energy into his side, as McBirney-Griffin repeated the action on the next play forcing Nelson to call a time-out.

The task of a fourth quarter comeback was made even harder for the Nuggets however, after a hook-shot once again from Karena extended Nelson’s lead to 16 with 30 seconds left in the third, as both teams went to the huddle one more time for the regular season with Nelson on top 74-58. Nicolas Trathen made Otago’s lofty deficit even greater to start the fourth, following a friendly roll from deep. And to make matters worse, Zeb Lovell’s up-and-under layup helped Nelson to their biggest lead of the contest (20). The Nuggets remained persistent in staying in the contest, but the fact of the matter was that Otago was undermanned and lacking size. And after Gargiulo was able to find the target for his second three with three minutes to go, Nelson could secure the upset result and obtain their fifth win of the year, taking home the triumph 97-74.

It was a one-sided affair down low in the paint, as the absences of Hunt and Keil factored majorly into the statistics. Nelson put their foot down with an impressive 52 points in the paint compared to Otago’s 30. While a number of bench players got remarkably more minutes due to the insignificance of the meeting, it remained a two-man effort through four quarters. A stat line of 26 points in 17 minutes, alongside three rebounds and three assists rounded out a dominant night around the rim for Karena, whereas Ingham was feeling his stroke to finish off the season with three threes to go next to his 17 points and six rebounds in another quality performance.

In what was a quiet night for both Jarrod Kenny and Ngatai, with both combining for 29 minutes of court time, the night belonged to the youngsters. Props went to Knox, who came off the bench to account for a team-high 17 points, meanwhile McBirney-Griffin and Richard Rodger each paved their own way with 13 points apiece.

The fates of both teams are already known for their first matchups of Finals Week, as the Nuggets who locked up top spot in standings go up against the Manawatu Jets in the qualifying final on Tuesday night. At the other end of the table, the Giants lock horns with the Canterbury Rams on Tuesday night as well, however, it will be a win or go home situation, as the teams engage in first elimination final of the postseason.

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets slay Giants by 30 in three-point shooting masterclass

THE last time these two sides met the Giants secured a come from behind win, but the tables were well and truly turned this match with the Manawatu Jets putting on a spectacle especially when it came to sinking them from deep. Despite not having Hyrum Harris in the mix, the Jets went about their business as usual, bullying the Giants and creating plenty of scoring opportunities to run out convincing 30-point victors (102-72).

MANAWATU JETS 26 | 22 | 25 | 29 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 17 | 16 | 23 | 16 (72)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

With three wins apiece under their belt it was a tight contest from the opening whistle with neither side willing to give an inch. Thomas Ingham opened the account for the Giants sinking a triple but it did not take long for the Jets to respond through Ashton McQueen to level the scores. In his first game since coming out of quarantine, Nelson Kirksey added another three to the tally for the Jets in what was shaping up to be a showing of long range shooting. With both sides feeling each other out and settling into the fast paced tempo of the game Michael Karena inserted himself into the contest getting involved in a couple of passages of play and scoring some early points.

As the quarter progressed, inaccuracy seemed to plague both the Jets and Giants with neither side able to sink a shot whether it be from inside the paint or beyond the arc forcing the ball to constantly scream up and down the court. Unable to really find a rhythm it was the Jets that settled first applying a wealth of pressure and most importantly hitting the scoreboard.

Efforts from Kalib Marsich-Mullins and Jayden Bezzant continued to give the Jets the upper hand with the latter converting from down town to push his side out to a seven-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the term. Bezzant was having things his own way in offence while teammate Taane Samuel had a blistering end to the quarter knocking down five points in less than a minute. With the lead out to 13 points the Giants rallied thanks to Theo Johnson and Nicolas Trathen who reduced the margin to nine heading into the break.

The Giants came out with more intensity and started to find their rhythm in offence with Karena eating into the margin within the opening minute of the quarter to draw back within seven. But Tom Vodanovich proved that anything you can do I can do better with the big man sinking a triple and extending the lead once again. While his efforts in offence were impressive his ability to get back and bring down the rebound also shone, proving to be a real thorn in the Giants side.

Renowned for their physicality, Samuel came off second best with the Jets star notching up his third foul for the game not even half way into the term. With a slight shift in momentum the Jets struggled to find the basket while the Giants found their stroke, sinking them from everywhere to minimise the lead to four. But an unsportsmanlike foul from Riley Bensemann gifted the Jets a couple of free throws and allowed them to regain some control on the game. Following that came an increased defensive pressure from the Jets, smothering every option and pushing the Giants to play the ball around.

Vodanovich upped the ante driving to the basket while McQueen put on a masterclass from three point range. With four minutes left in the quarter McQueen had nine points to his name while Vodanovich was on his way to a triple double with seven points, 13 rebounds and five assists before half time. The Giants simply had no answers for Bezzant who was causing headaches with his 13 points nor Vodanovich with the big man throwing his weight around across the court.

It was a much closer third quarter between the two sides as Karena once again stepped up to the plate for the Giants and steered the ship. It was the usual suspects for the Jets doing all the damage with Vodanovich and Bezzant combining well across the court and regularly hitting the scoreboard while Samuel and Kirksey also got involved in the action, helping to open up a 20-point lead at the six minute mark of the quarter.

Some good ball movement from the Giants allowed them to swinging the ball around the court and keep the Jets guessing with Dane Brookes sinking a timely basket from inside the paint. Samuel registered his fourth foul for the game subsequently forcing him to the bench for large chunks of the game. Meanwhile a hungry and revitalised Giants outfit fought back, with a couple of their young guns stepping up to the challenge with Josh Ledger and Tysxun Aiolupotea leading the charge on the scoring front. Finding their mojo across the court the Giants managed to cut the margin to 17 at the final break.

It was a dominant fourth quarter from the Jets who simply capitalised on every opportunity that swung their way. They impressed with their speed through court to slice through the Giants defence while McQueen continued to dominate from the three point line with four from five. In fact he and Bezzant could not be contained with the two sinking a combined eight triples from 10 attempts.

Although in foul trouble, Samuel stepped up to the plate collecting a couple of crucial offensive rebounds to steadily extend his sides lead but it was Haize Walker that stunned many with an explosive final term. Walker downed a huge three pointer, but to prove it was no fluke he backed it up with two more triples within two minutes to well and truly seal the deal for the Jets and take home a 27 point win.

Falling agonisingly short of a triple-double Vodanovich starred for the Jets amassing 19 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in what was a stats stuffing performance. Bezzant also left his mark knocking back 24 points while McQueen slotted 17 points of his own. All of the starting five for the Jets recorded double figures for points with Kirksey nailing 12 and Samuel finishing with 10 while Walker also sunk 13. On the other hand only three players managed to reach double figures for the Giants with Ingham posting 19 points and six rebounds, Karena (14 points, four rebounds) and Trathen (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists).

The Giants front up tonight in a quick turnaround to play Taranaki Mountainairs, while the Jets take to the court over the weekend in back-to-back games against Otago Nuggets and Auckland Huskies.

Gigantic first quarter helps Giants upset Rams

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

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

[ … MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Sal’s NBL June 30 night preview: Airs v Huskies and Giants v Bulls

WEEK two gets underway today with a couple of huge clashes in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition. First up, the in-form Taranaki Mountainairs take on the winless Auckland Huskies, whilst two sides grabbing their first wins in their most recent games, Nelson Giants and Franklin Bulls lock horns.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS VS. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

The opening game of the night pits an in-form side against a team yet to fully hit its straps when the 2-1 Mountainairs take on the 0-3 Huskies. The Mountainairs pushed the equally impressive Canterbury Rams all the way on the weekend and could have finished week one undefeated, but lost no admirers in the process. The Huskies were well beaten in their first two games of week one, but equally pushed Franklin Bulls to the finish line, only just falling short in the end.

The Airs are the highest scoring team in the competition, averaging 106.7 points per game. They also sit third overall for rebounds – second off the offensive boards – and second overall for assists. Most importantly, they have been the most accurate team from beyond the arc with an ultra-impressive 42 per cent accuracy from three-point range, and a second highest ranked of 74 per cent from the free-throw line and 58 per cent from inside the arc.

The Huskies statistically are at the other end of the table in most stats, averaging just the 65.3 points per game, and 33.3 rebounds. They do however do well off the offensive boards, ranked third overall in the competition, and have enough field goal attempts (75.7 per came to rank third overall) however have only made 32.2 per cent of them, clearly last. There was certainly an improvement last start against the Bulls, and they showed signs of turning it around, so expect each game for the Huskies to get better and better, and this could be the game which flicks the switch.

Of their top players this season, Tohi Smith-Milner averages the 12.7 points,5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game to be the standout player to-date. Izayah Mauriohooho Lea’afa only returned last game and will be much better for the run, whilst the improvement from both the experienced Leon Henry and Taine Murray over the course of the three games has been telling. Basically, it is looking like the Huskies are getting the right mix, and it will not be long before it clicks.

It will be a tough ask to overthrow an in-form Airs team with the likes of dominant guard, Derone Raukawa on song. He is averaging 23.7 points and 6.3 assists, ably assisted by Marcel Jones (20.3 points, 4.7 assists and a whopping 14 rebounds), with the duo doing some serious damage. Throw in good friends, Francis Mulvihill and Ken Tuffin, and the Airs have plenty of weapons on their list.

The Airs will head into this game as strong favourites, but do not expect this to be as clear cut as the statistics might suggest. The Huskies are building and if it is not this game, sometime soon they will arrive.

NELSON GIANTS VS. FRANKLIN BULLS

The second game of the night is set to be the pick of the duo, with the Nelson Giants and Franklin Bulls both sitting with a 1-2 record. The teams are both coming off weekend victories after starting the week with back-to-back losses, and now that the teams are starting to gel, this looms as a huge contest.

The Giants are ranked fifth for both points per game with 88.7, and rebounds per game with 35.7. They are ahead of the Bulls in both cases, with the teams equally matched in that regard. Similarly, both teams are mid-competition when it comes to assists, while all the shooting percentages across the board are fairly even as well. It is just the Giants engaging in a more high-scoring shootout than the Bulls who have tried to keep it more contained on average.

Remarkably the Giants have stayed competitive despite missing top star, Mika Vukona for all three matches thus far, and only regaining their other two top picks in Mike Karena and Dane Brooks in the last match, In their absence, it has been the likes of Nicolas Trathen and Thomas Ingram who have stepped up with 19 and 15 points per game on average respectively, as well as 6.0 and 6.3 rebounds. With Vukona finally expected to make his long-awaited return to the Sal’s NBL competition in this game, the Giants are well placed to build on their tight win over the Jets and win here.

The Bulls will not make it easy for them however, with a low-scoring win over the Huskies coming after falling agonisingly short of ladder leaders Canterbury Rams by three points a few days earlier. Whilst much of the talk was about Dom Kelman-Poto prior to the season start, it has been Isaac Davidson who has lit up the court with a whopping 22.3 points per game, sealing the deal from beyond the arc time and time again. He along with the likes of Everard Bartlett and and Nikau McCullough are all deadly three point shooters and easily capable of dominating from range. Chuck in Kelman-Poto who is in the form of his life in terms of his fitness, and then the exciting Jackson Stubbins, and the Bulls are a team to watch throughout the season.

The match will be an intriguing one as it will finally see the Giants at full-strength up against a Bulls side that has now had enough time to gel as a unit. The teams are capable of shooting from inside and outside the arc, and it could well be a shooting extravaganza if both allow it to be. While it is likely to be very close, the Giants might be buoyed by the inclusion of Vukona, though the Bulls would love to go back-to-back and take a second scalp in this match.

Nuggets bury Giants with final term flurry

OTAGO Nuggets found an extra gear when required in the final term to storm past an understrength but gallant Nelson Giants in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Nuggets pulled all the strings throughout the game, and were in control to the extent that Wednesday night’s top scorer and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jarrod Kenny did not even attempt a shot. Instead, it was Jordan Ngatai who led the way with 23 points, as well as three rebounds, three assists and three steals, supported well by a host of teammates.

OTAGO NUGGETS 26 | 30 | 20 | 31 (107)
NELSON GIANTS 19 | 26 | 21 | 16 (82)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

Despite some whispers that star Giant and Tall Blacks legend Mika Vukona might take to the court during the match, Nelson opted to let their first pick sit out and instead return for Sunday night’s clash with Manawatu Jets. Given the Giants were still missing other top three draft selections, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks, the firepower was severely impacted. Not so much for the Nuggets, fresh off a win against the Jets 24 hours earlier, as they raced away to a 26-19 lead at quarter time.

Kane Keil score the first points of the night, as he and Jordan Hunt went to work early with four points apiece leading the Nuggets to an 8-2 advantage five minutes into the term. Whilst many expected Kenny and Ngatai to do all the damage early, it was the former who opted to use his slick passing to advantage to dish off dimes to teammates, whilst the latter had just four points in the term.

Young gun Tysxun Aiolupotea was doing what he could in the first term, forcing fouls from the opposition and scoring four consecutive free throws to cut the nine-point deficit into a five-point one late in the term. Thomas Ingham‘s desperate attempt to score in the last few seconds saw him finish the term with a couple of free throws himself and his side headed in seven points behind.

Ngatai soon made his intentions known with the first five points of the second term, whilst Hunt completed the alley oop from Kenny, earned the foul and then sank the and-one opportunity. When Ngatai made it eight points for the term in less than two minutes, he and his side were in complete control and the margin had blown out to 18 points. Ingham and Nicolas Trathen tried their hand to get the Giants back into it with the next five points, but another clever layup after a steal from Keil piled on more pressure for the trailing side.

Without the Giants’ big three, Ingham and Trathen were left to pick up the slack in the first half as the pair almost exclusively piled on the points scoring 34 of the Giants’ 45 points. Trathen had 19, as well as five rebounds and an assist at the half, whilst Ingham had 15, seven and three in an equally big performance. Ngatai had started to get his hot hands going with 14 points in the term to move up to 18, as he became the predominant score alongside Hunt who had 12.

Coming out after half-time, Kenny’s refusal to put up a shot continued as he provided a neat assist to Ngatai for a layup. Otago had led by 11 at the main break thanks to a Jack Andrew buzzer beating dunk, but were not out of the woods yet. Nelson could not quite find the right formula to score enough. The game looked all but over in the third term when Richard Rodger drilled a three-point jumper with seven minutes remaining after the Nuggets had gone on a tear, scoring nine of the first points for the term.

A late inclusion into the Giants squad and wearing the injured Thane O’Leary guernsey, Josh Leger tried all he could getting into the post, visibly frustrated by the Nuggets’ defence, but he was forcing them to be accountable on that end. To that point earlier in the term, the Giants defence around the perimeter had been lax which let the Nuggets free reign at times shooting from long-range. Both Leger and Zeb Lovell were starting to work their magic and then came Riley Bensemann.

Trailing by 14 points, the Giants shooter shot back-to-back three-pointers, then handed off an assist for a Josh Bloxham three minutes later. In a remarkable turn of events, the Giants were within five points and it was a ball game. Sensing the importance of the moment, Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere called a time out and questioned the communication of his side. The pep talk worked for the last 90 seconds as they scored seven of the last nine points of the quarter to lead 78-68 at the final break.

The teams traded blows early in the final term, but once the Nuggets got going thanks to a Ngatai triple with six minutes remaining, they had control. Scoring 22 of the last 32 points, it was party time for the undefeated side as their 17-5 run in the middle of the term from that Ngatai triple ended any doubt about the winner of the contest. For the last few minutes the Nuggets starters were on the best enjoying the show as the bench players went to work padding some of their stats and working hard both defensively and offensively to send a message to the rest of the competition.

Whilst Ngatai was the star, the Nuggets had a huge amount of contributors, with Hunt (19 points, two rebounds) and Keil (11 points, four rebounds) impressing from the starting line-up. Off the bench, it was Aicheson (13 points, two rebounds) and Rodger (11 points, two assists and two steals) who scored a fair chunk of the points. The likes of Darcy Knox (eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) and teenage wrecking ball, Akiva McBirney-Griffin – who claimed as many bodies on the court as he did points – played strong roles across the game.

For the Giants, Trathen (21 points, seven rebounds) and Ingham (17 points, eight rebounds) did not really add too much to their first half domination, with Bensemann’s nine points, and Aiolupotea and Lovell’s eight each the next highest for the side. Lovell also finished with seven rebounds and three assists, but it was the team turnovers that cost the Giants with 22 to 12, and whilst they had a plus six in rebounds, were minus eight in assists.

Sunday could not come fast enough for Giants fans who will welcome back Vukona with open arms. The side has been gallant without him and the other injured stars, but did not have enough class to really run out four quarters. For the Nuggets, they rest up for the week and have certainly earned it, heading 2-0 to start their 2020 campaign.

Airs get on top of Giants in season opener

THE opening game of Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown lived up to the hype, as both the Taranaki Mountainairs and Nelson Giants coming out with plenty of intensity and hunger from the first buzzer. Despite a couple of notable omissions, the Giants were unable to unlock their full potential but that did not seem to faze the Airs who exploited their opposition’s weakness with their scoring prowess. Despite tight first and fourth quarters, the Giants simply could not get within reaching distance of the Airs who capitalised on every opportunity that swung their way. In what was a high scoring affair, the Airs proved too good for the Giants, running out 16-point winners, (112-96).

TARANAKI AIRS 27 | 30 | 28 | 27 (112)
NELSON GIANTS 28 | 23 | 20 | 25 (96)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

Feeling each other out in the first term, the ball bobbled about with missed shots and wayward passes swinging across the court. Airs’ Tai Wynyard opened not only the account for the Taranaki Mountainairs but so too the overall competition as the forward converted on the layup. Injury struck early for the Giants with Thane O’Leary quickly leaving the court with a dislocated shoulder. It was not until the four-minute mark that the Giants hit the scoreboard thanks to a free throw shot from Nicolas Trathen. From then on the Giants seemed to find their mojo, thanks to Trathen knocking back a three-pointer and spurring his side on. It did not take long for Francis Mulvihill to get involved in the action for the Mountainairs with the late pick-up well and truly delivering. The Giants built momentum towards the latter half of the quarter with their ball movement and pressure down the court forcing steals and conversions. After leading for majority of the quarter, the Airs fell behind in the dying seconds as the Giants took a one-point lead heading into the first change. 

The break paid dividends for the Airs, as Taranaki quickly getting into the rhythm of things and really kicking it up a notch, mounting a 30 to 23 points quarter showcasing just how dominant they could be on the scoreboard. Spearheaded by Mulvihill and Carlin Davison, the Airs found their groove both in offence and defence, gobbling up rebounds and finding the net with ease. As Mulvihill dished off dimes, captain Derone Raukawa led the way on the scoring front with his ability to drive to the basket and step back and sink them from beyond the arc. Although the Airs started to pull ahead the Giants hung on with everything they had largely in credit to Tysxun Aiolupotea and his strength across the court, hitting the scoreboard while Theo Johnson tried to inflict pain in defence with a couple of key rebounds. But it was to no avail as the Airs controlled the tempo of the game and held a commanding six-point lead. 

The second half followed suit with the Airs not letting up on their pressure and constantly on the look out for attacking forays knocking back 28 points to 20 in what was another strong showing. They were unfazed by whatever the opposition threw at them; Marcel Jones a brick wall defensively racking up a wealth of big rebounds. Up the other end, Shane Temara proved to be a handful with his ability to sink them from everywhere and his athleticism. The Giants did not hit the scoreboard until there was just over six minutes left in the quarter, a true testament to the pressure the Airs were applying across the court. Thomas Ingham was a strong presence for the Giants throughout the third term, while Aiolupotea was once again up to the challenge.

A strong final term saw the Giants put out a more competitive and spirited performance, something the coach would have been pleased with, but unfortunately it was not enough to stop the steam roll that was the Airs. Their key players continued their dominant ways, finding access to the basket whether it be from long range or inside the arc, while making it hard for the Giants to generate any easy ball movement and scoring shots. Zachary Easthope, Mulvihill and Raukawa were impressive while Trathen and Ingham delivered for the Giants.

Raukawa stunned, notching up an impressive double-double thanks to his top points scoring effort with 28 and 10 assists. Teammate Mulvihill also starred with 16 points and five assists while Wynyard managed 13 points. Jones fell just short of a triple double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. For the Giants Trathen top scored with 25 points and four rebounds while Aioluptoea managed 20 points and Ingham added 23 to his sides tally.

The Airs do not have to wait long for their second game, matching up against the Franklin Bulls tonight, whilst the Giants will face off against Otago Nuggets tomorrow.