Tag: Nikau McCullough

2021 NZNBL Round 1b preview: Airs, Rams and Jets enter competition

AFTER three standalone matches on individual nights last weekend, Round 1 continues this weekend with the three winners from those matches coming up against the three sides yet to play – Taranaki Mountainairs, Canterbury Rams and Manawatu Jets – in a massive weekend of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Thursday, April 29 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

Taranaki Mountainairs enter the 2021 NZNBL season with a Thursday night encounter against the Southland sharks. The Sharks passed the first test against Nelson Giants last week with a dominant 43-28 second half to scoot away with a 19-point victory. They will be tested here though, with a more experienced Airs outfit featuring Marcel Jones and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who showed just how much damage they could do last year, and will be keen to back it up this season. Francis Mulvihill was a rising talent and Tai Wynyard is always a player to keep an eye on, so the Sharks will need to be wary of what the opposition could do, particularly Jones who is prone to double-doubles. What was impressive about the Sharks was the evenness of scoring, with six players scoring double-figure points. Led by Josh Cunningham (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Dom Kelman-Poto (11 points, seven rebounds), the side proved too good for the Giants thanks to their accurate shooting, including 52, 38 and 93 per cent from the two-point, three-point and free throw ranges. The one area that might be a concern is the rebounding with the duo picking up 18 of the team’s 39 rebounds, though the Sharks did use the ball well, with Brayden Inger picking up four assists.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

In the second of three straight matches between sides in their first matchup for the season and teams contesting their second games, Wellington Saints host the fresh Canterbury Rams. The Saints were able to take care of business in a comprehensive win over Otago Nuggets on opening night, posting a 95-73 victory on the back of a dominant first three quarters. Dion Prewster was phenomenal in the performance of the opening weekend, racking up 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a huge effort, whilst Kevin Roach Jr had the 19 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists. Otherwise the Saints had plenty of contributors with four players picking up five or more rebounds in an even performance, and the likes of Taane Samuel and Tohi Smith-Milner almost getting to double-figure points with nine apiece. The Rams will go in with their reliable set up, led by Perth Wildcats development player Taylor Britt who lit up the NZNBL last season. The likes of Alex Talma, Sam Smith and Jack Exeter will be ones to watch, though Jack Salt is the big man set to make his long-awaited return to the competition.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

It might not have been deliberately orchestrated, but the Auckland Huskies are the third straight winner from the opening weekend to face a side coming into the league for the first match this weekend. The Huskies won a thriller over Franklin Bulls, coming from behind to storm to victory in the last term and get up, 99-96. The win came off the back of 32 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals from Jeremy Kendle, as Nicholas Barrow and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa almost picked up double-doubles thanks to 17 points piece and nine and eight rebounds respectively. Even Dontae Nance had 31 minutes off the bench for 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, in an even spread across the four players. The Jets have a bit of unknown about them, with some young players coming through, though Jayden Bezzant stood out in 2020 and will be one to watch this season, while DeAndre Daniels and Daishon Knight are others on the list. Add in the two Temara‘s in Shane and Troy, and the three-point shooting machine of Nikau McCullough, and the Jets have some nice pieces for the 2021 season.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

The Airs enter their second match on Saturday night up against the Otago Nuggets who will be keen to bounce back from the 22-point loss to the Wellington Saints. From the Nuggets’ perspective, there was still plenty to like, with a trio of players really standing out in this game. Sam Timmins led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, whilst both Isaiah Moss (20 points, six rebounds) and Josh Aicheson (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) put in the work. Every player on the team scored at least one point as the Nuggets showed great depth, but it would not be enough to roll the Saints. The Airs will be keen to try and quell them in this contest.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

The Manawatu Jets will double-up over the weekend to travel to Franklin where the Jets will face a Bulls side ready for revenge. Franklin came agonisingly close to victory in the first match, going down to the Huskies with a fadeout last term to lose by three points, 96-99. Josh Selby stood out with 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Denhym Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds) also stood tall as starts. Off the bench, Joseph Nunag hit up 14 points and three assists in 23 minutes on court to provide some valuable time in rotation.

Other double-ups for the round:

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Sunday, May 2 @ 3:00pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

Picture credit: NZNBL

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the men’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There are just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Manawatu Jets
Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Mountainairs
Tasman Suns

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

A number of familiar teams are competing in the shortened competition, with this year’s Sal’s NBL premiers Otago Nuggets in Pool A alongside their grand final opponents Manawatu Jets. Taranaki Mountainairs are the other side to have competed earlier this year that falls into Pool A, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Tasman Suns also join the party.

In Pool B, a special NZ Select side will help even the numbers at 10 teams, whilst Southland Sharks also return to the competition after not competing in the shortened NZNBL format this year. The three other sides are Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls who will all be looking to add some silverware to their cabinets after missing out in the NZNBl season.

Southland Sharks would be one of the favourites for the title with some serious firepower including teaming up Hyrum Harris and the much-improved Dom Kelman-Poto. The pair will make it difficult for opposition teams given their size and range, whilst Alex Pledger showed he could impress in bursts during the NZNBL season, and Alonzo Burton rounds out the four.

Franklin Bulls are also a danger team with Mr Double Double himself, Marcel Jones returning to the club for the 3×3 tournament and is joined by a trio of Bulls’ teammates. Isaac Davison was the star of the competition in the early rounds of the NZNBL season, and can shoot from range with ease. Nikau McCullough is also a known three-point shooter, as Joel Vaigangina rounds out the list.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks cannot be discounted with Derone Raukawa leading the charge after a mammoth NZNBL season. He can just about do anything, and he teams up with veteran Everard Bartlett, as well as Ethan Rubatsch and Taane Te Kira Samuel. Otago Nuggets will be keen to do the double and back up their NZNBL win with a 3×3 Cup victory, and they had a strong four. Sam Timmins is the big body close to the basket, whilst Josh Aitcheson, Kane Keil and Richie Rodger are all underrated scorers with plenty of talent.

Looking across the board, the Manawatu Jets will have the talents of Jayden Bezzant and Haize Walker, while the Taranaki Airs have gone with experience thanks to Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Tai Wynyard. Jordan Hunt is a crucial cog for Auckland Huskies this tournament, with Canterbury Rams sticking to what they know with Ben Carlile-Smith, Jack Exeter and Mason Whittaker all named in the side. NZ Select will have players to watch such as Samuel Aruwa, whilst the Tasman Suns welcome the talented Tom Ingham who will prove hard to stop.

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

Bulls charge through Taranaki as Airs fall out of top two race

TARANAKI Mountainairs’ bid to finish within the top two in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) standings is officially over, following their 92-65 drubbing by way of the Franklin Bulls, as Everard Bartlett’s perfect night from the field helped cement his side their seventh win of the campaign.

FRANKLIN BULLS 24 | 25 | 20 | 23 (92)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 13 | 14 | 20 | 18 (65)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Prior to last night’s meeting, the Bulls had fallen to the Airs in their two previous encounters. How Franklin looked at getting lucky the third time round, was to limit the effect of the Airs’ role players, which also included the much anticipated matchup between Samuel Timmins and Tai Wynyard, as each big-man looked to gain the upper hand over the other.

The Bulls kicked the contest off with Bartlett’s three free-throws, but that remained the only event of the opening couple of minutes, as each side missed their initial five attempts from the field. Three minutes in however, Timmins’s layup got the ball rolling for the Bulls. The layup was further compounded by Isaac Davidson’s first three-pointer, capping off a 9-0 start to kick off the first quarter. As a result of Franklin’s fast-paced start, Taranaki repositioned their defence to a Zone setup, but to no avail, as every stop the Bulls made triggered a loud response from their bench. After both teams gradually became more accurate over the course of the quarter, it was the Bulls that tightened their sights from beyond the arc, knocking down four from deep to round out the opening 10 minutes and putting their necks ahead by 11 at the first intermission.

Leading in to the second quarter, 26-year-old Chris McIntosh continued the barrage from three-point range and continued to separate themselves from an Airs offence that struggled to find their target. A beautiful no-look assist by Davidson with a few minutes remaining in the half to Nicholas Barrow, prolonged the Bulls’ momentum. The Airs, they could not muster a response. Franklin’s target finder was working at maximum effort, shooting over 50 per cent since the fourth minute of the first quarter. Three-pointers from each of their stars in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones, cut into the deficit with less than a minute to go. But Bartlett struck a dagger into the arm of Taranaki with his second three of the contest and the fourth for the team in the second quarter alone, putting Franklin ahead by 22 at the midpoint of the ball game, 49-27.

The Bulls killed Taranaki on the boards, winning the rebounding contest in the first half 25 to 16, which translated into 10 second chance points as a result. Furthermore, Franklin’s bench proved their mettle in the opening 20 minutes, contributing 17 points to the team’s 49 in total at half-time, compared to the Airs’ four. This left Doug Courtney with a mild headache during the break, as he scrambled for second half solutions. For the majority of the third period, both sides managed to trade baskets, until Bartlett really started to put his stamp on the game. The 34-year-old’s back-to-back threes extended their lead to 29 points, as they continued to create separation for the Airs..

To make matters worse for the Airs, Nikau McCullough decided to join in on the shooting party, converting back-to-back threes as well. However, a small scoring run by Shane Temara, Francis Mulvihill and Jones brought the scoring difference back to 22 points with the final 10 minutes yet to unfold. The main headline at three-quarter time was easily the perfect shooting from Bartlett up to this point, going four from four from the field, nailing three threes to accompany those shots. Adding three free-throws, it would accumulate to 15 points through 18 minutes of court time over three quarters, putting him in good stead for man of the match honours with a quarter to go.

Raukawa began the fourth taking matters into his own hands, scoring eight quick points to begin the phase. However, it would take more than an individual to make a substantial dent in Franklin’s defensive blockade, as another Bartlett three stunted Taranaki’s fightback. The Airs would not make any more headway for the rest of the game, as Franklin held Taranaki to just 65 points at the conclusion of play, as Franklin would knock off a side which they had not beaten in two prior meetings by 27 points.

Bartlett continued his perfect form from the field, despite a quiet fourth quarter. He finished with 18 points off of five three-point shots. Alongside Bartlett, Isaac Davidson and Dominique Kelman-Poto added to the team’s cause significantly. Davidson amassed 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Kelman-Poto compiled 16 points, six boards and five assists.

Looking at the Airs’ performance, their 19 turnovers deflated their offensive intentions, nevertheless Raukawa and Jones remained the side’s constant. Raukawa still managed 19 points on 50 per cent shooting, whereas Jones fell one board short of another double-double, ending his night with 17 points and nine rebounds. In their final game of the regular season, the Airs’ loss last night solidifies their position outside the top two, as Franklin gifted Taranaki its sixth loss of the campaign. On the other hand, the Bulls go above .500 and improve their record to seven wins and six losses.

The outcome for Franklin ties themselves for fourth in the standings next to the Auckland Huskies, as they compete in their final game before the finals against the Canterbury Rams in Saturday’s opener.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 21: Jets v Bulls and Huskies v Nuggets

THE final frontier is here and there is no turning back after the next five days of action with matches galore from Tuesday through until Saturday in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The first night of week five sees genuine title contenders going at it as they attempt to jostle for a top two spot.

MANAWATU JETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

Manwatu Jets can go a long way to securing a top two spot and a qualifying final if they can get up over Franklin Bulls in what is anticipated to be a thrilling contest. In a battle between the second best offensive side and the best defensive one, it is sure to be a thrilling battle. While the Jets are in pole position to maintain a spot inside the top two, the Bulls can snatch it with a win in the game and put pressure on the top sides in the final round. With the second match of the night also paramount in determining the make up of the finals series, every win counts starting with this game.

The Jets average 98.2 points per game compared to the Bulls’ 82.6 which ranks the latter sixth overall in the competition for offensive scoring. The Bulls are by far the top defensive side, conceding just 80.5 points per game to the Jets’ 93.7. In other words, the Bulls like a low-scoring encounter, whilst the Jets back themselves to win in a high-octane shooting frenzy. The Jets are fresh off just that, outscoring the previous top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs 118-103 in a big win, after just escaping with a three-point triumph over Canterbury Rams. The Bulls notched up an 82-70 victory over the Nelson Giants, before falling to the Nuggets, 89-83. If the Jets can score more than 90 points, it is likely they will win, while if Franklin can keep their usually high-scoring opponents to sub-80 then the Bulls will go a long way to victory.

The last time these sides met, Franklin Bulls got up by 11 points courtesy of a strong start and equally impressive third term. In what was a seesawing contest, the Bulls won 83-72 keeping the Jets big scorers to 20 points or less, with Hyrum Harris still out of the Jets’ side. Tom Vodanovich managed just seven points in an off night for the power forward, but he still racked up 12 rebounds to have an impact off the boards. Jayden Bezzant was the top scorer for the Jets with 20, while also having three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Taane Samuel (17 points, eight rebounds and two assists) was busy, while Ashton McQueen stepped up to contribute 13 points, three rebounds and two assists.

For the Bulls, Sam Timmins top scored with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Dom Kelman-Poto was also solid with 15 points and seven rebounds. Everard Bartlett showed his experience and accuracy to shoot 57.1 per cent from the field, the highest on his side to collect 13 points – including 3/4 from long range – as well as six rebounds. Isaac Davidson (10 points, five rebounds and two steals) was not quite as accurate from the field, though Nikau McCullough (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) was strong off the bench in the win. If the Bulls can repeat the dose in this match, then they should go well, but the Jets are in ripping form of late.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. OTAGO NUGGETS

The second match is just as crucial as the first with the hunted in Otago Nuggets – sitting top of the table where everyone wants to be – going up against the most improved team in the competition in recent weeks in Auckland Huskies. While the Nuggets control the top spot, they are still only a win ahead of the Huskies and Bulls in fourth and fifth respectively, so the top five can change drastically in the lead up to the finals. If the Nuggets win, they realistically need one win in their final two games to secure a qualifying final spot, whilst if the Huskies win, they will likely still need to win both, though depending on results.

The Huskies are coming off a huge win over Nelson Giants, 96-67 which saw the Huskies sink the first 17 baskets without a miss on their way to a 45-point opening term. If they have a hot start like that they will be hard to beat, though their opponents Otago Nuggets are coming off a couple of hard-fought wins over Franklin Bulls (six points) and Canterbury Rams (one point). Prior to that the Nuggets lost to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, so no doubt the fingernails of Nuggets fans are wearing thin. Prior to the win against the Giants, the Huskies upset the Airs by three points in a thrilling 102-99 victory, whilst overcoming Franklin Bulls a couple of days earlier by four points.

It was not that long ago that the Huskies and Nuggets faced off, with Auckland topping the favourites in a memorable 81-69 triumph. The Huskies had a strong start to lead by five points at the first break, and then had one of those rare games to win all four quarters and emerge victorious by 12 points. Young gun, Taine Murray had a day out with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, sinking three of six from long-range. He was well aided by Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry who both recorded double doubles in huge performances. They combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds, shooting 5/12 from three-point range, whilst dishing off six assists. The other player to reach double figures was Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa who pick-pocketed his opponent a remarkable six times and added to his all-round game of 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Jordan Ngatai unsurprisingly led the way for the Nuggets in defeat, picking up 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, but shot at only 22.7 per cent from the field. Josh Aitcheson played a memorable game with a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and five steals to be his side’s best overall, while Jordan Hunt was busy with 12 points and seven rebounds. It was a disappointing night from the Nuggets who shot at just 32.4 per cent from the field as the Huskies defence forced them into errors with Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny having an uncharacteristic 13 combined turnovers for the match. Auckland will want to do much of the same in this encounter tonight, though the Nuggets will no doubt put up a better show than their previous game, and it shapes as a blockbuster.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 18: Giants v Rams and Nuggets v Bulls

A BOTTOM two clash between the most out-of-form sides and a battle between two title contenders is what confronts teams in a big Saturday night of action in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS

To say the first match of the night is a must-win for both teams is an understatement, with a combined 12 games losing streak between them. Luckily for the Giants, they only share in four of those 12 straight losses, having last won back on July 5 over the Auckland Huskies. Since then, they have fallen to the top four sides consecutively, and by an average of 14 points, with the eight-point defeat to Otago Nuggets the closest. The Rams have now eight straight losses to their name after three initial wins, but their last four games have been agonisingly close. Since losing the Bulls by 25 points back on July 8, their last four defeats have been by an average of four points. The fact that they have gone down by seven, five, three and one, the pattern tells us the Rams could be in for a win.

Taylor Britt has been the standout player this season for Canterbury, adding 21.3 points, 4.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game, ranked first, first and second in those areas for his side. Alex Talma has been really impressive off the boards with an almost double-double average of 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Sam Smith (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists) has stepped up in the average of Toby Gillooly since the early rounds. Reuben Te Rangi is starting to head up for the Rams, and when the Tall Blacks talent really gets going, he will be crucial to their success as they try and make up some ground on the other teams.

The Giants have missed the influence of Mike Karena (17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists) of late, while Thomas Ingham and Nic Trathen have stepped up to average double-figure points and more than four rebounds per game. throughout the season. The Rams are a strong rebounding team with four players totalling more than five rebounds per game, but need to build their assist tally with just one player – Alexander McNaught – averaging more than 2.2 assists per game.

Nelson’s best has been very impressive, but the Rams have been better in their defeats of late. The last time these teams faced off the Giants won 97-90 in a tight contest off the back of a 39-22 first term, which is why the Rams must try and restrict the scoring early and it will go a long way to finally breaking the losing drought.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

The second match of the night has finals ramifications in the scheme of things with a second and third clash between the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls. Both are level on 6-4 in the top three, with the winner to move ahead of the other clearly. The Nuggets fans may not have any nails left after their last two clashes – dropping a game to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, before bouncing back to defeat Canterbury Rams y the same margin. Overall, the Nuggets have been in great form, completely dismantling the Manawatu Jets a week ago to win by 36 points on their way to a season-high 130 points. The Bulls went on a four-game winning streak at one stage, but have had a yo-yo last couple of weeks with two wins and two losses rom their last four games. They have a real balanced squad and will be keen to make it two consecutive wins for the first time since early week three.

Jordan Ngatai is maintain a massive 20 points per game average for the Nuggets, also putting up 3.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds to sit second in those areas for his side. Since his massive first day out with 28 points, Jarrod Kenny has been the facilitator for his teammates, leading the side in assists with five per game to accompany his 12 points. Jordan hunt has stepped up as that second scorer with 16 points and six rebounds, but it is the work of underrated talents like Kane Keil and Josh Aitcheson who both average double-figure points, two assists and four rebounds, which has helped the Nuggets remain successful.

The Bulls have a side where all of their players can step up and be a scoring threat on their day, with Isaac Davidson averaging a team-high 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists, as big men, Dom Kelman-Poto and Sam Timmins have dictated play off the boards. Kelman-Poto (15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Timmins (13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds) have been prolific at the four and five spot, while captain Everard Bartlett, and fellow three-point shooter Nikau McCullough are no stranger to coming on and having bursts of impact throughout the match.

The last time these teams went head-to-head, Bulls got up by six points in an important win in the scheme of things. This clash has all the hallmarks of a thriller that could again go down to the wire, and possibly into overtime, with a flip of the coin as good a way as any to try and guess who takes out this match.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 15: Rams v Jets and Giants v Bulls

JUST when it looked like fans were getting adjusted to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) and the way the ladder was shaping up, one of the red-hot teams in Franklin Bulls suffered defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies last night. Now the Bulls take on the out-of-form Nelson Giants, whilst the even more out-of-form Canterbury Rams hope to turn their six-game losing streak around against the Manawatu Jets.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. MANAWATU JETS

If form is anything to go off, then the Manawatu Jets will start red-hot favourites in this clash. The Jets have won three of their past four games, notching up the 100 points in three of the games, and only slipping below the ton once (94) in that time. The Rams have not tasted success since week one, having gone on a two week losing streak which now has stretched over six games. Injuries have taken their toll over the journey with not only Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green out before the opening tip-off for the season, but with Toby Gillooly also missing substantial time after some great early form.

Looking at the match statistically, the Jets are unsurprisingly ahead in the main areas. They average 95.7 points to the Rams’ 88.4, while also being ahead in rebounds (45.1 to 43.6) and assists (18.3 to 15.1). They are not afraid to run the offence and score when they can, and most importantly, are right in that top four group. While the Taranaki Airs are now two wins clear on top, the Jets are in the log-jam of teams on five wins from nine games. A win here would see them leap up to second, at least temporarily. A Rams win, aside from gaining vital confidence, would move them to at least sixth on the table and give them enough time to try and move up the table.

In the earlier match between the teams, Manawatu Jets had control for the most part and won two quarters by a combined 17 points as they recorded a comfortable 108-93 victory overall. On that occasion, Jayden Bezzant scored 25 points, six rebounds and three steals, one of four players to put up big numbers. The top scorer was Taane Samuel with 27 points, as well as six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block, while it was Tom Vodanovich who stole the show with a double-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks. Hyrum Harris was also productive thanks to 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.

For the Rams, Taylor Britt tried all he could, recording numbers of 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Aiding him in the defeat were Sam Smith (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Thomas Webley (17 points) and Mason Whittaker (11 points, two rebounds). If the Rams are to upset the Jets here, they will want to get more support out of the depth players, and it will help with the inclusion of Reuben Te Rangi, as the Tall Blacks talent makes his debut with the Rams after his signing was announced yesterday.

NELSON GIANTS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

Even the best teams can slip up every now and again, and the red-hot Bulls happened to do that last night when they fell to Auckland Huskies. It was only their second loss in the past seven games after winning five of the past six coming into that night. They have turned their form around since the opening game and have been up there with the best sides in the competition. Nelson Giants have shown signs at times to be a threatening team, but after seemingly turning their early poor form around with a few consecutive wins, they have sunk to three consecutive losses and will be desperate to turn it around in this game.

Statistically the Giants actually rank fairly well, with 84.7 points to the Bulls’ 82.6. They also average more rebounds (40.6 to 39.6) and assists (14.2 to 13.4), but the way the Bulls play does not always lend friendly to statistics. They get the job done in a real team effort, no-fuss approach. They have not had to engage in high-scoring battles compared to other sides, and instead defensively wear down the opposition and win in tight scraps, while still being able to deliver long-range bombs. They will be disappointed about the loss last night, but keen to atone, whilst the Giants just need a win to turn their form around.

The last time these teams played, the Bulls got up in a six-point thriller on June 30. Racing out of the blocks, Franklin built a seven-point quarter time lead, only for Nelson to cut the deficit back to one by half-time. The Bulls extended the lead out to three by the final break, and while the Giants kept coming in the last term, could not quite finish off, and the Bulls held them off to record a memorable 75-69 win. Mike Karena was a lone hand for the Giants, putting up 26 of his side’s 69 points, as well as seven rebounds. Whilst Tom Ingham was the next highest scorer with eight points, he collected nine rebounds in the game. Zeb Lovell (six points, six rebounds) was also prominent off the boards.

Franklin dominated the assists category in the game with 15 to eight, and Everard Bartlett and Dom Kelman-Poto combining for seven themselves. They also combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the match, while Isaac Davidson was the top scorer with 15 points, four rebounds and two steal. Jackson Stubbins picked up a match-high 10 rebounds, while Nikau McCullough (11 points) and Sam Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double-figure points. The Bulls go in as favourites to bounce back from last night’s loss, but you can never discount the Giants.

Huskies claim huge upset over second placed Bulls

IT was a Battle of the North with the Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies going head to head in the first game of Week 4 for the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the latter clenching a huge upset over the second placed Bulls (86-82). With the Bulls getting out to a strong lead in the opening term the Huskies were forced to play catch-up throughout the game but that did not seem to faze them, steadily building into the match and eventually overrunning their opponents. There was over seven lead changes throughout the course of the game testament to how even the contest was on the night.

FRANKLIN BULLS 26 | 20 | 22 | 14 (82)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 14 | 28 | 29 | 15 (86)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Bulls got out to a flyer in the first quarter piling on a wealth of pressure and flexing their muscles on the scoreboard to hold a commanding 12-point lead. Despite Tohi Smith-Milner opening the account with a jump-shot for the Huskies, it was all one-way traffic from then on as the Bulls simply could not be denied. Dominique Kelman-Poto was on song from the first minute sinking a triple before partner-in-crime Sam Timmins chimed in. The influence of Nicholas Barrow was undeniable with the big man able to hit the scoreboard with great ease for the Bulls and cause all sorts of havoc across the court. A late burst from the Bulls saw them go on a scoring rampage with the Huskies simply unable to generate any form of rhythm in attack or defence.

Up by 12 points at the quarter break the Huskies were determined to reduce the deficit and impose themselves on the contest. Their increased intensity across the court and willingness to drive to the basket became increasingly more evident as the quarter progressed cutting the margin down to five points. But it was their three point shooting that stunned both fans and the Bulls, with the Huskies sinking four straight treys with Reuben Fitzgerald, Jaylen Gerrand and Smith-Milner dishing up the goods. Back to back threes from Smith-Milner and a huge steal from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa  got the Huskies back within two points before Timmins answered to steady the ship.

The game was played with great speed as the ball ping ponged up and down the court with Mauriohooho Le’Afa finding his stroke and causing all sorts of havoc. With the pressure mounting on the Bulls it was up to Timmins to once again stand up, laying a huge block while Taine Murray showcased his dash with a fast break and clever assist to none other than Smith-Milner. The out of contract Melbourne United big man impressed throughout the quarter, knocking back shots from inside the paint, beyond the arc and at the charity line. With a tick over three minutes left in the term Marvin Williams-Dunn evened things up for Auckland and despite the Bulls bigs in Barrow and Timmins dominating on the scoreboard with the latter finishing the half with a double-double 14 points and 10 rebounds the Huskies seemed to have all the momentum. A triple on the buzzer to Jackson Stubbins gifted the Bulls a four-point lead after what was a see-sawing term.

Known as the premiership quarter, the Bulls immediately extending the lead with Everard Bartlett sinking all three shots from the charity line. Smith-Milner quickly responded with a couple of points his own but neither side was able to claim any real ascendancy as the ball bubbled about. Out to a six point lead the Huskies dug deep to stay in the contest  and claw their way back to within two points. Williams-Dunn and Mauriohooho Le’Afa upped their workload with the two looking to the rim and scoring. Barlett continued to be the go to man for the Bulls draining them from range while Nikau McCullough tried to inject himself into the contest with a couple of strong rebounds.

With five minutes on the clock, Auckland hit the front thanks to Smith-Milner. After a relatively quiet half of basketball, Isaac Davidson found his stroke with a nice three, while Timmins also got busy to create a five-point buffer once again. Unfazed by the increased pressure, Mauriohooho Le’Afa upped the ante sinking them from range. Stepping back on the three, Mauriohooho Le’Afa put his side ahead while Tohi Smith-Milner delivered once more, coming up strong with a rebound and streaming down court with Nathan Wilson the beneficiary to hold a three point lead heading into the final change.

With the game on the line the big names for each side stood up with the Huskies getting an early with a forced turnover in the opening stages of the quarter. The defensive pressure was palpable with both sides going three and a half minutes without a score. The physicality of the contest did not disturb either team with the Bulls almost enjoying the challenge and slowly working their way into the contest. Kelman-Poto was involved in everything, swinging the momentum back to the Bulls with a crucial rebound and layup to regain ascendancy on the scoreboard.

After going quiet in the middle stage of the game Gerrand found his stroke forcing the lead to once again change hands. The lead chopped and changed and was cut down to as much as two points with less than three minutes remaining. Timmins hit a timely triple to retake the lead albeit by one point and followed it up moments later spiking the ball out of play and denying the Huskies easy avenue to the basket. With Kelman-Poto fouled out of the game for the Bulls, Huskies big man Mauriohooho Le’Afa delivered once again. With a minute left on the clock Stubbins hit his second three pointer of the game to snatch the lead off the Huskies but it went all downhill from there for Franklin with Smith-Milner reeling in a rebound and Murray making them pay with a triple of his own. Mauriohooho Le’Afa all but ended the chances of a final seconds comeback coming up huge with a steal to take home their fourth win.

Timmins was the main playmaker for the Bulls finishing the game with 21 points, 15 rebounds (11 defensive) and two blocks. Teammate Kelman-Poto also managed double digits with 15 points and eight rebounds while Barrow and Stubbins also recording 10 points each. It is no surprise that Mauriohooho Le’ Afa dominated on the scoreboard amassing a whopping 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Smith-Milner also had a stats stuffing performance with 22 points and 13 rebounds while Murray was the only other player to make into double digits with 11 points.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 7 night preview: Nuggets v. Huskies and Bulls v. Airs

WEEK 3 of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action kickstarts with the top two sides in the Franklin Bulls and Otago Nuggets taking on the bottom two teams in the competition, Taranaki Mountainairs and Auckland Huskies. Each team has shown throughout the season that they have the ability to burst out the blocks and wow the opposition making for an exciting night of action.

OTAGO NUGGETS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting second on the ladder it could be argued that the Otago Nuggets have the upper hand heading into the clash, but the Huskies have proven that they can score quickly and easily when on song despite only winning one game for the season so far. The Nuggets are a formidable unit, with a wealth of players able to pop up and ply their trade across the boards while the Huskies tend to rely upon the services of one key player.

When it comes to scoring the Nuggets sit third while their opponents take out last place, often unable to generate scoring opportunities.  The Nuggets average 91.6 points per game showcasing their attacking mindset and freedom in which they can score at. On the other hand the Huskies only manage an average of 77.6 points per game, meaning they will have their work cut out for them against Otago considering the 13 point differential between the two sides.

In terms of rebounding the Huskies have the upper hand with Auckland averaging 41.4 a game, a clear testament to their skill around the rim and desperation to win the ball back whether it be offensively or defensively. The Huskies will be hoping to exploit the Nuggets weakness in this area with Otago only registering an average of 37 per game the lowest of any team in the competition.

It will be up to Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa to stand up for the Huskies with the guard leading the charge when it comes to scoring with an average of 18 points a game. His efforts don’t stop there, with Mauriohooho Le’Afa contributing on the rebound front with 4.7 and leads the assist column with an average of 4.7 per game. Teammate, Taine Murray has also been solid on the scoreboard with an average of 13.2 while Leon Henry has stamped his authority averaging a double-double thanks to his 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

For the Nuggets the load has been relatively evenly spread despite Jordan Ngatai dominating for his side. The big man is a commanding presence across the court able to have an influence both in offence and defence averaging a whopping 19.6 points and also gobbling up 5.6 rebounds each time he steps out on court. Excitement machine Jarrod Kenny can turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye with the 34-year-old able to shoot the lights out and dish off dimes willy nilly. Kenny averages 12.4 points and 4.8 assists a game proving to be a real playmaker for Otago while the efforts of Jordan Hunt (14.8 points) and Joshua Aitcheson (10 points) do not go unnoticed, making them a very hard team to overcome.

Ngatai will definitely be one to watch for the Huskies if they are any chance to register another win for the season, while expect the Nuggets to put a lot of time into shutting down the influence of Mauriohooho Le Afa. Coming off a loss the Huskies will be desperate to notch up their second victory of the season and really try to get some respectability back on the scoreboard. But with their fourth win in sight and the potential to leapfrog the Bulls into top spot expect the Nuggets to throw everything they have at Auckland to get the job well and truly done.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

 In the second game of the night, the top placed Franklin Bulls take on the Taranaki Mountainairs who have had an up and down campaign so far but are only one game off the top team. With three wins under their belt the Mountainairs will have plenty of belief that they can knock off the top of the table Bulls and jump up the ladder. However the Bulls are coming off a strong showing and on a four game winning spree, a feat they will be hoping to continue tonight.

When it comes to scoreboard impact that is where the Mountainairs can well and truly flex their muscles averaging a whopping 102.5 points per game while their opponents sit second last with 78.5 points, something the Airs will be hoping to take advantage of. Their ability to score with haste and accuracy makes them a real threat to the Bulls able to burst out of the blocks and pile on the pressure.

Another strength for the Mountainairs is their rebounding ability, averaging the highest in the league with 49.7 displaying their ability to impose themselves around the rim and limit their opposition’s chance of regaining possession. The Bulls however are not as proficient in this area sitting fifth in the competition for rebounds with an average of 41.2 which is still impressive.

Although the Airs are a strong attacking team the Bulls have proven to be a tricky team to score against, given their defensive work. The Bulls are cautious with ball in hand, treasuring each possession and only averaging 12.5 turnovers each game, the least amount of any team but the Airs can be sloppy with ball in hand averaging 14.5.

The Bulls have a wealth of options that can hit the scoreboard none more prominent than Isaac Davidson with 17.5 points per game. The youngster has been a focal point in the Bulls line-up able to apply scoreboard pressure, take the court for an average of 30 plus minutes and dish off a dime every now and then. Teammate, Dominique Kelman-Poto has also been influential for the Bulls and will be eager to continue his run of hot form, currently averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Samuel Timmins (12.2 points) and Nikau McCullough (10.2 points) are also valuable avenues to the basket for the Bulls showcasing the plethora of options they have when it comes to posting a commanding tally.

Taranaki have five players averaging over double digits in the points scoring column with Derone Raukawa leading the charge. Raukawa has proven to be a scoring machine for the Airs constantly delivering at the basket and rising up to the challenge time and time again, averaging a whopping 22.5 points per game while also registering 7.3 assists. Averaging a double-double, Marcel Jones will be one to watch for the Bulls with Jones able to explode out of the blocks securing an average of 17.7 points and 15.5 rebounds. Shane Temara and Kenneth Tuffin are other key members of the Airs side with the duo able to knock back shots while youngster Francis Mulvihill is exciting to watch with his drive to the basket  and vision to pass off to teammates.

It will be an enthralling battle with both sides boasting stacked line ups. Despite sitting at vastly different ends of the table expect this match to go down to the wire with the Airs able to fight back from commanding deficits credit to their scoring prowess.

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.

Timmins’ 24 earns Bulls third win on the trot against Nuggets

FRANKLIN Bulls have flipped their 0-2 start to the season on its head, after collecting their third consecutive victory against the Otago Nuggets, securing a top four spot in the process. They won the first and last terms, which was enough to see them get the job done by six points, 85-79 and hand the Nuggets back-to-back losses.

OTAGO NUGGETS 17 | 18 | 26 | 18 (79)
FRANKLIN BULLS 23 | 17 | 19 | 26 (85)

[ … MATCH STATS … ]

With both sides looking to avoid back-to-back losses early on this season, the Nuggets went into Thursday night’s competition looking to place themselves at the top of the standings next to the Canterbury Rams. Whereas, the Franklin Bulls were hoping to place themselves above .500 with their third win of the campaign.

The Nuggets struck first in immediate fashion off the back of a Jarrod Kenny three pointer, but from the get-go, the long ball would be the story of the first 10 minutes, with three attempts from deep finding their mark in the opening two minutes.

With the Bulls edging out a six-point advantage heading into the first break, it was the Nuggets’ Jordan Hunt that was leading the scoring category with a solid nine points under his belt, but oblivious to the fact that his first quarter would be his best. Meanwhile, the Bulls’ Sam Timmins, who had a humble six points, would only begin to take hold of the contest.

The three-ball would again be the initial method of scoring to open up the second quarter, as Hunt’s three ball again found its mark one more time in the first half. But, this time Franklin would answer back with a one-two combo, nailing back-to-back triples two minutes in. The back-and-forth would ensue further, with Joshua Aitcheson joining the fray, adding onto the three-ball totals.

At the conclusion of the first two periods, Franklin’s bigs started to shine through, as Timmins would round off a good first-half stint on the boards with nine points and five rebounds, which was further supported by Dom Kelman-Poto’s seven points on top of that, as the Bulls held on to a solid yet slim five-point lead.

A Jordan Ngatai floater to open up the second half provided promising signs for the Nuggets, as Aitcheson would back that up with a venomous three to give Otago the lead with less than three minutes remaining in the third.

However, the fans that attended Trusts Arena were treated to an intense final couple of minutes, as Timmins once again showed his prowess around the ring putting the Bulls’ noses back in front. This was short lived, as a wrestling match would follow. The Nuggets would force the hand of Franklin, preceding the last quarter off the back of baskets from Jack Andrew and Darcy Knox providing their side with a five-point cushion. It made Kelman-Poto’s three-point play to end the period an important one, cutting the Bulls’ deficit to a single basket prior to the final break.

Sioeli Vaiangina, an unlikely hero to commence the fourth quarter, would go the extra mile on the boards, hustling his way to three rebounds in a matter of passages, aiding his side to level the scoreboard with eight minutes to go. Shortly after, Isaac Davidson would provide one of the best offensive plays to date this season, putting Kenny on skates before converting on a mid-range jump-shot, injecting the Bulls with a shot of adrenaline, thus keeping his side in the game.

Thanks to a dominant inside display, seven straight points fell the way of Timmins late in the clash, which would in turn break open the game single-handedly. Therefore, solidifying the decision to make him man-of-the-match and helping his side to their third straight win, taking out the contest 79-85.

In a surprising twist, Otago would combine for a higher conversion rate from two- and three-point range, however, it was Franklin overall that shot better on the whole, going 48 per cent from the field (31/64) compared to the Nuggets, who shot at a 46 per cent clip (29/62). But the main differences would fall under the categories of free throws and rebounds, as the Bulls owned the charity strike earning 14 points from the line, six more than the Nuggets. Furthermore, a plus-six on the boards only added to the reasons for Franklin’s late game triumph.

Timmins, who played at a consistent level in 24 minutes of court time, notched up 24 points and 12 rebounds in a performance at both ends of the court. Nikau McCullough’s 27 minutes off the bench allowed him to showcase his defensive abilities with 14 points and a game-high four steals, meanwhile 13 points apiece for Davidson and Kelman-Poto would round out the bulk of Franklin’s scoring.

For Otago, four starters would reach double-digits with Hunt securing a team-high 18 points, whereas the number one draft pick in Ngatai amassed 15 points and eight rebounds, which became tainted at the expense of six turnovers in 28 minutes of court-time. Tall Black veteran and Cairns Taipan Kenny would accumulate 13 points with three of his field goals coming from deep.

With both the Bulls and Nuggets sitting near the top of the standings, both teams have the chance to get ahead of the pack. For the Bulls, they hold the opportunity to extend their winning streak to four against the Jets on Saturday, whereas the Nuggets can look forward to a duel against the top of the table Rams, who are keen to undo their blunder that came at the hands of the Giants.