Tag: quintin bailey

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #9 – Webley’s third quarter helps Rams charge into Semis

LOCKING up the ninth-best moment of this year’s NZNBL season, comes from the lowest performing team in the competition’s regular season. The Canterbury Rams’ stellar third quarter against the Auckland Huskies in their Elimination Final encounter sits proudly amongst Draft Central’s list. Thomas Webley and his teammates produced one of the most efficient quarters throughout the entire season, capping off a historic postseason run.

For the full match report between the Rams and the Huskies – Click HERE

In a season that was hindered by injury and bad luck, Mick Downer and his coaching staff at the Canterbury Rams faced numerous challenges throughout the NZNBL regular season.

Nevertheless, in a season that saw the Rams finish bottom of the table with a record of four wins and 10 losses, how Canterbury finished the season, no one could have expected, with the Rams’ miraculous finals run culminated in one quarter of play from a determined squad with everything to prove.

Putting some context behind the Rams’ third quarter in the second round of Finals week against the Huskies, Canterbury began the season in as good of form as anyone within the league.

Exploding out of the gates with three wins in three games, Canterbury sat at the top of the standings to begin their campaign. But a flurry of injuries, and a squad restructure as a result, destabilised the side’s rotations and sent them cascading down a miserable path of defeat for the remainder of the season.

The Rams endured one of the longest losing streaks in New Zealand basketball history, coming out second best in 10 straight games between their fourth and final clashes of the season. However, momentum eventually found the red and black just in time for the postseason.

Managing to topple the mid-tabled Franklin Bulls in the final game of the regular season ending their double-digit winless run, it put them in good stead for their opening elimination game against fellow bottom-dweller, the Nelson Giants.

After strong second and third quarters from the Rams, as well as surviving a late charge from the Giants in the fourth period, the Rams took the first step in redeeming themselves throughout the finals.

The next day, it was time for the Rams to really test their mettle, as they now stared down a Huskies outfit that was hot off a convincing win against the Manawatu Jets to conclude their season.

Finishing in the third seed on the standings, it was no surprise that Auckland were the heavy-handed favourites heading into their matchup against the Rams. While Canterbury’s bigs had the monstrous task of slowing down the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry.

As was expected of the underdogs during the first two quarters, the Rams found themselves down by six at the end of the first half. Despite the deficit, Downer urged his side to work one possession at a time and to play a selfless brand of basketball. Following the huddle, the message rang true for Webley in the third, putting on one of the season’s most impressive periods of play for the entire season.

To begin the third quarter, Webley got the ball rolling immediately, kick-starting the term with a slam dunk and following up with two more baskets to get his side within a basket two minutes in.

Even though Webley carried his side for the majority of the third, much needed assistance came in bunches from the side’s captain and shooting marksman, Taylor Britt and Samuel Smith. Before anyone was able to blink, Canterbury surprisingly found themselves five points ahead a minute later after Webley’s fourth basket of the quarter.

Both sides traded buckets over the course of the next couple of minutes, as Quintin Bailey, Toby Gillooly and Reuben Te Rangi made their presence felt for the Rams. Meanwhile, Henry and Auckland guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (finished his night with 39 points, six rebounds and five assists) found their range with each of them knocking down a triple to keep the Huskies within arm’s reach, as the score stood 55-54 with four minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the third.

However, after Gillooly’s three with four and a half minutes left in the term, Webley and his teammates pulled together their best stretch of play for the entire season all the way to the final break.

A 20-8 scoring run concluded a 39-point third quarter for the lowest ranked team in the NZNBL, as Canterbury miraculously produced a 75-62 lead with a quarter to be played. In turn it flipped the contest on its head and set the Rams on their way to a semi-final matchup with the would-be champion Otago Nuggets, as Canterbury held on for the 98-84 upset win.

While many of Webley’s teammates contributed to the comeback third quarter, it was the 18-year-old that led the charge from the front. The 208cm-tall center accounted for 14 of his 21 total points in the third term. He also went on to snag seven rebounds and shoot an unwavering 69 per cent from the field, as he helped his side to a semi-final spot they were not meant to have.

Despite losing to the Nuggets by 18 points in the Semi Final a day later, the third quarter for the Rams in their contest against the Huskies stands firm as one of the most exhilarating and dominant performances for a team throughout the entire competition this year.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Canterbury Rams

CANTERBURY RAMS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Rams finished on the bottom of the ladder at the end of the regular season but won through to a semi-final after upsetting both Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies, before going down to eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 6
Lost: 11

KEY STATS:

Points: 86.4 (4th)
Rebounds: 44.4 (3rd)
Assists: 15.4 (6th)
Steals: 7.1 (6th)
Blocks: 2.9 (5th)
FG%: 44.8 (4th)

BEST WIN: defeated Auckland Huskies by 14 points

It was a remarkable win to the Rams in the elimination final, after really struggling in the first half with just 13 points in the second quarter, and trailed by double-figure points during the second term. A remarkable third quarter saw them run away with a 39-20 term to hit the front then hold on in the final term to win 98-84. Thomas Webley had a huge third term on his way to 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Taylor Britt came close to a triple-double with 16 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, while Toby Gillooly (12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists) had a double-double. Reuben Te Rangi (13 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Sam Smith (16 points) and Quintin Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were also prominent scorers in the win.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 25 points

Unfortunately the Rams had plenty of losses to pick from with 10 straight losses during the season. The biggest was that to Franklin Bulls, going down by 25 points where the Rams lost each of the four quarters. Alex Talma was a shining light with 25 points and seven rebounds, but Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Isaac Davidson (20 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals) went to town and led their side to a memorable victory.

TOP PLAYERS:

Taylor Britt 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Reuben Te Rangi 12.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals
Sam Smith 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals
Thomas Webley 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals
Alex Talma 10.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Canterbury Rams came good at the pointy end of the season which counted and strung together three consecutive wins to reach the final four. It was a deserving finish for a team that had to overcome plenty of challenges along the way, particularly when it came to injuries. They had a number of standouts and young players who stepped up and gained valuable minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The 10-game losing streak and injuries galore. Unfortunately for the Rams, injuries to Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green before the first tip-off had Canterbury on the back foot. Then Gillooly had an extended stint out and even Britt and Talma missed games. It truly was a tough season for the Rams, but led by Mick Downer, they did a remarkable job to reach the semis.

SUMMARY

Canterbury Rams started the season the same way they ended it: on fire with three wins. Unfortunately the injuries and 10 losses in between made it a game of catch-up for the side on the bottom of the table following 14 regular season games. They refused to let that stop them though, taking down the higher ranked Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies to enjoy a remarkable run that was only cut short by a super side in eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. Fully fit and with a good team chemistry, the Rams will be a team that could go all the way next year with very few changes likely to be needed.

Webley leads third term Ram-raid to tame Huskies

AN inspired third term by the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown last placed side, Canterbury Rams has continued the unthinkable dream with a come-from-behind 98-84 triumph over Auckland Huskies last night. Led by Thomas Webley who set the tone in the third term after his side had a slow start, the big man turned it on with unbelievable athleticism to drag his team back from the brink and over the line despite a remarkable 39-point effort from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 26 | 16 | 20 | 22 (84)
CANTERBURY RAMS 23 | 13 | 39 | 23 (98)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The first term belonged to the two talented Tall Blacks guards with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Reuben Te Rangi going head-to-head on the respective scoring fronts. The Auckland Huskies guard set up Tohi Smith-Milner with the opening basket of the game with a pass through traffic, and soon the size of Aaron Bailey-Nowell on offence added a couple more. Te Rangi would sink the first three-pointer of the game after being left wide open courtesy of a screen, but Bailey-Nowell immediately responded with a couple more points. Huskies had a number of chances but were missing them early, though that began to change when Mauriohooho-Le’Afa got cooking.

Te Rangi was still causing all sorts of issues for the Rams defence, piling on seven points, all of the Rams score in the first half of the term to get his side within four, and then assisted Quintin Bailey for a two-point deficit. But as would be the case, all the Rams scoring would come as a struggle, whilst the Huskies began draining treys like there was no tomorrow – which technically was correct for the losing side. Whilst Mauriohooho-Le’Afa was getting going, it was Leon Henry with a couple of triples and then a massive three first-quarter blocks that was intimidating the young Rams defence. At quarter time, the Huskies led by three after Taylor Britt’s first basket of the game with 40 seconds left got his side back into it.

Webley was having a promising game, and started well with three points and four rebounds, something he would build on in the second term. Despite the lead, Huskies coach Kevin Braswell was not happy with the defence on Te Rangi imploring his guards to double-team the Tall Black. They managed that better in the second term as he would not add to his seven first quarter scores, also gaining a bit of a breather as Sam Smith came on and piled on the baskets to be the most influential Ram with Webley in the second term.

But it was truly the Mauriohooho-Le’Afa show in the second quarter as he drained triple after triple to race to 20 half-time points courtesy of a 13-point second term. Between his offence and Henry’s defence, the inexperienced Rams were struggling to score. At one point, the Huskies guard was outscoring the Rams as Canterbury was two from 10 from three-point range, whilst the Huskies were draining a third of their chances.

The match was summed up by a fourth Henry block with four and a half in the term, followed by a Mauriohooho-Le’Afa trey putting the Huskies out to 12-point lead. With just 29 points to the midpoint of the term, the usually calm Mick Downer told his chargers that it was “the most selfish individual display I’ve seen from us this whole campaign and this is why we have 29 points.” The Rams managed to respond from that to cut back to six points as Smith drained a couple of layups. With 46 seconds remaining, Henry bowled over Ben Carlile-Smith and won the free throws, showing confidence with a stare down over his opponent on the ground. The half-time buzzer sounded with the Huskies up by six, 42-36.

It is unsure what went on at half-time, but whatever it was, it turned the Rams offence on. Whilst the Huskies defence was worried about Te Rangi and Britt, it was Webley who came to play, draining the first six points of the term and went on to finish the term with double-figure points as the big man was dropping floaters and slamming athletic dunks. He not only dragged his team back into it, but he lead the Rams to up to a lead themselves with a 16-4 run early in the term.

Mauriohooho-Le’Afa continued his form though with four points, but he was up against a team offence that had finally clicked. If it was not Webley, then it was Bailey or Toby Gillooly who were making the Huskies hurt. The biggest issue was the Huskies’ big men were getting into four trouble with Henry (three) and both Smith-Milner and Bailey-Nowell (four each) all close to being fouled out. Henry was still being aggressive on the offensive effort to try and help Mauriohooho Le’afa out, but everything the Rams touched turned to gold. Britt dropped a couple of treys off rare Henry fumbles out of bounds and the lead went out to 11 at one point.

Everything was going wrong for the Huskies as they were desperately trying to get some baskets, but a rushed pass from Smith-Milner was intercepted by Britt who went to the basket and was fouled to put the lead out to 13 by the final term. No one could quite understand what had occurred in the third quarter following a massive 39-20 term. What was even more remarkable was the fact that Te Rangi had not scored since the first term, and Britt only had 12 points – most of which came late in the term. For the Huskies, Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa and Henry combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds but needed more support.

The Huskies had 10 minutes to try and stay in the Sal’s NBL Finals Series, but it was not going to happen with a triple from Jack Exeter to push the lead out to 14 in the first 90 seconds. Henry responded with a last second trey before the shot clock expired. The Rams were still being aggressive on offence and throwing everything at the Rams in the last term. Henry was being incredible both inside and outside, and when Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa dropped another basket, his side was back within nine.

Six minutes in the Rams called a timeout with the 11-point lead and Downer implored his players to keep up the aggression on offence without going too far. The Huskies kept trying for long-range attempts, but the treys were now not dropping. Instead, Te Rangi was fouled shooting for a triple of his own and had three free throws, making two of them for a 12-point lead with five minutes remaining. The work by Canterbury’s defence to double-team Henry on the way to the hoop forced a miss, and Te Rangi almost ended the game with a triple but it rolled in and out.

With 3:47 remaining, Bailey-Nowell was fouled out for an offensive foul and a 11-point deficit. Henry continued his unbelievable work on defence and it led to a Huskies basket up the other end with Anamata Hatu scoring his first points coming on for Bailey-Nowell. Reuben Fitzgerald was using his speed to get to the basket but split both free throw opportunities in the final term with eight points the difference. When Smith-Milner was offensively fouled by Te Rangi with 2.31 on the clock, the Huskies had possession again and Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa was fouled on the way to the hoop and made no mistake with his free throws to go up to a massive 39 points and getting his team within six points.

Unfortunately for the Huskies that was as close as it got with Te Rangi draining an important basket, Britt doubling up with two nice jumpers and with just over a minute remaining the Rams held a 12-point lead. The Rams managed to wind down the clock and when Smith sank a trey with 30 seconds remaining, he iced the game to guarantee the Rams a most magnificent victory, 98-84.

Webley finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists, shooting at 69 per cent from the field, while Britt (16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists) ended up having a prominent night after a slow start. Te Rangi quietened down after his ripping first term but finished with 13 points, and still contributed with eight rebounds and six assists, while Gillooly picked up the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Smith (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were the other double-figure Rams. For the Huskies it was a two-man show with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa dominating everywhere with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry threw himself desperately at every ball to end with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks. Smith-Milner was the other Huskies player to pick up double-digit points with 16 but outside of the trio, the remainder of the team contributed just 11 points.

Whilst the Huskies exit the competition after some terrific basketball this season, the Rams advance to take on the top of the table Otago Nuggets tomorrow night, having to recover for the second straight night. While it is unheard of to think the last placed side could take out the title, the Rams so far have shown anything is possible.

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

CANTERBURY Rams have remained in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series following a tight four-point win over Nelson Giants, eliminating their opponents in the process. In what was a battle between the bottom two sides and the first of four sudden-death finals should one of these sides have made it to the grand final, the Rams were able to build on their last round win and record a narrow 93-89 victory thanks to strong play through the middle two quarters.

NELSON GIANTS 30 | 17 | 19 | 23 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 26 | 23 | 27 | 17 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Despite their low finishes on the ladder, a salivating matchup always beckoned as arguably the best back court in the league of the Rams contested arguably the best front court in the league of the Giants, and that was where the game started. Mike Karena won the tip emphatically and set the tone for the Giants’ offence early as the ageless Mika Vukona drove straight to the cup for two. Up the other end, Taylor Britt opted to be the facilitator and dropped a dime to offensive leader for the first half in Quintin Bailey for two at the rim for the Rams. Britt then found Toby Gillooly on the perimeter for three who was looking to have an impact early after fouling out in their last outing. With both teams knowing it was a do-or-die match, the intensity was red hot and Giants captain Tom Ingham stepped up with the reply from deep. It was game on.

All the stars were involved early as Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi used his strength to score inside, and Dane Brooks split the Rams defenders to earn his way to the free-throw line for two. The Giants controlled the early stages of the game as seven individual scorers saw them get out to an 11-point lead. With Karena getting on the board with his trademark post-hook, Rams coach Mick Downer had seen enough and called a timeout. He was not happy with his team’s tempo offensively and some errant passes, a sign that there was a lack of cohesion and chemistry due to not having a full-strength side for much of the season, as well as their defensive effort labelling it as “garbage”.

Canterbury managed to find another gear to finish the quarter much like their game on Saturday as Sam Smith hit his first of three triples for the game, and Alex Talma got it done at both ends of the floor. The game was back to a one possession lead until the experienced front court of the Giants managed a couple of baskets late in the quarter as the scores read 30-26 at the first break.

High intensity and efficiency offensively for Nelson saw them shooting 66 per cent from the three-point line while it was Bailey, who got the starting nod for the game, and his 10 first quarter points keeping the Rams within arms-length.

Britt made his way to the free-throw line to score his first points of the game two minutes into the second quarter, but he still hadn’t made a shot from five attempts on the floor. Ingham also hit from the charity stripe to find his way to double-figure scoring, as five quick fire Te Rangi points tied the scores for the first time since the early part of the game. Britt eventually made his first shot from the floor, but it was Ingham again stealing the show with a corner three, before forcing Gillooly to roll his ankle with a vicious step-back jumper on their next possession.

Jack Exeter returned from concussion with a corner three of his own, and Talma’s tough defence on Karena led to him draining a triple from the wing up the other end. He managed to keep Karena to just six first half points as the Rams led 49-47 at the main break thanks to their resurgent defensive effort. Bailey (13 points) and Talma (7 points, five rebounds) led the way for Canterbury while Britt was restricted to just four points (1-8 shooting). Nelson’s 10 turnovers were a concern with five of them coming from Vukona, but his nine points and eight rebounds (three offensive) were also very valuable in keeping the contest tight.

Josh Bloxham tied the game again with a layup to start the second half until the Talma and Karena matchup started to fire up. Both fired shots at each other from both ends in an impressive showcase of skill and speed from the big men. Talma eventually went down with an ankle injury after landing on it awkwardly in a shot contest. He would ice up and not return for the rest of the game. Nelson tried to expose the defensive hole that was left as Karena bullied his way to two offensive rebounds and an and-one. With Vukona securing a double-double with a quarter and change left to play, a Canterbury big needed to step up, and they did. The 18-year-old Tom Webley kept the pressure on Karena at both ends and ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, playing a big role in many of their defensive plays. His involvement sparked another late-quarter run for the Rams as they dominated the final three minutes to take a 76-66 lead heading into the last break.

Turnovers were again a big reason the Giants found themselves down having recorded eight in the third quarter alone, something they needed to rectify if they had any chance of keeping their season alive. Despite Webley’s solid play, Karena continued to attack him with an and-one starting the Giants on the right path of a comeback. Nelson oozed full court defensive pressure and active offence as the Giants knew it was all or nothing. Despite this, they could not quite take a big enough dent out of the Canterbury lead.

With just under four minutes left, a Tysxun Aiolupotea runner sparked a seven to nothing run to be back within four points with just a minute and a half left. This was the finish the fiery first half promised fans. The Giants managed another stop and had a chance to dig into the lead again. The ball pinballed around the court as neither team could quite recover the ball cleanly, until it slipped into the hands of Britt and he wasn’t letting go. Looking to extend their lead, he took off but was stopped and fouled at half court with 37 seconds left. The referees deliberated on whether it was an unsportsmanlike foul, and with enough contact, that call was made. After making the two free throws and getting to the line on their retained possession, the lead was back to eight and it looked like game over. That was not the case.

Brooks hit a three on his second attempt in the possession and in his typical athletic fashion, he forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a huge dive. A quick Ingham three bounced off the rim and into the hands of Karena who is not known for his exploits from deep, yet he understood the situation of the game and Reggie Miller step-backed behind the line and drained it. The game was back to two points but unfortunately for Nelson, the lead only extended with the Smith free-throws the last scores of the game.

A valiant fightback fell short as the Rams won 93-89 and with them back at full strength, four wins in five days to win the championship isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Despite a quiet first half, Britt led a team-binding win with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Bailey’s 19 points and eight rebounds was important for their first half efforts. Te Rangi (11 points, five rebounds) was important, while fans wait on news on Talma’s (10 points, five rebounds) injury.

Karena (19 points, five rebounds) and Ingham (19 points) were the best for eliminated Nelson outfit, as Vukona did what Vukona does and put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. As the Giants head home from the competition, the Rams now take on Auckland Huskies for a spot in the semi-finals. If the Rams get up, they will face the red-hot Otago Nuggets in the semi-finals.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.

Huskies snatch seventh win to stay in touch with top three

A HUGE ladder-defining Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown contest ensued on Wednesday night as the Canterbury Rams took on the Auckland Huskies with no winner in clear sight until the last few minutes when the Huskies emerged victorious. From the very beginning, the Rams enforced their dominance by killing the Huskies for rebounds. Both teams came into the game looking just a little sloppy, with silly fouls, thoughtless turnovers and questionable shots, yet the rhythm of the game was quickly about to change as Auckland got the points, 90-81.

CANTERBURY RAMS 15 | 25 | 17 | 24 (81)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 18 | 31 | 15 | 26 (90)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

What did not change was that with every shot, red jerseys swamped the glass but the Huskies were finding their way into the driving lane with ease. Nice interior passing and remaining patient near the basket was how the Rams kept it close for the start of the quarter. It was the Huskies’ strong defensive plays that saw Auckland begin to lead, extending to a three-point margin that would provide a buffer for the rest of the match.

Rams’ Thomas Webley had the play of the game, and maybe the season, as the quarter nearly closed. It was a jab-step crossover so deadly that it knocked the defender to the ground, closing in to slam it over a Huskies defender. Five seconds later, he swatted Jaylen Gerrand‘s ball – a 10-second clip that Webley might hold onto for a while.

But Gerrand came out streaky in the second, with back-to-back to back made threes, helping the Huskies to lead by nine. His value only increased when every defending Ram had one eye on the ball and one on Gerrand, leading the Huskies to knock down easy jumpers.

The Rams’ strategy was the exact opposite – they attacked the rim in nearly every possession. This is easier when you have someone like Taylor Britt, a player so quick on the dribble that he can beat his man or find the open one. But after running a play just like that, Britt hit his already injured elbow into a defender diving for a rebound. Britt crashed to the floor holding his elbow but would get back up a few seconds later. A timeout was called, and the Rams’ chances for a comeback felt increasingly slim, but as the timeout ended Britt re-took the floor and ran the first play for the Rams. A moment that would act as a turning point in the game, the Rams had time to reflect on it as they went back into the locker room down by nine at half-time.

With smart passing, aggression in the lane and immaculate defence, it was like the Rams just started the game again. Within two minutes of the second half beginning they were back within a basket. Finally after a 8-0 run coming out of half-time, the Huskies called a time out but it was too late – that 8-0 run became a 10-0 run, and before you knew it, the game looked like it was for a championship or bust. Diving on loose balls, scrambling for rebounds and piercing passes were just some of the things that made this quarter remarkable. Gerrand was able to stabilise the game for the Huskies with a flashy layup but the intensity did not waver. It was a hotly contested game, with both teams arguing with the referees on almost every call.

Quintin Bailey was instrumental in not allowing any easy baskets under the rim. Yet the same went for opposing big man, Leon Henry. Both teams were forced to settle for jump shots, especially in the third quarter. The tough battle continued, with Webley forced to exit the game for a blood rule though the origin of the blood was unknown. The third quarter would end 57- 64 as the Huskies had survived the comeback and were now battling with their head just above water in the fourth.

That burning resilience shown by the Rams in the third had clearly taken its toll, with the side allowing far too many close rim shots early. The Huskies, noticing this opportunity, directed all of their plays towards the rim to block the Rams and limit scoring opportunities. But fatigue hurt the Rams in more than one place, with Britt’s lighting quick moves slowing down as the game went on. Britt is not just the leading playmaker for the Rams, but is also a barometer for the team, meaning as his foot came off the pedal so did the rest of the Rams’.

Lucky for the cellar dwellers, the Huskies also went through the same issue in the latter stages of the game. Huskies coach, Kevin Braswell tried to counter this by running a zone on the other side of the floor, and the strategy worked as the Huskies hit back-to-back threes to bring the lead to nine with over five minutes to go. The hot hands would not leave the Huskies as that lead became 10, then 12 and then finally back to nine, to sound the horn as the Huskies won 90-81.

Tohi Smith-Milner (22 points) and Henry (13 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double doubles on the night, while Gerrand was the Huskies’ top scorer thanks to 26 points and two rebounds. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) and Reuben Fitzgerald (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the rams, Britt helped himself to a team-high 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Alex Talma (15 points, 11 rebounds) picked up a double-double. Toby Gillooly stepped up to recorded 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Bailey (13 points, six rebounds) was prominent off the bench.

Each team has one remaining game in the regular Sal’s NBL season and play on Saturday evening with the Rams to face the Franklin Bulls and Huskies to matchup against the Manawatu Jets in the final game of the night.

Jets snatch victory from Rams in a come from behind nail-biter

WITH six losses in a row it looked like the Canterbury Rams were going to break their losing streak after holding an 11-point lead in the final quarter, but an almighty comeback in the dying minute of the game saw Manawatu Jets run out three-point victors (101-98). It was a see-sawing affair as neither side could really consolidate on their chances as the last placed Rams proved that they were no easy beats showcasing their drive across the court and defensive pressure to ensure that the Jets had no easy passage to the basket.

CANTERBURY RAMS 20 | 29 | 33 | 16 (98)
MANAWATU JETS 24 | 21 | 26 | 30 (101)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

It did not take long for the Jets to hit the scoreboard with Nelson Kirksey striking first and setting the tone for Manawatu. Jayden Bezzant got off to a hot start, leading the way with his speed and impressive ball-handling skills while Tom Vodanovich secured the first four-point play of the season thanks to an impressive three and conversion from the charity line. Only a couple of points separated the sides throughout the opening quarter with each team trying to find their rhythm both in attack and defence. Inaccuracy seemed to plague both the Jets and the Rams with neither side able to capitalise on their opportunities at the rim.

Making his way onto the court for the first time this season Reuben Te Rangi sank a triple and had an immediate impact for the Rams shaking off the cobwebs and showcasing his composure with ball in hand to even the ledger. Within a minute, Te Rangi managed to add six points to the Rams’ tally and snatch the lead off the Jets proving just how much of an impact he can have on court. Unable to find any continuity in their gameplay credit to the immense defensive pressure, the lead continued to chop and change before the Jets applied some scoreboard pressure thanks to Taane Samuel and Kirksey who helped open up a four-point lead heading into the first break.

Despite holding a four-point lead at the break the Jets simply could not generate enough flow or rhythm in attack to continue to add to the scoreboard, while the Rams also looked out of sorts. Both sides fell into foul trouble making for a very scrappy couple of minutes of play as the teams settled into their line-ups. In the end it was Quintin Bailey that got things flowing for the Rams, finding his stroke both from inside the paint and on the perimeter, steadily eating into the margin. Bailey started to generate plenty of ball and opportunities for his side to mount a comeback taking a huge offensive rebound.

Jack Exeter also piped up in the second term to get some points on the board and cut the deficit to two points. The Rams refused to go away with Bailey leading the way with his constant drive to the rim and an increased defensive pressure from the Rams saw the Jets start to falter. With the Rams throwing everything they had at the Jets it was Bezzant that once again that stepped up to the plate doing a mountain load of work while Vodanovich also got busy with seven rebounds before half time. The ball ping ponged up and down the court before the Rams put their foot down to pile on nine consecutive points and take a four point lead thanks to Bailey slamming home five points in less than 20 seconds. He finished with 12 points to his name, while Bezzant managed 17 points in the half.

Down at half-time, the Jets rallied to level scores once again with big man Vodanovich terrorising the opposition with 11 points and eight rebounds with a half of basketball to go. After struggling for accuracy in the opening half both the Jets and Rams seemed to find their rhythm with the game turning into a three point showdown with Bailey and Vodanovich going blow for blow from beyond the arc. Increased defensive pressure from the Jets forced a shot clock violation gifting them with another chance to reduce the margin while Bezzant upped the ante with his speed down court to once again reclaim the lead for Manawatu.

With a tick over seven minutes left in the term, Bailey delivered again as it was proving to be a stats stuffing affair with 19 points to his name. Ashton McQueen injected himself into the game with a timely three for the Jets as the lead continued to ebb and flow. With victory insight Bailey imposed himself again with a huge steal, as the Rams started to find their rhythm and pull away opening up a five point lead. But back to back treys from Vodanovich and an increased intensity saw the Jets right back in it while their improved ball movement also allowed them to generate more scoring opportunities. The physicality kicked up a notch with bodies hitting the deck but it was the Rams that answered the call first with Thomas Webley and Taylor Britt applying scoreboard pressure. Despite a scrappy 30 seconds of play Canterbury showcased their hunger with Britt hustling hard and coming up big to hit a triple and gift his side an 11 point lead. Heading into the final change Britt has 25 points to his name while Webley recorded 14.

With the game on the line the Rams seemed to be in full control, composed with ball in hand and happy to play possession as the clock ticked down however the Jets had something different in mind going on a scoring rampage. The Rams became stagnant in attack as the Jets looked to exploit the young Canterbury side and hunt down any opportunity they could to eat into the margin. Vodanovich got himself into some foul trouble, recording his fourth for the evening while Bezzant got busy once again using his change of speed to hit the scoreboard. With the lead down to nine points the Rams refused to give in playing with no fear and attacking at every opportunity but it was the experience of Samuel at the line and Bezzant across the court that hurt them the most as the duo went into overdrive. With a minute left in the game Vodanovich hit his fifth three of the game to steal the lead back for the Jets and with a huge rebound to follow Kirksey converted the triple to give them some breathing space. Not down and out yet Sam Smith sunk a triple to cut the margin to one and give his side a fighting shot but it was little too late with the Samuel putting the final nail in the coffin.

Britt starred for the Rams with 25 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while Bailey had a night out with 28 points and 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Webley also had a strong showing with 15 points while Te Rangi was the only other player to hit double digits with 10 points. Bezzant top scored for the Jets with 27 points and four assists, as Vodanovich also plied his trade with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Samuel’s efforts did not go unnoticed finishing with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

Canterbury take to the court again tonight to try and break a seven-game losing streak up against Otago Nuggets, while the Jets have a bit of a rest until Sunday when they aim to fly high against top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs.

Airs create space at the top of the standings, hold off Rams in seesawing affair

THE distance between the top and bottom of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown standings got a little greater overnight, as a neck-and-neck contest between the Taranaki Mountainairs and the Canterbury Rams was not decided until the final seconds of play, as the Airs edged out a crafty Rams squad by five points.

CANTERBURY RAMS 19 | 35 | 20 | 18 (92)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 23 | 21 | 27 | 28 (97)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Prior to their contest against the Rams last night, the Airs were still yet to establish themselves as the clear-cut favourites entering the second phase of the NZNBL season. But, a win over Canterbury would put the ball in the Franklin Bulls’ court and Taranaki came out with meaningful intentions to make this so.

Converting four of their opening seven attempts from the field, it opened up a nice 9-5 lead to establish themselves as the leaders early on in the game, but when you’re led by a player the likes of Taylor Britt, you do not roll over so easy.

Taking the lead midway through the first, 16-12, Canterbury exploited the Airs lack of quickness to force numerous turnovers and run the floor early. However, a nifty turnaround-fadeaway by Marcel Jones highlighted a convenient 7-0 run for Taranaki to quickly return control of the game back into their own hands, and lead 23-19 following the conclusion of the first stanza of play.

It became clear that the Airs wanted their offence to flow primarily through Derone Raukawa, as he downed eight of the team’s 10 opening points in the second quarter. Whereas the Bulls inherited a similar tactic with Britt, as he himself drilled three three-pointers in the same period of time.

Nice work down low in the post by the Rams’ bigs Thomas Webley and Quintin Bailey created all sorts of problems for Taranaki, outworking and out-hustling Jones and teammate Shane Temara in the middle minutes of the second term. Which allowed Canterbury to fight back and take the lead.

Once again though, Britt would cut through the Airs’ defence like a knife through butter, amassing 20 first-half points including three threes to help his side to a 10-point lead after two quarters. However, Raukawa’s 17 points was a lone highlight to draw upon for Doug Courtney during Taranaki’s half-time talk heading into the third.

The Airs would hit back in a big way with an 8-0 run, propelling them back into the game after a sporadic first half that saw a bunch of momentary lapses on the defensive end. Nevertheless, the Rams were able to fend off any further damage for the remainder of the third quarter, as the Airs sought out another scoring run to complete the comeback.

A sneaky dime from Jones found Baxter Fenwick down below the rim to trim the deficit further, as the Airs now found themselves a single basket behind the Rams with the final quarter still to play and the score sitting at 74-71.

Mitchell Dance’s post-move cut the margin to one on their first trip up the floor, but Jones provided the one-two punch with a three to give Taranaki the lead a minute into the final term, setting up last night’s matchup to be a sprint to the finish line.

With both teams tied at 80 points apiece with seven minutes to play, the back-and-forth continued to ensue. Shortly after Temara contributed eight consecutive points to the Airs’ scoring totals, it allowed Raukawa to put a stamp on the game after he struck from deep with a three to give Taranaki a sizeable seven-point lead, concluding an 8-0 run and putting themselves in the driver’s seat of the game.

The Rams, like they so eloquently did on so many occasions to this point, continued to look inside, and Bailey helped trim their deficit to three points after two straight buckets. The Rams managed to handle the Airs’ attempts to run away with the game, as they produced an 8-0 run of their own, momentarily taking back the lead late in the game. But their lead was short-lived following a Jones hook shot 30 seconds later.

Another running hook by Jones once again with 30 seconds remaining, put Taranaki ahead by three and in the process won his team the game, as Raukawa cemented the victory for the Airs with two bonus free-throws to take home the result, 92-97.

Following Britt’s strong second half, he continued to hit the scoreboard on a regular basis, finishing with 31 points with an efficiency of 50 per cent from the field, as well as four rebounds and three steals. Adding to the Rams’ notable player performances, Bailey had himself a solid outing, earning a 14-point 10-rebound double-double in what was the highlight of Canterbury’s persistent frontcourt effort.

Key individual performances for Taranaki, like most previous encounters, are starting to sound a little like a broken record, as both Raukawa and Jones made up almost 50 per cent of their side’s points total. For Raukawa, he accumulated 39 minutes on the court, during which he assembled a stat line of 26 points, six assists and four steals. To make up for his lack of rebounding, Jones made his presence felt on lots of missed shots, gathering 25 points and 16 rebounds.

With the win, the Airs have strung together a tidy little three-game winning streak as they take a commanding hold of the rest of the league with an impressive record of six wins and three losses, a win in front of the Bulls. The Rams deal with the opposite, as they slip to a record of three wins and six losses, sitting at the bottom of the standings by half a game.

A few days of rest now await for both the Airs and the Rams, as the Airs return to action on Tuesday against fellow top-four contenders, the Otago Nuggets. Meanwhile, the Rams size up the Jets a day later as they look for answers on how to turn around their season before the final come into their line of sight.

Rams fail to strike gold, Nuggets triumph in South Island Derby

OTAGO Nuggets have rebounded back from their disappointing result on Thursday night against the Franklin Bulls, knocking off Canterbury last night in the Battle of the South. The result caused the Rams to enter a three-game losing slump in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown as a handful of their players were feeling under the weather prior to tipoff, in particular Taylor Britt.

CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 20 | 12 | 23 (77)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 28 | 9 | 22 (87)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A certain matchup that fans were excited to see, was the duo of Canterbury’s Britt, who is a current Perth Wildcat, and Jarrod Kenny, a former Wildcat himself. In true fashion, both of the men would open up the scoring for their respective sides in an accurate first quarter.

For the Rams, 17 shots were hoisted up in the opening period, 10 of which found the mark (58 per cent). Whereas, for the Nuggets, they shot 52 per cent, but made up for that in attacking the rim and getting to the line. With Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt leading the charge, Otago would convert on six attempts from the charity strike, compared to Canterbury who never made it to the free-throw line once in the introductory 10 minutes.

With both sides landing punches in most of the following quarter, neither team could genuinely gain the upper hand and bend the contest to their will, which made Matthew Bardsley’s eight second-quarter points and five rebounds a section of the game to watch with intent. Bardsley shot four of five from the field during the second quarter in just five minutes of court time prior to the end of the first half, helping the Nuggets to grab the game with both hands, leading 42-56 after two quarters.

As Britt exited the game temporarily due to illness, everyone was expecting the Nuggets to run away with the contest, as the Rams were without their marquee player. But Mick Downer’s squad were not going down without a fight, as they not only outscored the Nuggets in the third quarter, they held the other team to just nine points, putting them in good stead for a late game charge in the final 10 minutes.

Early in the fourth, a layup through contact and a three from Quintin Bailey would bring the deficit to just six points for the Rams, kickstarting a late run that Canterbury were hoping for at the end of the third, and after his return three minutes into the fourth, Britt’s layup would make the clash a one possession game, at 65-68. Furthermore, when big man Thomas Webley followed up with a nice finish around the rim, it cut the Nuggets’ lead to just one point with 6:16 left capping off an 18-7 run, providing a game that anyone could snag.

But Otago was not going to let another match slip through their fingers, as a barrage of triples from Richard Rodger and Kane Keil would round out a stellar night for the Nuggets eventuating in the 87-77 triumph.

While the Rams shot better as a team through all four quarters, going 33 of 68 (48 per cent), the factors in the final result came down to the three ball and free throws, as the Nuggets attacked the rim hard and found the open shooter at an extraordinary rate, accumulating 11 three-pointers and 12 free-throws in the win.

Secondly, the Nuggets’ bench proved to be much more effective, outworking the Rams in points off the bench 36-24, allowing stars like Ngatai and Kenny to gain valuable rest heading into their next contest against the Huskies on Tuesday.

For Ngatai specifically, he finished his performance with a team-high 19 points, as well as five rebounds, four assists and three steals, boasting another all-around game for his side.

While Kenny would squabble for just one three-pointer in 21 minutes of game-time, he managed to pass the rock well, providing five assists for his side. Meanwhile, Keil was a major surprise, accounting for 16 points, with 12 of which coming from behind the arch, allowing him to make his first notable mark on the season so far.

High scoring totals are becoming the norm for Britt in the Sal’s NBL competition, hoarding 21 points in 21 minutes on the floor along with six rebounds and five assists. Also putting up solid points and rebounding numbers was Samuel Smith and Alexander Talma, who gathered 12 points, seven rebounds and 11 points, eight rebounds respectively, as Benjamin Carlile-Smith pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Rams now face a pivotal crossroads in their season, as another loss would place the team outside the top four while also pairing the squad with a four-game losing streak, bearing in mind they need to figure out how to defeat a red-hot Franklin side. To Otago, they could challenge for a top-two seed if they can topple the struggling Huskies in a few days.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 2 night preview: Nuggets v Bulls and Rams v Giants

TWO sides fresh off their first losses and seeking a way to bounce back have not had to wait long with both Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams up in back-to-back matches after defeats last night in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

OTAGO NUGGETS VS FRANKLIN BULLS

After losing their first game last night, Otago Nuggets will be keen to bounce back immediately with a win against an in-form Bulls side finding its feet. In the battle between the two teams who have either returned or joined the competition in 2020, either one of these teams is capable of running out with the victory in a big blockbuster match tonight. The Bulls are back in form with a couple of impressive wins after a couple of losses to start the season, and they are looking to make it three on the trot as the Nuggets search for their third win themselves.

As more matches go by, the statistical areas have greater data to back them, and the Nuggets sit second overall in terms of their scoring, averaging 96.3 points per game, though the 81 points last night hurt that average. Given Otago led by seven at the half, to go down by 26 would be an area that coach Brent Matehaere would be right on to ensure another fadeout does not happen again. Their opponents Franklin Bulls average the lowest points per game with 76.3, but getting the job done. The sides are both in the bottom three rebounders in the competition, but what makes the Nuggets so strong is their ability to share the rock – averaging 21.7 assists per game, whilst the Bulls are last with 11.5.

Looking at those statistics, the Nuggets should be favourites. Jordan Ngatai (21.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals) has unsurprisingly been a top star this season, with Jarrod Kenny (15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals) also producing the work many expect of such high quality talents. Jordan Hunt (16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals) has been strong at both ends and leads the team in offensive rebounds, whilst Josh Aitcheson (9.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists) and Darcy Knox (5.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) have really contributed when on the court.

Whilst all eyes were on Dom Kelman-Poto and Sam Timmins post-draft, they should have also been keeping an eye on Isaac Davidson who has starred for the Bulls this season, dropping 20.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, but most impressively shooting 46.2 per cent from three-point range with an average of three triples per game. Kelman-Poto (12.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists) is still having a say, while Timmins is also in the top five across the three main stats (8.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists). The key for the Bulls will be to lift the assist numbers with captain Everard Bartlett (3.3) the top ranked player in that regard.

Realistically for the Bulls, taking out the first round loss by 12 points in a 202-point combined scoring blitz, the next three games have yielded 147, 122 and 144 points which means that going in the same direction, this could end up a real tight tussle if they can restrict the scoring of the Nuggets. For the Nuggets, they have been far superior in setting up their offence through assists, and will deservingly start favourite despite last night, but the Bulls just keep getting it done.

CANTERBURY RAMS VS NELSON GIANTS

The second game of the night sees a Rams outfit coming off its first loss up against a Giants team that is still trying to gain some consistency, sitting at 1-3 to start the season. With the opposite win-loss records, the Rams will be keen to pile on some more pressure to the Giants’ start to the season. The question of whether or not Mika Vukona will finally play for Nelson is a regular talking point, mainly because he could be the difference in the tight games.

The Rams have averaged 95.5 points from their first four games, as well as sits third overall for rebounds with 44. They are ahead of the Giants in both these stats, whilst marginally ahead 15-13.3 in the assists column. Canterbury’s top shooting – ranked third in two-point shooting percentage and second in three-point shooting is why the Rams are in such a strong position to start the year. Similarly, the Rams are the number one team at converting free throws, with 78.9 per cent compared to 68.5 per cent. One area where the Giants have done well is limiting their personal fouls per game with a competition-low of 16 per game, whilst the Rams are third with 20.

Taylor Britt has been simply sensational this season and that continued last night despite the loss, racking up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while he was well supported by Sam Smith who picked up 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Usually prominent scorer and known three-point drainer, Toby Gillooly missed last night’s match, so the likes of Thomas Webley and the replacement player in Quintin Bailey put up promising numbers. The key to the Rams’ success is sharing the ball around and knowing that if one player has a quiet night or is unable to contribute, someone else stands up.

The return of Mike Karena to the Giants has been a blessing, with the big centre immediately having a say all over the court, averaging 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. It provides relief for the likes of Thomas Ingham (13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Nic Trathen (14.8 points, 5.3 rebounds). Dane Brooks has also returned though had a quieter start with 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the 2020 season. The big talking point in this match up will be Karena’s return to face his former side in the Rams. He might have switched allegiances through the draft, but he is still a force, and the Rams will be best suited to know how to deal with him. Equally, Karena will be keen to put on a big show in front of the fans.

The Rams will start favourites to bounce back because of their limitless options. The Giants are building and with Karena back in the side it has really helped provide some punch to an offence that was a bit jumbled early in week one. If Vukona returns, then all of a sudden the Giants have some real weapons who are in the top half dozen players in the competition, and this will be a match not to be missed.