Tag: Riley Bensemann

Nuggets Hunt for Giant win

OTAGO Nuggets have ended week three of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) with back-to-back wins over the weekend. The Nuggets backed up from a demolition job on the Manawatu Jets with a closer eight-point triumph over Nelson Giants last night, getting the job done thanks to some terrific defensive work and a standout game from Jordan Hunt.

OTAGO NUGGETS 23 | 18 | 28 | 18 (87)
NELSON GIANTS 16 | 22 | 23 | 18 (79)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The match opened with a Hunt layup, which would be a sign of things to come. Both teams were up for the fight early, with Thomas Ingham sinking a triple at the four minute mark of the term for his Giants side to hit the front, and after an and-one conversion from Zeb Lovell, Nelson led by four points. Jordan Ngatai had seen enough and knocked down not one, but two step back jumpers in the last five minutes of the game, then produced a layup to hand his side the lead. Hunt did the rest with a couple of free throws and a triple with 90 seconds left on the clock which helped his team to a seven-point advantage at the first break.

Theo Johnson was fast out of the first break, sinking a triple after missing an earlier two-point jumper. The teams traded blows in the opening few minutes as Mike Karena produced a neat hookshot to draw within four points, but Ngatai and Hunt again found their way to the basket, and Hunt’s second chance efforts off his own offensive rebound resulted in a neat layup and an eight-point lead. For every basket the Giants scored, the Nuggets had an answer, and it was not until Riley Bensemann delivered with back-to-back baskets in the last two minutes that Nelson drew within three points. Ngatai and Hunt again produced some magic to put it out to five with 48 seconds left, but a Dane Brooks driving layup had Nelson draw within three at the main break.

After the Giants had cut the Nuggets lead in that second term, Kane Keil came out fired up, immediately dropping a triple off a Ngatai assist. Brooks and Josh Aitcheson were trading blows themselves in the first couple of minutes, putting five points on the board apiece, and Aitcheson managed eight consecutive team points before being subbed out. Ingham continued his good form of late with a couple of jump shots as both teams started playing end-to-end basketball and making the most of their opportunities. At one stage Hunt had extended the lead out to nine with a step back jumper, and then in the space of a minute, four points to Johnson and two to Karena had the Giants raw within three. Once again Ngatai stepped up when it counted with five consecutive points, and then triples to Hunt and then the first points to Jarrod Kenny late in the term ensured the Nuggets were on top with a quarter to play, 69-61 ahead.

Sensing their moment early in the fourth, the Giants made a move with seven of the first nine points to draw within three at the two-minute mark. Hunt was still proving a thorn in their side and now Kenny was starting to get going with a couple of free throws and a layup to nudge the advantage back out to nine midway through the term. Karena was doing his best to try and stem the Nuggets lead which got out to 11 at one stage. Four points to Karena, and an Ingham layup had the Giants within seven, but again the time was winding down and the Nuggets were doing enough to defend with plenty of huge blocks. With a minute left, Hunt produced a layup to extend the lead out to 11, and while the Giants got within eight with 32 seconds on the clock, a deliberate foul on Ngatai and then the subsequent free throws going in ensured Otago would go home victorious, 87-79.

Hunt finished the match with 26 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal, shooting at 57.9 per cent from the field and picking up an important double-double. Ngatai also had plenty of the action with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Keil (11 points, five rebounds) and Aitcheson (nine points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks) stepped up when required, while Kenny was the facilitator until he needed to score late in the match for seven points, four assists and two rebounds.

For the Giants it was Ingham (15 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal) and Karena (15 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal) who top scored in a losing side. Johnson had 12 points and four rebounds off the bench, while Brooks finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in an important role for the Giants. Lovell was one of three players who had seven points as well, notching up five rebounds too.

Otago Nuggets have a short break before tipping off on the first day of week four against Taranaki Mountainairs in what promises to be an absolute thriller. Nelson Giants next play on Wednesday when they host Franklin Bulls in a must-win contest if they are to keep in touch with the top few teams.

Jets slay Giants by 30 in three-point shooting masterclass

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulls book back-to-back wins with Giant triumph

FRANKLIN Bulls have moved to an even win-loss record in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown after downing Nelson Giants in a low-scoring, tight tussle. The Bulls survived a second quarter surge by the Giants to win three of the four terms and get up by six points, 75-69.

NELSON GIANTS 14 | 21 | 18 | 16 (69)
FRANKLIN BULLS 21 | 15 | 20 | 19 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Isaac Davidson kicked off proceeding with an early hot hand, draining a triple 21 seconds into the contest. For the Giants, Mike Karena looked busy early with a couple of two-pointers including an impressive fade away jumper, while Jackson Stubbins and Sam Timmins were also getting involved for the Bulls. After the Giants hit the front three minutes into the quarter, Timmins and Davidson helped the Bulls go on a nice little run with eight consecutive points, and then Joel Vaiangina joined the party once he came into the action.

Sensing the urgency to turn things around, Nic Trathen nailed two free throws to keep his team in the contest, as the Bulls had chances but missed a number of jump shots both inside and outside the arc. A Riley Bensemann attempted triple was made good thanks to a double chance points rebound and lay up by Josh Leger with just over three minutes left on the clock in the first term. Dom Kelman-Poto got his first point of the night with one of two successful free throws upon returning to the court from substitution.

Just as the Giants got close, Adam Dunstan decided to take matters into his own hands and add five consecutive points to stretch the lead to nine with 29 seconds to play, before a Dane Brooks jump shot late in the peace brought the quarter time margin back to seven.

The early going was all the Bulls as the Giants could not seem to buy a basket, with Franklin adding the first six points of the term to move 13 clear of their opponents. But then the range issues hit the leading side as well, with 90 seconds going by before Karena made good on a jump shot for the Giants for their first points of the quarter, and a minute later Kelman-Poto was fouled and successfully dropped two free throws.

The Giants started to turn it around after a slow start to the term, trailing 19-34 with three minutes and 14 seconds remaining. Then everything started to click into place. Theo Johnson and Tysxun Aiolupotea dropped back-to-back triples as the usually reliable Everard Bartlett missed his chance. Timmins produced a statement dunk with just under two minutes remaining to settle the team and ensure they held a 10-point lead, but it would be the last points of the quarter for the Bulls.

Johnson sank another triple, Thomas Ingham converted two free throws, and then Karena and Ingham both added a couple of extra points to game in the last minute. In that time, the pairing of Stubbins and Bartlett could not seem to find the accuracy from long range, and the Bulls’ lead had been cut to just one at half-time.

The Giants momentum continued after the main break with Karena immediately showing why he was so dangerous, getting close to the basket with a great lay up, and then draining a two-point jump shot. The hot hands flowed onto Ingham – who was fouled by Timmins – and Brooks as the Giants had piled on 17 consecutive points across either side of the break for a seven-point advantage.

Kelman-Poto broke the five-minute scoring drought for the Bulls with an important jump shot – and the and-on conversion from the foul line. Karena was making life difficult for Franklin however, slamming home another dunk at the two-and-a-half minute mark of the term. Chris McIntosh relieved some pressure with a triple midway through the term to cut the Bulls deficit to three, but Zeb Lovell soon increased that back up by answering that with a two-pointer. The teams traded blows late in the term with Bartlett finally nailing a triple, and his second triple – with 51 seconds remaining – saw the Bulls find the form of the first term.

Trailing by four points with just over a minute remaining, Kelman-Poto, Bartlett and Connor Woodbridge added a combined seven points to regain the lead at the death by three points. It set up a huge final term between the teams with everything on the line and the crowd on the edge of their seats.

It was the Bulls who struck first blood in the final stanza with Kelman-Poto and Timmins both impressing to give Franklin a seven-point advantage. Bensemann cut that back with a triple, but Nikau McCullough responded with a nice lay up. Neither team could seemingly hit a shot over the next couple of minutes until McCullough broke the drought, this time with a triple and the Bulls were out to a nine-point lead with seven minutes to play. Karena again stood tall with a fade away jumper, but as soon as he had cut the deficit back to seven, Davidson responded with a double of his own.

Each time the Giants were in trouble, it was Karena who stepped up as he continued to drain baskets and seemingly do it all in a desperate bid to haul his team over the line. With three and a half minutes to play, he earned one last rest after the last six points for the Giants. When he returned, there was two-and-a-half on the clock and Davidson drained a jump shot to stretch the Bulls lead to five.

There was no way Karena and his side was going to fade away – apart from his jumpers – as Lovell drilled a triple, and Karena quickly added a layup after Davidson missed a two-point jumper. The Bulls looked to be struggling to find avenues to the basket with a 24-second shot clock violation expiring and the ball handed back to the Giants as they trailed by two with 44 seconds remaining. The ball landed in the hands of Ingham who took a chance at the long-range jumper but missed, and Kelman-Poto got it to Stubbins who was quickly fouled to ensure the Bulls could not take time off the clock.

After missing his first free throw, Stubbins converted the second and the lead was three with 35 seconds remaining. Ingham again had the chance for redemption, but again missed it. This time it was Davidson collecting the defensive rebound and was immediately fouled. He too went at 50 per cent from the charity stripe, but it was enough to make it a two-possession game with a four-point lead.

The pressure was now getting to the Giants with Josh Bloxham called for ball handling and turned it over, with Stubbins getting fouled and making both free throws to put the result beyond doubt – barring a miracle – with 15 seconds remaining. Ingham tried to slice up the defence with a pass but Davidson picked his pocket and with nine seconds remaining, it ensured the Bulls would get up in a massive edge-of-the-seat contest, 75-69.

Whilst Karena was the star off the boards across the game with 26 points – at 70.6 per cent efficiency – as well as seven defensive rebounds – it was the even spread of the Bulls that got them home. Davidson recorded a team-high 15 points, as well as four rebounds and two steals, whilst McCullough (11 points), Kelman-Poto (10 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double figures. Whilst Stubbins only shot one from four from the field, he still nailed some important free throws and had 10 rebounds to go with his five points and two assists.

Other than Karena, Ingham (eight points, nine rebounds) and Lovell (six points, six rebounds) were prominent off the boards, but the former could not find his range with just one from 13 from the field, and five turnovers. The Giants will now take on the Canterbury Rams tomorrow night, whilst the Bulls play in the earlier game against Otago Nuggets.

Karena and Brooks returns sees Giants down Jets

The final game of the first week of the NZNBL (New Zealand National Basketball League) saw the Nelson Giants seeking their first win against the Manawatu Jets who were coming off a huge win the previous night, boasting many good performers.

While Mika Vukona did not return, the return of Mike Karena and Dane Brooks would have boosted the confidence of the Giants which would have been needed having known what the Jets did in their last outing.

NELSON GIANTS 16 | 18 | 28 | 26 (88)
MANAWATU JETS 22 | 20 | 21 | 20 (83)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Fatigue from back-to-back games did not bother Manawatu as we were treated to a much higher scoring game than the earlier match. Winning the tip, Jets guard Jayden Bezzant passed to Taane Samuels who drained a triple within seconds of the tip. He then traded baskets with Karena who had not missed a beat. Despite huge games the previous night, Hyrum Harris (13 points, 21 rebounds) and Tom Vodanovich (38 points) were not feeling it early, although they did pick it up later. Harris turned the ball over for a Karena score, while Vodanovich missed his first shot.

Brooks found himself subbed into the game as coach Mike Fitchett was hoping he would have an immediate impact. An evenly poised first quarter of play after a Theo Johnson and-one conversion, the Jets would close the quarter out scoring eight of the last 10 points on back of a Haize Walker three and a Harris block, leading to a nice spinning layup for himself. Pulling away at the end of the quarter, Manawatu found themselves up 22-16 at quarter time.

Brooks launched himself into the game at the start of the second quarter with a huge swat off the backboard which led to a smooth finish up the other end from Nic Trathen who has enjoyed solid performances in the absence of Nelson’s star players. Vodanovich then suffered two missed three-point attempts and an offensive foul in just over a minute, a far cry from his heroics the previous night. Another Samuels triple gave the Jets an eight-point lead, and with Karena subbing out with foul trouble due to Samuels taking his second charge of the game in the tantalising matchup, it was looking dire for the Giants.

After trading baskets for two minutes, the Giants would get a stop and a Tysxun Aiolupotea floater would bring the deficit down to three-points. From there Vodanovich would leave the perimeter and put the ball on the floor as he and Walker would each score four points to extend the lead back out. If it were not for Johnson scoring five points late for the Giants, it would have been an ominous margin heading into half-time. The Jets were certainly much more convincing through the first half of play, shooting a much better percentage from the floor and controlling the tempo of the game. Johnson and seven second chance points from the Giants kept the margin to single digits with the scores 54-62.

Needing to lift the intensity, the Giants started the second half full of energy, securing a jump ball which led to an Aiolupotea layup. The good start the Giants needed was halted when Samuels continued to challenge Karena forcing him out onto the perimeter, draining another triple. The battle continued as Samuels drew a third offensive foul call on Karena, leading to a Vodanovich three, pushing the margin out to a game-high 12.

Nelson then turned it around and went on a 10-0 run for the next two minutes, including an unsportsmanlike foul and an offensive foul for Vodanovich, seeing him subbed out with four fouls. A big opportunity for the Giants, the Jets then scored seven straight points before Brooks hit the scoreboard for the first time with a much-needed triple. Johnson then secured a five-point play to see them trail by one. He would finish off his large third quarter with a go-ahead basket, before Samuels would regain the one-point lead for the Jets heading into the last quarter.

With the game in the balance heading into the final quarter, Vodanovich looked to assert himself early, but only mustered up an air ball attempt from deep and a turnover. While trading baskets, he would end up making a three in what was proving to be a see-sawing final quarter. Riley Bensemann then stepped up for Nelson and made some big plays with a block, a steal, a layup, and a triple following a stop. A Bezzant three would bring the game back to two points, yet the next two and a half minutes would bring trading baskets and turnovers back and forth until Johnson made it a two possession game with a triple with 40 seconds left.

A Harris layup would make the scores 84-83 the Giants’ way, until he committed an unsportsmanlike foul, all but ending the game. With intentional fouls and free throws ending the game at 88-83, the Giants recorded their first win for the season. A solid second half performance saw them score 13 more points than the Jets, giving them the confidence they need going forward. Johnson (20 points) and Karena (17 points, six rebounds) led the way while Trathen (11 points, six rebounds) and Aiolupotea (nine points) were both serviceable. They now sit in fourth place and face the Franklin Bulls on Tuesday.

Vodanovich (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Harris (18 points, 13 rebounds) were both impressive again as Bezzant (17 points, six rebounds) and Samuels (15 points, five rebounds) also put up solid numbers. The seventh placed Jets will be looking for more scoring depth when they face the ladder-leading Canterbury Rams on Wednesday.

Nuggets bury Giants with final term flurry

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

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

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Nelson Giants season preview: Triple threat Giants excited about depth

MUCH talk has been about Nelson Giants’ top three players snared in the recent 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Player Draft, but it is the depth in the final few rounds that head coach Mike Fitchett is just as excited about.

Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks have joined forces for a formidable triple threat as the Giants stand as a clear title contender with that experience and ability both on the point-scoring and rebounding fronts. Whilst Fitchett said those three were superb players, he was astounded that he was able to pick up a couple of diamonds in the rough late in the draft.

“I didn’t expect either Thane O’Leary or Theo Johnson to be available at the 10th and 11th rounds,” Fitchett said. “To me that was crazy to be able to get them there. “I was happy to grab them though, I think they will really help us.”

The duo will join the top three with NZNBL experience, something that will be huge in the stretch considering the modified season.

“That was something we were looking for in the draft – guys with NBL experience. Mika, Dane and Mike come with that experience,” Fitchett said. “We were able to select Thane and Theo as well who also bring NBL experience. “Theo was with the Saints last year, so he brings some championship experience too.”

NELSON GIANTS TRIPLE THREAT:

Mika Vukona

The biggest name when it comes to talking about New Zealand basketball, the 38-year-old power forward is a massive influence both on and off the court for any side he represents. Vukona has a long history in both the NZNBL and Australian NBL, most recently representing the Brisbane Bullets after crossing from the New Zealand Breakers. He has represented a number of NZNBL sides, but four stints with the Giants has the club legend closely attached to the place. He will be a massive influence off the offensive boards.

Mike Karena

Joining Vukona as a dual big man threat, fellow Tall Black Mike Karena will play out of the center position and be very hard to stop standing at 210cm and 122kg. Still only 26-years-old, Karena has plenty to offer for many years to come. In the 2019 NZNBL season, the Canterbury Rams big man averaged 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds – 3.8 of which came off the offensive boards. For the Giants to pair Karena up with Vukona allows them to have two quality big men that will be incredibly hard to move and make life difficult for opposition defences.

Dane Brooks

After playing six seasons with the Taranaki Mountainairs in the NZNBL, Brooks had opted to sign on with the Southland Sharks ahead of the 2020 season. When the Sharks announced they would not compete this year, it left the 190cm guard without a team. The Player Draft came along and somehow Brooks was still available at the Giants’ third pick which they subsequently snaffled him up. Whilst he does not have the size of his two teammates, Brooks still represents a danger across the court, averaging 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

HEAD COACH MIKE FITCHETT ON HOW HE ENVISAGES THE TRIO WORKING TOGETHER:

“Mika and Mike will be great to play through in the post, they are both good scorers and facilitators inside. “Dane gives us more athleticism on the wing and also adds to Mika and Mike’s ability to crash the O (offensive) boards.”

Whilst the triple threat will be a huge concern for the opposition sides, Fitchett said monitoring the health and recovery of players with up to three games a week was key to success in the 2020 Sal’s NBL competition.

“Health is going to be a huge factor through this competition,” he said. “I anticipate changing starters, resting guys here and there and generally experimenting with line ups throughout the first half of the league, and then starting to focus in on the playoff rotation as we get closer to the end of the regular season.”

As for a few ones to watch, Fitchett said there was some promising young talents who might surprise this season with more experience in the NZNBL.

“We have a few local Nelson guys that haven’t played a huge amount in the NBL yet, so I am really looking forward to seeing what Riley Bensemann, Nic Trathen and Tysxun Aiolupotea can do in this league,” he said.

Nelson Giants tip off their season in the first game of the year against Taranaki Mountainairs from 5.30pm local time next Tuesday, June 23.

2020 SAL’S NBL NELSON GIANTS INFORMATION:

FULL LIST:

Mika Vukona
Mike Karena
Dane Brooks
Tom Ingham
Josh Bloxham
Nick Trathen
Riley Bensemann
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Zeb Lovell
Thane O’Leary
Theo Johnson
Tommy Garguilo

FIXTURE:

Tuesday June 23 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Thursday June 25 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm
Sunday June 28 vs Jets @ 7:30pm
Tuesday June 30 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Thursday July 2 vs Rams @ 7:30pm
Sunday July 5 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 8 vs Jets @ 5:30pm
Thursday July 9 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 12 vs Nuggets @ 7:30pm
Wednesday July 15 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Saturday July 18 vs Rams @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 19 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 22 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Saturday July 25 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm

2020 Sal’s NBL Team-by-team lists

THE 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown is ready and raring to go with all seven teams not having completed their lists for the upcoming season. The Player Draft was completed last Thursday, and while three days of Trade Period did not not see a move made, a couple of players had to change sides due to college restrictions. Now that is done and dusted, teams are all set for the first tip-off in eight days. The teams all arrive in Auckland on Friday, June 19 with the opening round to run from Tuesday, June 23 through until Sunday, June 28.

Check out the full team lists below.

Auckland Huskies

Izayah Mauriahoohoo Leafa
Tohi Smith Milner
Leon Henry
Taine Murray
Rasheed Al-Kaleem
Tinashe Matambanadzo
Ana Haku
Johnny Fesolai
Marvin Williams-Dunn
Jaylen Gerrand
Nick Brophy
Nathan Wilson

Manawatu Jets

Tom Vodanovich
Hyrum Harris
Jayden Bezzant
Taane Samuel
Nick Fee
Haize Walker
Tia Temata-Frost
Ashton McQueen
Matangirei Hipango
Josiah Laracy
Nelson Kirksey
Kalib Mullins

Taranaki Mountainairs 

Derone Raukawa
Marcel Jones
Shane Temara
Tai Wynyard
Mitch Dance
Francis Mulvihill
Kenneth Tuffin
Denhym Brooke
Zac Easthope
Oscar Robertson
Carlin Davison
Baxter Fenwick

Canterbury Rams

Jack Salt
Taylor Britt
Joe Cook-Green
Alex Talma
Sam Smith
Toby Gilloly
Jack Exeter
Tom Cowie
Thomas Webley
Mac Stodart
Ben Carlile-Smith
Mason Whittaker

Nelson Giants

Mika Vukona
Mike Karena
Dane Brooks
Tom Ingham
Josh Bloxham
Nick Trathen
Riley Bensemann
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Zeb Lovell
Thane O’Leary
Theo Johnson
Tommy Garguilo

Franklin Bulls

Dominique Kelman-Poto
Sam Timmins
Everard Bartlett
Jackson Stubbins
Isaac Davidson
Nick Barrow
Joel Vaiangina
Nikau McCullough
Connor Woodbridge
Joe Reddish
Chris McIntosh
Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape

Otago Nuggets

Jordan Ngatai
Jarrod Kenny
Jordan Hunt
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Benoit Hayman
Darcy Knox
Richie Rodger
Sam Aruwa
Akiva McBirnie-Griffin
Jack Andrew
Matthew Bardsley

NZNBL Player Draft: Team-by-Team picks

YESTERDAY the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Player Draft was run and done with the 84 players who will take part in this year’s New Zealand NBL selected. Otago Nuggets made history being the first team to read out a drafted selection, taking Jordan Ngatai. The first five rounds were completed within an hour and the rest completed a couple of hours later.

With the lists set, now teams could go to the Trade Table over the next few days, concluding on Sunday. Given the high volume of pre-selections that could have taken place – only clubs are aware of the pre-selected players – there is a chance that some clubs were able to bid higher to gain another talent that an opposition player might have wanted. A couple of examples of players to switch allegiances from last season was Mike Karena joining Mika Vukona at the Nelson Giants after being picked up in the second round. The Rams could have picked up Karena after he was a scoring machine for them last year, but had to prioritise Jack Salt and Taylor Britt, allowing the Giants to swoop in and take Vukona. Another example is Manawatu Jets’ co-captain Jackson Stubbins landing at the Franklin Bulls. The Sky Sports coverage at the draft selection mentioned some uncertainty around Stubbins’ availability and work commitments so the Jets chose not to pre-select him. However he could be another the Jets try and get back in the green, black and white.

Following the three-day trade period, teams will finalise their team lists by Sunday night, before players converge on Auckland next Friday, August 19 for the competition to begin the following Tuesday, June 23.

TEAM-BY-TEAM:

Auckland Huskies:

7. Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa
8. Tohi Smith-Milner
21. Leon Henry
22. Taine Murray
35. Rashid Al Kareem
36. Tinashe Matambanadzo
49. Ana Haku
50. Johnny Fesolai
63. Marvin Williams-Dunn
64. Jaylen Gerrand
77. Nick Brophy
78. Nathan Wilson

Canterbury Rams:

5. Jack Salt
10. Taylor Britt
19. Joe Cook-Green
24. Alex Talma
33. Sam Smith
38. Toby Gillooly
47. Jack Exeter
52. Tom Cowie
61. Tom Webley
66. Mac Stodart
75. Ben Carlisle-Smith
80. Mason Whittaker

Franklin Bulls: 

6. Dom Kelman-Poto
9. Sam Timmins
20. Everard Bartlett
23. Jackson Stubbins
34. Isaac Davidson
37. Nick Barrow
48. Joel Vaiangina
51. Nikau McCullough
62. Connor Woodbridge
65. Joe Reddish
76. Chris McIntosh
79. Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape

Manawatu Jets:

3. Tom Vodanovich
12. Hyrum Harris
17. Jayden Bezzant
26. Taane Samuel
31. Nick Fee
40. Haize Walker
45. Tia Tamata-Frost
54. Ashton McQueen
59. Matangirei Hipango
68. Josiah Laracy
73. Tom Power
82. Caleb Mullins

Nelson Giants:

4. Mika Vukona
11. Mike Karena
18. Dane Brooks
25. Tom Ingham
32. Josh Bloxham
39. Nic Trathan
46. Riley Bensemann
53. Tysxun Aiolupotea
60. Zeb Lovell
67. Thane O’Leary
74. Theo Johnson
81. Tommy Gargiulo

Otago Nuggets:

1. Jordan Ngatai
14. Jarrod Kenny
15. Jordan Hunt
28. Kane Keil
29. Josh Aitcheson
42. Benoit Hayman
43. Darcy Knox
56. Richard Roger
57. Sam Aruwa
70. Akiva McBirney-Griffin
71. Jack Andrews
84. Matthew Bardsley

Taranaki Mountainairs:

2. Derone Raukawa (PG/SG, 181/80)
13. Marcel Jones (SF/PF, 203/99)
16. Shane Temara (PF, 206/102)
27. Tai Wynyard (PF/C, 208/116)
30. Mitchell Dance (SF, 193/)
41. Francis Mulvihill
44. Kenneth Tuffin
55. Denhym Brooke
58. Will Heather
69. Oscar Robertson
72. Carlin Davidson
83. Baxter Fenwick