Tag: Sam Smith

2021 NZNBL team review: Canterbury Rams

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Canterbury Rams.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 5th
Wins: 9
Losses: 9

KEY STATS:

Points: 86.1 (5th)
Rebounds: 37.9 (2nd)
Assists: 16.8 (eq. 5th)
Steals: 8.4 (2nd)
Blocks: 1.6 (9th)
Field Goal %: 44.8 (8th)

KEY PLAYERS:

Deshon Taylor

Producing an all-round impressive performance for the Rams, Taylor was consistent across the board, playing in all 18 games and having an impact. One of only four players to run out in every game, and one of only two to start every game, Taylor finished the season with a team-high 8.3 rebounds, and finished second in points (18.1), assists (4.6) and steals (1.7), able to use the ball effectively in transition. Taylor also was deadly from long-range, nailing 40 three-pointers at 40.8 per cent efficiency, whilst going at 49.4 per cent from the field overall. When at the line, Taylor was reasonably reliable two, with a 73.5 per cent efficiency.

Looking at his best performances, it was hard to go past his sole double-double performance of 33 points, 10 rebounds – four offensive – six assists and two steals, one of four 30-plus point performances in 2021. Three of those four came in a 16-day streak, putting up 31, 35 and 33-point efforts, to average 29.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals. He did not dip into single-digits once, and only had five games below 20 points, four of which came in his first five games, showing how consistent he was from late May until the finish line.

EJ Singler

Showing all of his ANBL experience, Singler was a star for the Bulls, sharing the top two spots in all the key statistical areas with Taylor. Finishing second on the team for rebounds (4.8), he led the way with points (22.9), assists (4.8) and steals (2.5), providing serious impact across the court at both ends. Putting up a third of his three-point attempts, Singler shot at around 45.3 per cent from the field, making 40 of 121 three-point attempts. From the foul line he was almost a monty, nailing 100 of 113 at 88.5 per cent accuracy. Along with Taylor, Singler was the only other starter in every one of the 18 games.

Singler did not quite have the consistency of Taylor, with a slow start to the season off limited minutes, but then a ridiculous game of 41 points mid-season. In the end, he had six games of 20-plus points, with the 41-point effort against Taranaki Mountainairs, accompanied by nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals. He had some massive games off the boards though, picking up six double-doubles with points and rebounds, of which the highest combination was his 26 points and 13 rebounds, and his closest to a triple-double being 17 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals coming against Franklin Bulls on May 22.

OTHERS:

Quintin Bailey contributed across all 18 games on his way to 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds, with Alex Talma (7.2 points, 4.6 rebounds) the other player to run out in every match. Jack Salt only managed half a season due to injury, but the dominant big man managed the 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in nine matches, while Max Darling put up 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in seven. Sam Smith (6.9 points, 3.6 rebounds) was the other player to hold up well throughout season 2021.

SUMMARY:

The Canterbury Rams were never an easy team to play against, and whilst they missed out on the NZNBL finals, they won nine games at a 50 per cent winning ratio. One cannot help but think had Salt (injury) and Darling (ANBL commitments) been available the whole season, that finals may well have been a reality for the Rams.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Huskies stun Sharks, Hawks topple Bulls and Jets bounce back against Rams

THREE games of single-digit results including one overtime match has seen one of the nights of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season. The Auckland Huskies needed extra time to shake off a fast-finishing Southland Sharks for the Sharks’ first loss at home of the year, Hawkes Bay Hawks did enough through the middle two quarters to down the Franklin Bulls in a closer-than-expected five-point win, and Manawatu Jets bounced back from their disappointing loss to last placed Taranaki Mountainairs the night before to win by seven over Canterbury Rams.

The match of the night belonged to the Huskies-Sharks, with the game going right down to the wire. Yet to lose at home, the Sharks lead by a narrow two points at the first break. That turned on its head as Tom Vodanovich stepped up a gear and the Huskies won the next two terms by a combined 12 points to lead by double digits at the final break. Southland roared back to life in the last term, levelling the scores by the final buzzer, with a Tom Cowie layup in the final minute ensuring the teams finished at 83-apiece. The overtime period saw both teams trading blows, with Justin Bibbs turning up the heat for the Huskies and scoring the last seven points for his side to come from four points down, to hit the front with less than a minute left courtesy of a three-point jumper.

Vodanovich had some kind of night, nailing five of 11 from long range on his way to 33 points, 13 rebounds – six offensive – and two assists. He teamed up well with Bibbs who also lit up from long-range putting together five of 13 from beyond the arc to finish with 27 points, five assists and three rebounds. Chris Johnson (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks) and Dontae Nance (11 points, three rebounds and three assists) also hit double-figure points in the win.

Josh Cunningham was the standout for the Sharks, shooting at 72 per cent, picking up 28 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, whilst Brayden Inger (20 points, five rebounds) and Alonzo Burton (19 points, five rebounds and two steals) both stood tall. Dom Kelman-Poto also impressed off the boards with seven points, 11 rebounds and three assists, whilst Toby Gillooly (nine points, seven rebounds and three assists) was strong.

Hawkes Bay Hawks came from 12 points down at quarter time to win the next two quarters by 11 and eight points respectively and lead Franklin Bulls by seven with a term to play. Whilst the visitors did cut into the lead by two points in the final term, the Hawks won 95-90 overall to maintain their good form in the top two.

Devondrick Walker was phenomenal with 21 points – five of 13 from long-range – seven steals, four assists and four rebounds, whilst Ethan Rusbatch had 21 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Jordan Hunt came off the bench for 20 points and two steals, whilst Rhys Vague (12 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Hyrum Harris (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) were also impressive.

Kyrin Galloway had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a big double-double for the Bulls, as he and Isaac Davidson (21 points, six rebounds and three assists) did the bulk of the scoring for the losers. Jett Thompson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Adam Dunstan (10 points, six rebounds) also worked hard.

After losing to the last placed Airs the night before, Manawatu Jets got the better of Canterbury Rams by seven points. Trailing by six points at the first break, and seven by half-time, the Jets dominated the third term to score 26-14, then finished off strongly to win 92-85 and bounce back from their defeat.

Daishon Knight was unbelievable with the best games of the year, putting up 30 points, 16 rebounds – 11 defensive – and 11 assists, as well as three steals in a full 40 minutes of court time. Also spending 40 minutes on the court, Deandre Daniels managed the 22 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three steals, whilst Nikau McCullough had 25 points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench.

EJ Singler had a team-high 26 points, as well as eight rebounds and two steals for the Rams, with Deshon Taylor (23 points, five rebounds and three assists) also stepping up. Max Darling (15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) contributed off the bench, whilst Sam Smith (eight points) and Jack Salt (six points, three rebounds) also shared in the points despite the loss.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Rams raid Franklin to keep Final Four hopes alive

CANTERBURY Rams have kept their Final Four hopes alive with a crucial 16-point win on the road against Franklin Bulls in last night’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) contest. The Bulls were all but out of the race, and the loss put another nail in their finals coffin, but the Rams are very much alive after grabbing their seventh win of the season, and keeping pressure on the fourth placed Otago Nuggets. Winning all four quarters, the Rams proved the clear dominant side, taking home the victory, 87-71.

A low-scoring first term saw the Rams take an early lead in the match, scoring 17 points to 12. They extended on that by three with a higher scoring 26-23 second term to head into the half with an eight-point advantage. Out to a double-digit lead by the final break following another impressive term, the Rams finished off how they started, with a 20-15 final quarter and securing the standout 16-point win at Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre.

Aside from the Bulls leading by seven points midway through the first term, once the Rams hit the front they never surrendered that lead. In fact, midway through the final term it had blown out to 20 points – after the Bulls had cut the deficit to 10 points early in the quarter – before the Bulls managed to reduce it to 16 by the final buzzer.

Canterbury Rams scored at a higher clip from the field (48 to 43 per cent), and hit double the three-pointers in the match (8-4), with the Bulls only scoring at a woeful 15 per cent from long-range. The Rams had two less turnovers (18-20), but the teams shared the points from turnovers (18-18), as well as assists (17-17) and steals (10-10). They did record more second chance points (13-7) and bench points (27-11). Franklin recorded one more rebound (38-37) and four more blocks (5-1) as well as additional points in the paint (48-42).

In an even team performance, Deshon Taylor won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours for his 24 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals. He pipped Rams teammate, EJ Singler who had the 18 points, 12 rebounds – eight defensive – and six assists. Also productive were Sam Smith (12 points, three rebounds), the returning Jack Salt (eight points, five rebounds) and Max Darling (eight points, two rebounds and two assists).

For the Bulls, Manel Ayol continued his good form with 20 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists in an impressive effort, whilst Isaac Davidson played his best game of the season upon return – despite only scoring one of five from long-range – picking up 18 points, six assists and five rebounds. Kyrin Galloway (17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks), Denhym Brooke (five points, six rebounds, three steals, three blocks and two assists) and Joseph Nunag (seven points, two rebounds and two assists) also tried hard.

Both teams have a 48-hour turnaround and have to hit the road, with the Bulls facing Hawkes Bay Hawks, and the Rams taking on Manawatu Jets tomorrow night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Double delight for NZNBL as three-point thrillers leave crowds on edge of their seats

TWO absolute thrillers left crowds on the edge of their seats in both Otago and Canterbury, with the Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams winning their respective New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) matches against Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls. In what was a coincidental moment, both games finished with the score at 89-86, though the Nuggets-Giants clash needed an overtime period to decide the result.

In the overtime thriller, Nelson Giants started strongly to race out to an eight-point quarter time lead, then built on that to put up a 14-point buffer at the half. Just when it looked like the visitors were going to run away with the contest, the Nuggets roared to life and piled on 21 points to 13 in the third. That cut the deficit back to six points, and in a counter contrasting second half to first half, scored 14 more points all-up compared to their opponents.

Despite drawing level at the final buzzer courtesy of an Isaiah Moss fade away triple in the final 30 seconds, and Sam Timmins handing his side a two-point lead to begin overtime, the Giants scored five of the last six points when the teams were level at 84-apiece to win by just the three, 89-86. The Nuggets actually shot more effectively with 51 per cent of their attempts from the field going in (compared to the Giants’ 41 per cent), whilst they also had more rebounds (43-42), assists (18-10) and points in the paint (52-36), whilst the Giants had more steals (13-5) and less turnovers (11-17), punishing their opponents from turnovers (27-7).

Hunter Hale was far and away best on court with 41 points for the Giants, dropping six of 13 from long-range, as well as picking up nine rebounds, five steals and three steals. Donte Ingram (17 points, three rebounds and five steals) and Nic Trathen (15 points, four rebounds) also had plenty of it, whilst Sam Dempster (11 rebounds) had plenty of impact off the boards.

Moss (21 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Gerasimos McKay (21 points, seven rebounds and three assists) shared the top-scoring duties, whilst Timmins dominated off the boards with 14 rebounds – 12 defensive – to go with 18 points and eight rebounds. Richie Rodger (11 points, three rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals) were the others who stood out in defeat.

Meanwhile in the other match, Canterbury Rams managed to overpower Franklin Bulls with a dominant second half. It was a similar match to the Nuggets-Giants, with one team taking control in the first half, before the other team swung the momentum back in their favour for the second half. On this occasion it was the Bulls who raced out to an 11-point half-time lead, which did not prove enough as the Rams poured on 50 points to 36 in the second half to pip them at the post. They did lead by six with 25 seconds left, but the last three points went the way of the Bulls to cut the final margin to three, 89-86.

The Rams proved to be more effective shooting with 43 per cent from the field – including 34 per cent from long-range – compared to the Bulls’ 38 per cent, whilst the Rams also lead the rebounds (46-42), assists (19-9) and points in the paint (38-28). The Bulls won the steals (10-6) and blocks, and also had a remarkable 19 less personal fouls (12-31), but could not get the job done.

Deshon Taylor knocked down 35 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win, but it was EJ Singler (17 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals) who almost picked up a triple-double in a complete performance. Sam Smith (12 points, 10 rebounds and two steals) managed a double-double, whilst Quintin Bailey (12 points, five rebounds) was also busy for the Rams.

Josh Selby was a lone-hand for the Bulls, knocking down a remarkable 42 points in a bid to drag his team across the line, whilst also recording seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Zane Waterman (19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists) had a double-double and Jaylen Gerrand (10 points, four rebounds) also reached double-figure points in the loss.

Nelson Giants have the quickest turnaround of the four teams, playing their third game of the round tomorrow against Southland Sharks, whilst the Franklin Bulls and Otago Nuggets go head-to-head on Thursday night. Canterbury Rams have an extended break until May 30, when they host Hawkes Bay Hawks.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints and Hawks continue unbeaten runs as Giants win first of three matches

WELLINGTON Saints and Hawkes Bay Hawks remained undefeated, and Nelson Giants won their first of three Round 4 matches in a blockbuster night of action in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night. The trio of clashes provided plenty of individual highlights and high-scoring efforts, with the Saints defeating Franklin Bulls by 29 points, Giants knocking off Canterbury Rams by 12, and the Hawks winning in a nail-biter against Taranaki Mountainairs by three points.

In the Saints’ win over the Bulls, Wellington always looked in control and showed why they are the team to beat this season, winning every quarter by at least four points. The home team created some great separation in the first half to race out to a 55-38 lead. Whilst the Bulls managed to keep it closer in the second half, the Saints again poured on back-to-back quarters of 28 points to race past the hundred point mark and win 111-82.

Kerwin Roach Jr had a match-high 22 points and nine rebounds, as well as five assists and three steals in the win, shooting four of 10 from beyond the arc. Dion Prewster (13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) did not have the same success from long-range with none from four attempts, though still contributed strongly. Tohi Smith-Milner (14 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Taane Samuel (12 points, six rebounds, three assists) were both impressive, whilst Romaro Gill (17 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Isaac Miller-Jose (10 points, five rebounds, and two assists) averaged a point a minute coming off the bench.

Josh Selby led the way with 16 points and four assists for the Bulls, sharing the team-high points with Dane Brooks (16 points, two rebounds, three steals and two blocks). Jaylen Gerrand (12 points, two assists) and Jett Thompson (10 points) both reached double-figure points, as Zane Waterman had a quiet night by his standards with shooting (seven points) but still managed the team-high six rebounds and five assists in the loss.

In a much tighter contest, Hawkes Bay Hawks ground out a three-point win against a fast-finishing Taranaki Mountainairs. The Hawks led by five points at quarter time and raced out to a 14-point lead by the main break, looking well on their way to maintaining their unbeaten streak. The Airs refused to give in however, piling on 51 points to 40 in the second half to come close, but fall short, with a Marcel Jones triple attempt for a bid to level the scores in the last few seconds missing and consolidating the Hawks’ victory.

Ethan Rusbatch dominated for the Hawks, knocking down 33 points – including a whopping seven of 14 from three-point range – and five rebounds, whilst Jonathan Janssen picked up a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Derone Raukawa (10 points, seven assists) reached double-figure points, while Hyrum Harris (eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals) did it all, and Everard Bartlett finished with seven points, four assists and three rebounds.

Francis Mulvihill (14 points) and Tai Wynyard (13 points, five rebounds and three steals) contributed to the Airs’ cause, but it was another dominant performance from Jones that kept them in the contest. Mr Double Double piled on 30 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in another big performance. Haize Walker managed the five points and six assists, while Aaron Bailey-Nowell contributed nine points and two rebounds off the bench.

Meanwhile Nelson Giants grabbed their second win of the season and first of a heavy schedule this round, defeating the Rams after a strong second term. The Giants only lead by one point at quarter time, but then piled on 30-16 in the second quarter to race out to a 15-point advantage at the half. That lead increased to 17 at the final break, before the Rams made inroads in the final term to reduce it to 12, but it was a case of too little, too late, going down 91-79.

Hunter Hale dropped 37 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists in a remarkable effort to drag his side to victory. Donte Ingram (19 points, eight rebounds and four assists) and Thomas Ingham (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also impressed, whilst Sam Dempster (five points nine rebounds and two assists) was dominant off the boards. Nic Trathen contributed seven points off the bench.

Deshon Taylor was the top scorer for the Rams with 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, well supported by a dominant double-double effort from EJ Singler (18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals). Alex Talma had the 14 points, eight rebounds and two steals off the bench, as Sam Smith (seven points, three assists) and Ben Constable (six points, four rebounds) also contributed on the night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints make statement as Rams claim first win

WELLINGTON Saints have cruised to a massive 32-point win to make a statement to the rest of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), proving too good for Southland Sharks in a dominant top of the table clash. In the other match, Canterbury Rams secured their first win with a hard-fought 11-point victory over Manawatu Jets on the second night of Round 2.

In the Saints’ smashing, Wellington actually started slow to be trailing by seven points at the first break. That soon changed in the second term, as the home team piled on 29 points to 15 to lead by seven themselves. Southland kept themselves in contention by conceding only two extra points heading into the final break, but it only spurred the Saints on, as they slammed home 34 points to 11 to blow out the margin to 32 points during the 105-73 victory.

Washington Saints were terrific from the field, shooting at 68 per cent from two-point range and 50 per cent from three-point range, also knocking down 13 of 14 free throws. The Sharks were solid themselves, but were still lower at 58 and 31 per cent from two and three-point range respectively. The home team won most of the statistics with a plus-five in rebounds (30-25) and assists (19-14), also winning the blocks and steals, and capitalising on the Sharks’ 19 turnovers to score 29 points. Southland marginally were ahead in the points in the paint (48-42).

Dion Prewster was yet again the man to try and stop, knocking down 22 points (66 per cent from the field) with seven rebounds and six assists. Taane Samuel (26 points, four rebounds and two assists) was also busy, as Kerwin Roach Jr (16 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals) and Tohi Smith-Milner (14 points, two rebounds and three steals) produced big. Romaro Gill completed and even starting five with eight points, five rebounds and two steals, while Ken Tuffin hit three of five from long-range to total his nine points.

For the Sharks, there was no standout shooter, but Dom Kelman-Poto had plenty of influence with 11 points – five of six from the field – six rebounds and six assists. Brayden Inger (12 points, two rebounds), Alonzo Burton (12 points, three steals) and Courtney Belger (10 points, two rebounds and two steals) all reached double-figure points, while Sione Helu had nine points and four rebounds off the bench in 16 minutes.

Meanwhile Canterbury Rams secured their first win of the season with an 87-76 triumph over Manwatu Jets. The Rams led by six at the first break, and while they lost the second term by a point, quickly got back on top to win the second half by six and secure the 11-point win.

The Jets actually shot more accurate from the field with a 43 per cent field goal efficiency compared to the Rams’ 42 per cent, though the Rams got to the line more to score 14 of 19 from free throw range to the Jets’ five of six. Canterbury led the rebounds (46-39) assists (22-11) and steals (14-8), had less turnover (14-19) and capitalised on more second chance points (18-14) and points from turnovers (21-17), while the Jets had one less personal foul (16-17) and five more turnovers (19-14).

EJ Singler won Player of the Match for an almost triple-double of 20 points – including five of seven from long-range – eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the win. Deshon Taylor (16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals also stood out, while Jack Salt (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks) was also influential. Other key scorers included Sam Smith (12 points, four assists and two steals) and Alex Talma off the bench (11 points, four rebounds).

For the Jets, Daishon Knight (24 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) dominated and teamed up well with Jayden Bezzant (20 points, five rebounds and two steals). Shane Temara also reached double-figure points and an almost double-double of 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists, while Jake McKinay (seven points, six rebounds) was the pick of the Jets off the bench.

Manawatu Jets and Southland Sharks both have the quick turnaround, with last night’s losers up again tonight facing Otago Nuggets and Hawke’s Bay Hawks on the road respectively. The Canterbury Rams wait until May 14 to face off again, this time against Auckland Huskies, while the Wellington Saints will play the day after up against the Nelson Giants.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Hawks swoop to claim impressive win over Rams

HAWKES Bay Hawks have swooped in the bookend terms to post an impressive 14-point win over Canterbury Rams. The Hawks dominated the opening term, racing to a 13-point lead at quarter time over the Rams, and whilst the Rams did managed to claw back some of the deficit, another standout fourth term sealed the deal and the home fans went home happy with a 104-90 victory.

The Hawks tipped off the game in style with a dominant 30-17 opening term to bolt to a 13-point advantage at the first break. Canterbury hit back by cutting the deficit to single digits at the half, and then both teams could not be separated in the third term. In the end though, a 29-24 final quarter ultimately pushed the result beyond doubt as the Hawks won by 14 points.

Canterbury actually shot more effectively from the field, knocking down 49 per cent of the field goals the Rams took, with a 57 per cent two-point percentage. Near-identical three-point range accuracies cancelled each other out, though the Hawks’ ability to get to the free throw line and convert (21 of 22 to six of 11) really counted. In the end, the Hawks scored 42 rebounds to 33, five steals to three and punished the Rams off turnovers with 24 points to seven. The Rams also topped the assist count (19-16), and had double the points off the bench (26-3), but the Hawks were too consistent across the board.

Devondrick Walker knocked down a game-high 26 points, as well as five rebounds and five assists, whilst Derone Raukawa shone thanks to his 25 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Hyrum Harris (18 points, seven rebounds and three assists), Jonathan Janssen (12 points, nine rebounds and two assists) and Ethan Rubatsch (10 points, six rebounds and two blocks) were also strong contributing starters. The experienced Everard Bartlett was the only scorer off the bench, but held up his own with 13 points – including three of five from long-range – two rebounds and two assists.

For the Rams, Quintin Bailey had the most points with 21, as well as five rebounds and two assists, but had plenty of help despite the loss. EJ Singler had the 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists – though seven turnovers – while Deshon Taylor also shared with 15 points, as well as four assists and two rebounds. Sam Smith (10 points, five rebounds and four assists) and Derek Albertsen (10 points, two steals) reached double-figures, though it was the work of Ben Constable from three-point range (four of five) which saw the deadeye shooter finish with 16 points and six rebounds.

Hawkes Bay Hawks next play on Saturday night when they take on the unbeaten Southland Sharks, while the Rams will play the night before against Manawatu Jets.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other double-ups for the round:

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

Picture credit: NZNBL

2020 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.

Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Nuggets v Rams and Jets v Airs

THREE teams down and four remain in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series after the first two nights of post-season action. Last placed Canterbury Rams survived a challenge from Nelson Giants on night one and came from behind to put away Auckland Huskies with an inspired third term last night. Taranaki Mountainairs were able to hold off Franklin Bulls in the other elimination final yesterday to make it through to the semis. Now the Rams take on top of the table Otago Nuggets, and the Airs face up against Manawatu Jets.

Otago Nuggets vs. Canterbury Rams

Not many people would have seen this as a matchup for the semi-finals, but the last placed Canterbury Rams have made it through to the penultimate round to take on the Otago Nuggets. The winner progresses through to the grand final and the loser bows out for 2020. Will the Nuggets live up to their top billing at the end of the home and away season? Or will the Rams’ fairytale run from last to the title continue?

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 22 | 20 | 12 | 23 (77)
Otago Nuggets 28 | 28 | 9 | 22 (87)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Canterbury Rams 14 | 13 | 20 | 27 (74)
Otago Nuggets 13 | 14 | 26 | 22 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 17.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Sam Smith (Rams) 17.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals
Thomas Webley (Rams) 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.5 steals
Alex Talma (Rams) 12.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.5 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 20 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Nuggets must ensure the young Rams do not have a purple patch in which they can pile on the scores quickly. The last two nights Canterbury has dug deep after facing a deficit and piled on runs to hit the front and never lose it. The likes of Jordan Ngatai and Kane Keil need to be on their game, whilst the two most important people could be Jordan Hunt and Jarrod Kenny. The former needs to win the head-to-head over Thomas Webley after Webley’s match-winning performance last night, and he has the strength, but will need to avoid his opponent using his athleticism to get to the basket. Kenny won Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, and he needs to hassle his opponent whether it be Taylor Britt or Reuben Te Rangi and make sure they have an off night, whilst trying to hurt them the other way with some long-range bombs.

The last two night previews have been talking about the stars in Britt and Te Rangi, but boy did the Rams really come of age against the Huskies and look like genuine title contenders. Just as Auckland would guard one hot-handed scorer, another would pop up. Webley played his best game of the year when it counted, while Sam Smith took over Te Rangi’s scoring duties and keeping in mind the Rams built a lead in the third erm with Te Rangi and and Britt combining for just 11 points at one stage. Alex Talma also missed last night and could provide much height on the glass, but then again, do the Rams need him? As the Nuggets are a little smaller than the Huskies and more spread in their shooters. They have to limit Ngatai’s influence though as he is the star on court who can put on a one-man show.

WHO WINS?

What a clash this shapes up to be. Otago Nuggets have to be the pick given they finished first, but Canterbury Rams are running on a high right now and look like they could beat anyone on court. They have to perform at their best for longer to knock off the league’s best side this season, but anything is possible in this Finals Series.

Manawatu Jets vs. Taranaki Mountainairs

In a huge second semi-final, the Manawatu Jets are looking to bounce back from their qualifying final loss to the Nuggets with a win over Taranaki Mountainairs. The Airs knocked off Franklin Bulls last night and were effectively equal second with the Jets and Huskies despite finishing fourth. These two teams are the league’s highest scoring teams, and looking at their past two encounters, expect it to go a similar way, with the winner reaching triple-figures if not both sides.

PAST MATCHES:

Manawatu Jets 22 | 27 | 39 | 14 (102)
Taranaki Airs 23 | 28 | 23 | 19 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Manawatu Jets 22 | 32 | 31 | 33 (118)
Taranaki Airs 25 | 23 | 32 | 23 (103)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 0 steals, 2 blocks
Taane Samuel (Jets) 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.0 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 17.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 27.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Marcel Jones (Airs) 20.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks
Shane Temara (Airs) 17.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 21.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 23.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Jets will be keen to see the return of Tom Vodanovich for this clash after missing the Otago Nuggets loss. Despite being this season’s MVP and a notorious high scorer, Vodanovich has not been able to punish the Airs the same way he has other sides, scoring 17 points in both matches and only having a real impact off the boards in the first encounter with 14 rebounds. The load has been shared around and realistically they need to continue to do that because unpredictability is the best key to victory. Hyrum Harris is a terrific facilitator, but he might need to score more if Vodanovich is still sore or having a down game, while Taane Samuel could be the wildcard in the pack, being the best performing player for Manawatu across the two games. They need to match Marcel Jones off the boards and try and limit Derone Raukawa as much as possible.

The Airs might have gone down in the past two encounters, but would fancy themselves here if they can get off the chain. They have a lot of underrated players, and bench players who can come off and have spurts of impact, whereas the Jets have such a strong starting five that they can get the majority of their points from them. Raukawa and Jones are hard to stop, but it will need to be the next group such as Shane Temara – who is almost averaging a double-double against the Jets – as well as Ken Tuffin, Mitch Dance and Francis Mulvihill who really need stand up and provide support to the All-Star duo. It will also be important to try and read Harris and his passes to limit the scoring power of the Jets’ bigs, particularly Vodanovich.

WHO WINS?

The two highest scoring sides are set to put on a real show. Both sides have elite talents who can shoot or share the ball around, with strong rebounding and assist numbers across the board. They are both also more than capable defensively with some huge steal numbers, but the Jets will start as favourites in this one. With two wins from two games thus far, Manawatu need to keep doing what they have done in the past, but you cannot discount the Airs who at their best are a quality lineup.