Tag: samuel smith

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.

Nuggets reach first grand final in franchise history, halt Rams’ run

LIKE all great stories, there is eventually an ending. This was the case for the Canterbury Rams’ spectacular New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Finals Week run, as they fell to the minor premiers and championship favourites, the Otago Nuggets. In what was a clinic from the Nuggets’ marquee signings, Jordan Hunt in particular helped elevate his side to their Franchise’s first ever Grand Final appearance, after surgically defeating a fatigued Rams squad, 97-79.

Knowing full well that Canterbury was not fully rested, Hunt expressed post-game that it was a major point for him and his side to exploit. “We just wanted to come out strong,” said Hunt. “It was pretty tough on the Rams coming off of two previous games in two days, so we just tried to put the foot on early and keep it there.”

OTAGO NUGGETS 29 | 25 | 27 | 16 (97)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 17 | 18 | 22 (79)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Having already pulled of remarkable upsets in their first and second elimination finals against the Nelson Giants and the Auckland Huskies, Canterbury’s biggest and most challenging opponent stood directly in front of them.

Pre-dating their third matchup, the Nuggets had emerged victorious over their South Island neighbours on both occasions. But, with both of those meetings being decided by 10 points or less, the Rams were not an immediate write-off before the opening tip. However, coming off a strong qualifying final triumph over the Manawatu Jets, it certainly seemed a ‘David vs Goliath-type’ line-up for the two sides and Otago was determined to win the franchise’s first NZNBL title.

Number one pick Jordan Ngatai kicked off the proceedings with an aggressive layup with his favoured left hand, while Joshua Aitcheson added to Nuggets confident start. Then 100 seconds in, an up-and-under layup by Rams’ captain Taylor Britt on Defensive Player of the Year Jarrod Kenny, got the second of the two teams up off the ground.

The ball started to find some range during the middle stages of the first quarter as both sides starting looking to the deep-ball, and at an efficient rate. A 35-second stretch saw back-to-back-to-back threes from Rams Toby Gillooly and Alexander Talma and Otago’s Kenny, highlighting the accurate shooting in the opening 10 minutes of play.

Keeping Mick Downer’s squad at arm’s length during the first term, a corner-three via Hunt extended Otago’s advantage to greater than two possessions, helping the Nugs to an advantageous 29-22 quarter-time lead. The Nuggets maintained 61 per cent shooting from the field off of 11 made attempts, nine of which were created through assists, as Hunt and Ngatai accumulated nine and eight points apiece amongst a fast-paced first term.

Another Kenny triple extended Otago’s lead to 10 points kicking off the second, but the Rams tried another approach of scoring, which came evident throughout the duration of the period. Going with a twin-tower formation between Talma and Thomas Webley, Canterbury hammered Otago’s frontcourt around the rim with close-range shots. But the Nuggets continued to capitalise on easy baskets, more times than not through dribble penetration and lacklustre help defence courtesy of the Rams.

Canterbury’s second half prospects of a comeback were hindered further, following a put back layup from Hunt. Otago held a handsome 54-39 half-time lead as a result of forcing numerous turnovers with Canterbury’s total at nine. Talma led his side in points at the main break, but with Hunt, Ngatai and Kenny each in double-digits at this stage, the Rams needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they were to claw their way back into the match.

With the Rams shooting 40 per cent leading into the third quarter, the red and black needed to hit their shots and quickly with time running out. But the second half started with defence for the Rams, as Reuben Te Rangi’s statement block on Ngatai set the tone for the next 10 minutes.

Even though both teams struggled to convert from the field, the Nuggets at least found some success on their shots, slowly but surely stringing together a 7-0 run to begin the second half and pushing their already commanding lead to 20 points. With the Rams desperately needing solutions, Brent Matehaere’s squad could smell blood and looked to their ball movement to deliver one last debilitating blow to a struggling Canterbury outfit.

As more of Otago’s bench players were getting some court time, fatigue became more and more of a factor in the later stages of the contest, as the Rams just could not keep up with the top-ranked seed in the League. And after Kane Keil’s reverse layup with 20 seconds remaining in the third, the 24-point lead (81-57) in favour of the Nuggets looked insurmountable for Canterbury, while Hunt continued his rampage, sitting pretty with 28 points through three phases.

Despite Canterbury’s roster depth and winning out in the bench points statistic, there was simply no answer for Otago’s marquee signings. This, coupled with the fact that the Rams were playing their third game in as many days, marked a battle that the underdogs just could not win.

One last charge for the Rams would ensue, off the back of Samuel Smith and Benjamin Carlile-Smith baskets, bringing the deficit to as little as 13 points. But following Darcy Knox’s layup and Ngatai’s three with a few seconds left, the Nuggets would cross the finish line cementing their place in the club’s first Final ever, knocking off the dark-horse Rams 97-79.

Otago’s 50 per cent shooting carried them for all four quarters as well as their 22 assists, capping off a well-rounded team effort on the night.

Leading them through the game, Hunt’s game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds earned him man of the match honours, as Ngatai and Kenny added 23 and 16 points each, as well as both of players doling out seven assists.

Sam Smith led the Rams in scoring with a flurry of late buckets, compiling a modest 13 points. Meanwhile, the duo of captain Britt and Webley combined for 24 points, whereas Te Rangi concluded his night with 10, alongside three rebounds and three assists.

The Rams’ Cinderella story came to an unfortunate ending last night after surprising most pundits to this point, but the Nuggets were plainly the more superior side over four quarters and can now look forward to their first ever grand final appearance on Saturday since their inception in 1990 when they face the Jets.

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuggets win by one, sentence Rams to eighth straight loss

AFTER a glacial first half of play between the Canterbury Rams and the Otago Nuggets, the effective defence of Brent Matahere’s side and Jordan Ngatai’s player of the game performance was enough to earn their side the gutsy one-point win in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

CANTERBURY RAMS 14 | 13 | 20 | 27 (74)
OTAGO NUGGETS 13 | 14 | 26 | 22 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Knowing they needed some answers if they were to end their seven-game skid, the Rams needed to attack the rim early with Reuben Te Rangi looking to aid Taylor Britt from the field.

This became evident, as the Rams opened up a 9-3 start six minutes in, with each of the two getting on the scoreboard early. But with neither side able to convert consistently in the first quarter, there were few highlights in the opening 10 minutes.

A pull-up three from Josh Aitcheson at the top of the key put the Nuggets ahead with a less than thirty seconds to play. But a nifty layup from Alexander Talma would give the Rams the minimal one-point lead heading into the second. As a result of this, neither side managed to shoot 40 per cent from the field or turn the ball over less than five times in a scrappy first period.

An ideal start to the second quarter thanks to Te Rangi and Samuel Smith, earned Canterbury some breathing room, leading by eight points at one stage early on in the second.

After a well-executed charge foul by Kane Keil gave the Nuggets some momentum,  as the following play Keil would nail an off-balanced floater forcing the Rams to lack solutions in the second quarter. A couple minutes later, in what was another low-scoring quarter, a contact layup each from Jarrod Kenny and Aitcheson trimmed the deficit to two points.

Following the trading of baskets in the last couple of minutes, layups by Kenny once again and first round draft pick Ngatai, tied the contest up by the end of the first half 27-27, one of the lowest scoring first halves in the NZNBL this season.

At the conclusion of the first two quarters, the shooting struggles improved slightly for both sides. The Nuggets earned the majority of their points (six) from the free-throw line, indicating a more aggressive brand of basketball. Meanwhile, the Rams led in virtually all categories including rebounds, assists and steals, despite giving up 12 turnovers in the process.

A tidy 6-2 start to the second half for the Nuggets, put Otago in the driver’s seat thanks to Ngatai and Kenny kickstarting what would be a more action-packed quarter.

With individual players starting to knock down shots and accumulate double-digit totals, the floor would start to open up gradually. In particular, this included a monstrous slam dunk by Ngatai, which was followed by a contact layup by Akiva McBirney-Griffin forcing Canterbury to call a timeout.

After converting both of his free-throws, Samuel Aruwa would aid his side to a four-point lead. This preceded another Ngatai layup to give the Nuggets a six-point edge at the final break 51-45, as Otago started to threaten the Rams with a possible eighth loss in a row.

The Rams got off on the right foot, knocking down their opening three attempts of the final quarter. But initially, it failed to create a foothold in the deficit, as Otago consistently bounced back with field goals of their own.

Heading into the halfway point of the final term, Canterbury’s Smith contributed back-to-back-to-back-to-back layups in a bid to help his side draw even with time to spare. But again, the Nuggets frustratingly continued to keep the Rams at arm’s length.

Eventually, Canterbury finally started to make some headway off the back of Bailey’s floater with two minutes yet to be played trailing by one point, but Keil’s layup displaced the Rams further by two points, leading 72-69.

A three-pointer by Aitcheson followed by a block from Jordan Hunt all but sealed the game with 48 seconds remaining. A last second three-pointer by Rams’ guard Smith cut the deficit to a point, but it came too late, as time would expire on the Rams for the eighth consecutive time, falling to the Nuggets 74-75.

In what was only a one-point loss, the Rams would leave the floor knowing that it was their game to lose, as they accumulated a debilitating 21 turnovers. This was easily the standout statistic for the Rams, despite managing to shoot an efficient 46 per cent of their field goal attempts and lead in almost all categories across the board.

While the turnovers came in droves for the Rams, certain individuals had respectable nights on the whole. Smith, who finished his night with 22 points, four assists and four rebounds, was one of those players. Whereas, Talma submitted 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists, next to Britt who added just 12 points and five rebounds.

For Otago, it was a grinded out effort for Ngatai, who finished with man of the match honours. Amassing 25 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Aitcheson slotted in 12 points next to Kenny’s 11 and five rebounds.

The Nuggets improve their record to six wins and four losses in a much-needed win after their depressing one-point loss to the Airs on Tuesday. Meanwhile the Rams’ losing slide increases to eight games, pulling their record down deeper and deeper in the league’s standings, with a record of three wins and eight losses.

Otago line up again on Saturday, this time against the Franklin Bulls in what will be a battle of second and third. The winner of the contest will also tie with the Airs on top of the ladder in a match full of meaning this late in the season. On the other hand, it will be a battle of the two worst performing teams in the NZNBL, as the Rams face the Giants, where we will see one of the two teams’ losing streaks come to an end. Will it be Canterbury’s eight-game slide or Nelson’s streak of four? We will have an answer on Saturday night.

Huskies hunt down Rams, earn first ever back-to-back wins

AUCKLAND Huskies can head home knowing what a winning streak feels like, earning back-to-back wins for the first time this season thanks to terrific three-point shooting which proved to be the difference in toppling a struggling Canterbury Rams outfit, 88-81.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 18 | 30 | 28 | 12 (88)
CANTERBURY RAMS 24 | 12 | 18 | 27 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies were flexing their shooting muscles all over the floor early on, after Taine Murray’s layup and Leon Henry’s three-pointer kick-started Auckland’s night. Taylor Britt took on the immediate task of getting the Rams up and going, as he put his name in the scorer’s list immediately.

Surprisingly though, it was Murray that carried the majority of the Huskies’ early scoring output, amassing eight of his side’s opening 11 points, while Britt collected seven of his side’s first ten.

Even though Auckland demonstrated a more physical brand of basketball throughout the first period, Canterbury held their own during the opening ten minutes, particularly on the part of their center in Thomas Webley, scoring seven consecutive points for his side.

A fast-paced offence by the Rams running the fast-break and filling their lanes, caught the Huskies off guard. This being evident by looking at their field-goal percentage at the end of the first quarter, as Canterbury constantly found their way to the rim in odd-man rushes. The Rams went 50 per cent from the field in the first quarter, putting them in good stead for the second, leading Auckland 24-18.

Following a 10-2 start by the Huskies, it quickly undid Canterbury’s hard work in the first quarter, as the Rams suddenly found themselves on the back-foot. Their answer to this, was to continue to hammer Auckland’s frontcourt, passing the ball inside and making their bigs work around the basket.

While the Rams kept looking into the key during the second half, the Huskies continued to test their range from deep, nailing four three-pointers in the second quarter with three coming by way of Izayah Mauriahooho-Le’Afa who finished his first half with 13 points and five steals. This all led to a dominant 30-12 quarter for the Huskies, giving them some much needed breathing room prior to the third period.

Accurate shooting was the key for Auckland, as they concluded two quarters with an efficiency of 44 per cent from the field, thus gifting them a substantial 12-point lead at the main break, 48-36. More importantly however was Canterbury’s turnovers, as they gave up an abhorrent 11 in the first half compared to just five by the Huskies.

Triples by Henry and Murray added onto their marvellous record from behind the arc, as their lead extended further and left the Rams scratching their heads defensively. But overall, the Huskies started to dominate both inside and outside, continuing to force turnovers and run the floor for easy layups.

After a silky three-pointer from Henry again in the corner with four minutes remaining in the third, it was apparent that the floodgates started to open as Auckland approached a 20-point advantage leading into the final break.

To sum up the opening three quarters of play in a single play, a three-pointer by Auckland guard, Reuben Fitzgerald, extended the Husky lead to 22 with five seconds left hoping to finish the contest off before the last ten minutes of play was to even begin.

Four straight points by Canterbury’s Samuel Smith surprised those in attendance, as it helped spark a 8-0 run, cutting their deficit to 14 points three minutes into the fourth quarter.

A pull-up three-ball by Mac Stodart kept the Rams faithful hopeful, and when Britt followed up with two of his own, instantly the Rams were down only six with three minutes still to play in the game. Canterbury now found themselves in the game for the first time since the dwindling moments of the first period.

Britt found his rhythm and the feet of the Huskies were two slow to react as a further layup and jumper by the lefty, now had his side behind by just three points with 150 seconds still to play.

After a deadeye Le’Afa assist to Leon Henry for the reverse layup, Auckland pushed back out to a five-point lead, which was answered with a fastbreak layup by Alexander Talma to bring the Rams to within three points.

Following Le’Afa and Henry’s free-throws with a few seconds remaining, it would bar any late game heroics to knock over the Rams 88-81, thus allowing the Huskies to earn back-to-back wins for the first time in the franchise’s inaugural season.

With it being mentioned numerous times already, it was the ability to nail the ball from deep that gave the Huskies the opportunity to walk off the floor with their heads high. Despite shooting an average 39 per cent from the three, Auckland was able to convert on nine different occasions compared to the Rams’ six. Additionally, the tremendous on-ball and off-ball defence from the Wolfpack caused havoc for the other side’s offence, forcing 18 turnovers off of 16 steals.

Britt’s game-high 21 points was as good as it gets in terms of individual performances for Canterbury, as he added six rebounds and four assists to an otherwise strong outing for the Perth Wildcat. Webley would settle for 15 points in 20 minutes of court time, meanwhile Talma maintained his strong rebounding numbers with 14 on the glass.

As for the Huskies, both Le’Afa and Murray accumulated team-high totals with 19 points and three triples each. Whereas Auckland’s captain, Henry, walked away with man-of-the-match honours credited to his 17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.

Thanks to their three-win and four-loss record, the Huskies move off the bottom of the table by a half game leapfrogging the Rams, who have been struggling severely as of late and look to Saturday night to size up against a high-flying Airs side, while the Huskies can enjoy two days rest.

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.

Gigantic first quarter helps Giants upset Rams

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

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

[ … MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rams buckle Airs, extend undefeated start to 3-0

ONLY two teams would remain undefeated in the NZNBL (New Zealand National Basketball League) following Saturday night, after the Canterbury Rams would pull away from the Taranaki Mountainairs in the final period off the back of Taylor Britt and Samuel Smith.

Good shooting and ball movement would also prove to be deciding factors in helping the Rams to build their season record to a league-leading 3-0 start, sitting next to the Otago Nuggets as the only other team yet to be handed a defeat in this season’s fixture.

CANTERBURY RAMS 31 | 25 | 25 | 31 (112)
TARANAKI AIRS 35 | 21 | 17 | 28 (101)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A completely different situation to the previous match on the day, the Canterbury Rams and the Taranaki Mountainairs knew that following their clash, one of the teams would receive their first loss of the season, with the winner to take pole position in the NZNBL standings.

After coming to this realisation, it was Canterbury’s Sam Smith and Taranaki’s Tai Wynyard that got things going for their respective teams trading buckets straight away, but, it was Shane Temara’s two-hand jam that got people on their feet shortly after. The dunk would precede what would turn out to be a high-octane action packed first quarter, as both teams would combine for 66 points to open up the contest.

Despite Taranaki leading by just two possessions heading into the second of four quarters, the Rams had plenty of reasons to be hopeful, with one of them being a certain New Zealand Tall Black in Taylor Britt. Britt who found his rhythm early, would settle for a modest 13 points by quarter time and carry that over into the second half.

Beginning the second quarter, Britt would make the first half his own, earning himself an and-one and capping off a 6-0 start for Canterbury, opening up the second period, thereby flipping the script and gifting the Rams a two-point lead within a minute of play. The Perth Wildcats development player would finish with 22 points through 20 minutes of game time by the main break, as both sides were deadlocked at 56-56 at half-time.

While Derone Raukawa was maintaining the fact that he could provide on the scoreboard for the Airs, it would take a whole half for Marcel Jones to get going. However, he would make his presence known at the start of the second half with an impressive jump hook and fadeaway against a tough Rams defence three minutes after the main break.

Starting with six minutes remaining in the championship quarter, two made free-throws from Rams center Thomas Webley would kick off an 8-0 run thanks to three consecutive layups by Webley once again, Mason Whittaker and Tom Cowie, extending their lead to 74-64. In the plays to follow, both teams would trade baskets until Kenneth Tuffin had the final word of the third period with a nice finish around the hoop, cutting the Airs deficit to eight points.

Neutralising Taranaki’s motivations early on with a mid-range jump-shot from Britt to open fourth quarter proceedings, the Rams would keep the Airs at arm’s length for the remainder of the matchup. Taranaki would get within four points on three separate occasions, but it was Smith once again that would polish off the Airs with four minutes remaining, sparking a 10-point scoring run to put his side up by 14, eventuating in a 112-101 triumph for the Rams, as they extend their undefeated season to three games, while Taranaki was defeated for the first time this year.

While both sides would shoot at a relatively good percentage, the Rams outshined the Airs in the three-pointer categories, out-shooting them seven three-pointers to four. But, one of the takeaways Canterbury took to heart heading into their next matchup, was their carelessness taking care of the ball, allowing 12 turnovers, which in turn was the cause of 22 Taranaki points.

It was no surprise that Britt would take man of the match honours following a 30-point performance in little over 31 minutes of game time, but he would also fall one assist shy of a triple double having secured 10 rebounds too. Alongside Britt, Smith would pour it on in yesterday night’s outcome, logging 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, meanwhile Webley and Whittaker would each tack on 12 points apiece.

Looking at Taranaki’s stars of the night, Raukawa continued his good run of form with 25 points on 10 of 17 shooting from the field (58 per cent), whereas a slow first half from Marcel Jones would not stop him from finishing off strong, hustling himself to a 19-point and 14-rebound performance. Furthermore, 14 points and six rebounds summed up a respectable game for Tuffin.

For the Mountainairs, they will have to wait until Tuesday to make amends and get back into the winner’s column, as they are set to take on a winless Huskies outfit. Meanwhile, the Rams can sit idle and rest until Wednesday, where they are scheduled to size up a Manawatu Jets team that is in good form, hot off the stove following their convincing win against Auckland, in what will be a battle of two of the most highly touted teams in the competition.