Tag: southland sharks

2021 NZNBL team review: Southland Sharks

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 Southland Sharks.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 3rd
Wins: 13
Losses: 6

KEY STATS:

Points: 91.3 (3rd)
Rebounds: 37.1 (4th)
Assists: 19.4 (1st)
Steals: 8.3 (3rd)
Blocks: 2.4 (7th)
Field Goal %: 48.3 (2nd)

KEY PLAYERS:

Dom Kelman-Poto

After an impressive year last season in the NZNBL, Kelman-Poto took his game to another level in 2021, making the NZNBL All-Star 5 and being a dominant player across the board. The Sharks’ big man finished with an average of 18.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, topping his side in points and rebounds in what was an overall even effort. He shot at 29.6 per cent from long-range, but capitalised 65.2 per cent of the time from the charity stripe. Kelman-Poto only had two games with single-digit points, and racked up 10 or more rebounds on seven occasions. His last four games were sensational in the Sharks run to the Final Four, with an average of 26.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in that time. His best effort was 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against Canterbury Rams on July 15.

Josh Cunningham

The other big man to team up in tandem with Kelman-Poto was Cunningham, who had a consistent season to be second to his All-Star teammate in both points (14.6) and rebounds (8.2). He finished third overall for the Sharks with assists (2.6), and still managed a steal per game. His field goal percentage was better than half (53.3 per cent) and he scored 67.4 per cent from the free throw line in 2021. Cunningham was the only other player with Kelman-Poto to start in all 19 games, and he had double-figure points in 14 of them. Recording 20-plus points in six matches, Cunningham’s top performance came against the Auckland Huskies on June 26 when he put up 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Courtney Belger

Whilst Kelman-Poto and Cunningham were the rebounding machines, Belger was the facilitator, with the American import averaging a competition-high 5.5 assists per games. Not only did his pinpoint passes into the paint and around the arc, but Belger went to town himself, averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, as well as leading his side in steals (1.8). His shooting percentage was lower (46.2 per cent from the field), but Belger was ultra-reliable from the line, making 69 of his 82 free throws at 84.1 per cent. In his 19 games, Belger had some highs and lows, with 13 games in double-digit points, and two of those were 20-plus. He picked up two double-doubles for the season, with his best dime performance coming against Manawatu Jets on June 11 (22 points, 11 assists), but his best overall performance being a 23-point, eight-rebound and five-assist effort against Canterbury Rams on July 2.

Brayden Inger

Whilst there was plenty of depth at the club, Inger was another valued member of the starting side, standing up in 18 of the 19 games – and coming off the bench in the other. He averaged 14.4 points to rank third at the club for that stat, in the same position for rebounds (4.6). Also averaging a steal per game, Inger was important on transition, and shot a team-high 56 triples at 40.3 per cent, showcasing his deadly long-range accuracy. He picked up double-digit points in all bar four games, and three of those came in the first five matches. His best performance was arguably a 27-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort against Nelson Giants on May 23, though there were plenty of solid efforts throughout 2021.

OTHERS:

Rounding out the starting five, Alonzo Burton picked up 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals, with a host of bench players coming on to provide important roles. The two standouts off the pine were Toby Gillooly (8.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) and Sione Helu (6.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists).

SUMMARY:

The Southland Sharks had a really impressive season, with a consistent starting five, something that was symbolic of the top three sides. Whilst not as dominant at home as the top two teams, the Sharks came agonisingly close to reaching the NZNBL final, and will be well placed for another crack at it next season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Hawks step up in final stanza to claim narrow win over Sharks

HAWKES Bay Hawks will look to dethrone the top of the table Wellington Saints in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Grand Final after an exciting victory over Southland Sharks in the second semi-final last night. The Hawks won in a seven-point thriller against Sharks, after the teams were level at the final break. Now the Saints and Hawks will do battle in the decider tonight at Te Rauparaha Arena.

In a seesawing contest all night, neither team really felt comfortable when they held a lead, as the sides momentum ebbed and flowed and never got beyond 13 points, with double-digits only arising halfway through the last term. The game started with lead changes galore and a high-scoring opening stanza, as the Hawks took the ascendancy to head into quarter time with a seven-point lead. It was never going to be all one-way traffic however, and the Sharks hit back in the second quarter with an impressive 27-16 lead and put it out to a four-point advantage at half-time, which was their largest lead of the game.

Despite putting it out to six early in the third term, that was as far as it got for the Sharks, as each challenge Southland threw down to the Hawks, Hawkes Bay answered with flying colours. By the final break, the teams were as they started, completely level. That was all the Hawks needed, quickly gaining the momentum early in the fourth and blowing the lead right out to 13 points midway through the last term, and buying enough time to secure the win. To the Sharks’ credit they came back and cut the late deficit to seven by the final buzzer, but it was too little, too late and the Hawks got up with a 98-91 victory.

Hawkes Bay was the more accurate shooting team, putting up 51 to 44 per cent from the field, including 43 to 32 per cent from long-range. They also had more rebounds (42-41) and assists (15-13) in virtually even statistics, whilst also recoding five more points off their bench (17-12). The points in the paint and second chance points were dead even at 42 and seven points apiece respectively. Meanwhile the Sharks had three less turnovers (13-16) and therefore capitalised off turnovers (20-8). Southland also had more steals (9-6) and blocks (3-2) in the loss.

Devondrick Walker was the star, knocking down a game-high 33 points in the win, shooting six of 13 from long-range, and also recording five rebounds and two assists in the process. Hyrum Harris picked up a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Ethan Rusbatch (14 points – four of eight from three-point range – and five rebounds) and Rhys Vague (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals) both contributed strongly from the start. Derone Raukawa shouldered the load off the bench with 13 points and three assists in 25 minutes.

Dom Kelman-Poto had 25 points, 11 rebounds and four assists was the clear standout for the Sharks in defeat, one of two players to pick up a double-double. Joshua Cunningham also had one with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Brayden Inger (18 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks), Courtney Belger (12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Sione Helu (11 points) were the other double-figure points scorers for the Sharks.

Now the Hawks will need to dig deep in order to find a way to knock he top of the table Saints off their perch in tonight’s grand final.

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Semi-Finals preview: Final Four tips off tonight

TEN teams started in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), and just four remain after 13 weeks of top notch basketball action decided the final four which tips off tonight. Held at Te Rauparaha Arena over two consecutive nights, the four semi-finalists will face off in two do-or-die matches tonight, with the winner of each semi-final progressing through to tomorrow night’s grand final. The four teams in contention are Wellington Saints, Hawkes Bay Hawks, Southland Sharks and Auckland Huskies who remain in the hunt for premiership glory.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Thursday, July 22 @ 6pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Up first are the minor premiers, Wellington Saints taking on fourth placed Auckland Huskies for the opening spot in the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final. The Saints finished on top with 16 wins from 18 matches, clearly the benchmark team ranked first in overall points and first in least points conceded making them an easy favourite for the overall title. In nine matches at home, the Saints did not lose, and their 7-2 record on the road was pretty imposing as well. For the Huskies, they secured their final four spot in the penultimate round, winning 11 games from 18 matches, including a 5-4 record at home, and a 6-3 record on the road, making travelling no fear for the side.

Fans do not have to look too far back to see the last time these sides faced off, with the Round 12 match just five days earlier and the Saints coming away with a 24-point win, 85-61. Captain and League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Dion Prewster went to work putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in that game, well aided by Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds and two assists). For the Huskies, Justin Bibbs (18 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Tom Vodanovich (17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) were the two key players. In their only other encounter back on May 28, Wellington Saints easily accounted for the Huskies by 31 points in a 107-76 victory.

In terms of the key statistics, the Saints average almost 11 points more per game (97.1 to 86.2) and concede nine points less (76.7 to 85.4). Their shooting percentage is higher from inside and outside the arc, and from the free throw line, they have more rebounds and assists per match. In particular, the Saints are great at second chance opportunities, grabbing an average of 11 offensive rebounds per game. They can also win the ball back in transition, recording nine steals per game to the Huskies’ 7.2. In saying that, the Huskies are generally good with ball-in-hand, only committing the 11.8 turnovers per game, less than the Saints’ 12.9.

With Chris Johnson back in the United States and teenage talent Dontae Nance injured, the Huskies have looked to Bibbs and the returned Vodanovich as the key players. Vodanovich has averaged the 20.3 points and 78 rebounds per game, teaming up well with Bibbs (18.0 and 5.3) in that sense. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Zach Riley (10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists) are others who have stepped up in the absence of key players. Riley in particular has had a memorable season, winning the Youth Player of the Year.

The Saints on the other hand have no shortage of stars, with Prewster (18.7 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds) voted the best player in the NZNBL this season. Kerwin Roach Jr (17.4 points, 4.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds) has also been outstanding, whilst Samuel (16.6 points) is also an All-Star 5 this season, and Tohi Smith-Milner (13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists) has been outstanding throughout. When weighing up the two sides, it is hard to look past Wellington Saints who have been the best side all year, have very few flaws and an outstanding starting five that should get the job done yet again.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Thursday, July 22 @ 8pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Once the winner of the first semi-final is decided, it is straight onto the other match with a blockbuster second against third clash. Hawkes Bay Hawks and Southland Sharks both come in with 13-5 records from this season, and were as evenly poised as any to go head-to-head in this match. The Hawks did not lose a match at home in nine outings, including toppling both the Sharks and Wellington Saints, whilst their road record was a little more shaky with a 4-5 record. The Sharks were not as dominant at home but still recorded seven wins from nine matches, whilst also having six from nine away from home.

The most recent encounter between these sides was not so close, with the Hawks coming away with a comfortable 97-71 win on the road. In what was only the Sharks second loss on the road – after a one-point overtime defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies in the last match at ILT Stadium – the Hawks stormed to a 26-point victory. In an even team performance, five players had double-figure points for the Hawks, with Jordan Hunt (21 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Derone Raukawa (17 points, four assists and three rebounds) leading the way in the win. For the Sharks, Dom Kelman-Poto was a one-man wrecking ball with 27 points, four rebounds and two assists, whilst Joshua Cunningham put up 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists. In their earlier encounter back on May 8, the Hawks came away with a closer 12-point win at Pettigrew Green Arena, 85-73.

In terms of individuals, Kelman Poto is the sole member of the All-Star 5 in this match, with the Hawks having an overall balanced lineup. Looking at the key team stats, the Hawks are marginally ahead in points per game (93.2 to 91.3), and have conceded marginally less points to their opposition (83.4 to 84.3). The Sharks are a marginally better shooting team from inside the arc (56.1 to 55.7 per cent), though neither team could be split from outside it, with 36.9 per cent, and the Hawks hitting 1.3 additional three-pointers per game. Off the boards it is the Hawks who lead the way (37.7 to 36.9), whilst the Sharks are ahead in the assists (19.8 to 18.7) and steals (8.3 to 8.2), whilst also having less turnovers (12.0 to 13.1).

Having played every game for the Hawks, Hyrum Harris has been a rock across the court, able to impact in a multitude of ways on his way to an average of 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals. Leading the team for points, Devondrick Walker has put up 20.2 points. 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals in an impressive effort, whilst Ethan Rusbatch managed the 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. The depth of the Hawks is ultra-impressive, with Hunt (12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds), Raukawa (12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals) and Rhys Vague (12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) also averaging double-figure points.

Kelman-Poto’s All-Star 5 season came about from his 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, shooting an a high 57 per cent from the field. He worked well starting every game with Cunningham (14.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists), whilst three others reached double-figure point averages. Courtney Belger (12.3 points. 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals), Brayden Inger (14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Alonzo Burton (13.1 points. 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals) all played 17 or games this year showing great durability.

This game is hard to split, but with the Hawks having won both their previous encounters, the scale tips in their favour, but it could genuinely go either way given the stars on display in this contest.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Sharks and Hawks wrap up regular season with wins

SOUTHLAND Sharks and Hawkes Bay Hawks will head into the Final Four on the back of victories, following their wins to open the final round of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action. The Sharks toppled the Canterbury Rams by 13 points in their clash, whilst the Hawks proved far too strong for the bottom two Manawatu Jets, posting a huge 28-point victory in front of home fans.

The Sharks might have recorded a comfortable win but it was far from easy, losing both the first two quarters to trail by nine points at half-time. They managed to cut the deficit to seven by the final break, but looked in real danger of dropping the home game at ILT Stadium. Luckily a dominant final term which saw them smash the Rams out of the park courtesy of a 33-13 final term, resulted in the Sharks getting up 100-87.

Southland was more accurate from the field, shooting at 55 per cent from both inside and outside the arc, nailing 15 of 27 from three-point range compared to the Rams’ nine of 26 (34 per cent). The Sharks also led the rebounds (39-34), assists (25-12), blocks 2-0) and points in the paint (40-30). There was some good news for the Rams who had less turnovers (15-18) and therefore had more points from turnovers (18-16), as well as more second chance points (15-9), bench points (25-23) and steals (11-9).

Dom Kelman-Poto was simply unstoppable on his way to the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award courtesy of 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, shooting three of six from beyond the arc. Similarly, Josh Cunningham had the 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Brayden Inger knocked down three triples – albeit from 10 attempts – for 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Courtney Belger (13 points, 10 assists and three rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (10 points) also reached double-figures for the Sharks.

Deshon Taylor was a one-man machine, putting up 31 points, as well as five rebounds, three assists and two steals. EJ Singler produced another memorable outing with three triples to total 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jack Salt (nine points, 10 rebounds) came close to a double-double, whilst Joe Cook-Green (nine points, four rebounds) and Alex Talma (eight points) were steady off the bench.

Hawkes Bay Hawks did not have any issues – aside from a second quarter lapse – in posting a big 28-point win over Manawatu Jets. The Hawks dominated the first term with a 28-13 quarter before the Jets responded with a 21-14 term of their own. With the game back to eight points, the Hawks reestablished themselves as a dominant force, putting up a whopping 54 points to 34 in the second half to run away with the contest, 96-68.

The Hawks won every single statistic, with more accuracy from the field (42 to 32 per cent), rebounds (59-45) and assists (15-5) all heavily in their favour. They also had more steals (6-3) and blocks (4-3), as well as more points in the paint (42-26), second chance points (19-11), points from turnovers (12-6) and bench points (27-11).

There was little doubting the MVP in the game, as Devondrick Walker blitzed his way to 35 points – more than half the entire opposition’s score – as well as five rebounds and two steals, which included seven of 14 from beyond the arc. Rhys Vague (15 points, nine rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (14 points, two rebounds) both held up well in the starting side, with Jonathan Janssen (12 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks) the best off the bench. Hyrum Harris (five points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals) contributed outside the scoreboard.

Daishon Knight led the scoring for the Jets with a hard-working double-double effort of 20 points and 12 rebounds, as well as three assists. Jayden Bezzant (15 points, four rebounds) and Nikau McCullough (14 points, two rebounds) chipped in with some solid numbers, whilst Finn Lally (six points, seven rebounds and two blocks) and Matangirei Hipango (five points, four rebounds) were the next best for the Jets.

The two winners head to the Final Four with a nice break to rest up, whilst for the Rams and Jets, they take on Otago Nuggets and Nelson Giants tomorrow and Sunday respectively.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Sharks book Final Four spot with 24-point triumph over Nuggets

SOUTHLAND Sharks have dominated the opening half of their clash against Otago Nuggets to storm to a 24-point win and lock in a final four spot for the upcoming post-season series. The Sharks piled on 71 points in the opening half of action to the Nuggets’ 35, all but securing the victory. Whilst the Nuggets hit back in the second half, it was too little, too late, going down 117-93.

The Sharks kicked off proceedings in a big way at ILT Stadium, dominating the first term with a 32 point to 17 quarter. The second quarter was even more one-sided, as the Sharks added a further 39 points to 18 to lead 71-35 at half-time. The Nuggets did hit back in the third term, trimming the massive 36-point deficit back to 23, but an even fourth quarter resulted in the home team extending the lead by one to win, 117-93.

Aside from most of the first half of the first quarter, once the Sharks got out to a two-basket lead, there was no stopping them and they ran away with the big victory. They were far more accurate from the field (54 to 46 per cent), drained more threes (14 to 11) and were more efficient from the free throw line (68 to 55 per cent). Additionally, the Sharks had more assists (30-21), steals (10-3) and points in the paint (56-48). With 12 less turnovers (8-20), Southland also recorded plenty more points from turnovers (31-8) in the big win. The Nuggets had more rebounds (46-43), blocks (2-1), second chance points (10-8) and bench points (40-30) in the showing.

Dom Kelman-Poto won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) with a team-high 25 points and nine rebounds, as well as two assists and two steals, shooting at 57 per cent from the field. Josh Cunningham was his partner-in-crime with 21 points – including three of six from long-range – eight rebounds and nine assists in an almost triple-double performance. Brayden Inger (18 points – four of eight from three-point range – seven rebounds and two steals) and Alonzo Burton (16 points – four of nine from beyond the arc – five rebounds, two assists and two steals) also hit double-figure points.

For the Nuggets, Sam Timmins was by far the standout, amassing the most points (26) and rebounds (14) on court, as well as picking up five assists and two blocks for his troubles. Luke Aston came off the bench for 19 points – including five triples – and four rebounds, whilst Isaiah Moss (11 points, seven rebounds) and Richie Rodger (nine points, six assists and four rebounds) both tried hard.

The Sharks take on Canterbury Rams to close out their regular season next Friday night, whilst the Nuggets travel to face the Wellington Saints, before hosting the Rams in must-win contests if they are to find a way into the Final Four.

 

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

Title contenders claim big wins in one-sided night of action

TITLE contenders Southland Sharks and Wellington Saints have established their top two positions on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) ladder, with big wins in their respective matches overnight. The top placed Sharks won the first three quarters to take complete control over Franklin Bulls on their way to a 101-69 triumph, whilst the Saints bounced back from a loss to Hawke’s Bay Hawks last start, to win 89-63 in their home clash and retake the second spot Hawke’s Bay had snatched from them.

Southland Sharks did all the damage early, piling on 32 points to 15, leaving the visiting Bulls on the back foot from the start, then added 21-15 in the second term to lead by 23 points at the main break. Needing a spark in the second half, the Bulls could not find it until the final term – which they won by two points – as the Sharks added another 29 points to 18 in the third, leading to the eventual 32-point victory, 101-69.

The Sharks won every statistic in the book, from field goal shooting percentage (47 to 36 per cent), rebounds (52-41), assists (20-17) and steals (13-6). They had seven less turnovers (15-22) and therefore more points from turnovers (25-18), and also had more points in the paint (46-32), second chance points (22-7) and bench points (33-22).

Josh Cunningham piled on 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the win, as he grabbed the Most Valuable Player (MVP) from the match. Not far behind him was Courtney Belger (13 points, six assists and four steals) who also impressed, while Brayden Inger had the 18 points – four of eight from long-range – and six rebounds. Alonzo Burton (11 points, four rebounds) and Sione Helu (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also hit double-figure points, while Toby Gillooly came close to a double-double of nine points and nine rebounds.

For the Bulls, Manel Ayol was the star with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, with a couple of fellow recent additions since the completion of the ANBL season also holding their own. Isaac Davidson (11 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Kyrin Galloway (eight points, 12 rebounds and two steals) both tried hard, whilst the Bulls’ old firm – being there since the start of the season – in Denhym Brooke (nine points, five rebounds and three blocks) also worked well in tandem.

Wellington Saints had an equally comprehensive win over Taranaki Mountainairs in a top-against-bottom clash at TSB Bank Arena. The Saints won every quarter in the match, starting off strongly to race to a 47-28 lead at the main break, then won the second half by seven points to claim a 26-point victory, 89-63.

The Saints were the more accurate of the sides (45 to 40 per cent field goal accuracy), also knocking down 11 three-pointers to six. They had more rebounds (48-28), assists (15-10) and steals (12-6), with the Airs winning the blocks (4-1). Wellington finished with more points in the paint (44-28), second chance points (14-7), points from turnovers (24-15) and bench points (34-20) in a real dominant effort.

It was incredibly difficult for judges to select an MVP from the match with seven players earning between six and three votes. In the end, captain Dion Prewster got the nod in the Saints’ winning performance, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Tohi Smith-Milner (15 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists), Kerwin Roach Jr (13 points, five assists and three rebounds), Leon Henry (13 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) and Ezrah Vaigafa (11 points, six rebounds) all picked up votes in an even team performance. Ken Tuffin was another one who contributed strongly with 13 points and six rebounds.

Tai Wynyard tried his hardest for the Airs with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals, grabbing MVP votes in the heavy loss with Baxter Fenwick (10 points, two rebound) Marcel Jones had a quieter night, only shooting two of nine from the field on his way to 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Francis Mulvihill (seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) was the other player who did his best in the loss.

Both the losers will have to regroup themselves for matches today as Franklin Bulls and Taranaki Mountainairs both hit the road to take on Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams respectively. The Wellington Saints take on Nelson Giants next Friday night, with Southland Sharks hosting Auckland Huskies on the Saturday night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints and Sharks grab wins to extend stranglehold on top two spots

WELLINGTON Saints and Southland Sharks have grabbed wins in an action-packed night of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action, to extend their lead at the top of the table. The Sharks are running hot with a five-game winning streak, whilst the Saints bounced back from their first loss the night before – to the Sharks – and moved to a 7-1 record in the 2021 season. It was at the expense of the Canterbury Rams, as the Saints won by 25 points, while the Sharks held off a determined Otago Nuggets to win by seven.

In the Saints’ big win, they took control early to pile on 17 points to nine against the Rams and really control the game defensively. The home team hit back by winning the second term and cutting the deficit to just six points at the main break. As Wellington has so often done this season, the Saints found a way, piling on 51 points to 32 to run away with the contest, and the victory, 89-64.

Kerwin Roach Jr had 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, teaming up well with Dion Prewster who notched up 22 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists in the win. Also contributing strongly was Taane Samuel (16 points, seven rebounds and four assists), while Tohi Smith-Milner (nine points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals) and Romaro Gill (five points, four rebounds and five blocks) were impressive defensively.

For the Rams, they shared the load on the scoring front but it would not be enough. Quintin Bailey put up 19 points, nine rebounds and two assists to lead all-comers. Meanwhile Deshon Taylor (12 points, six assists, four steals and two rebounds), EJ Singler (12 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Alex Talma (11 points, six rebounds and two assists) all reached double-figure points. Ben Constable‘s shooting (one from nine) was off, but he still recorded the seven rebounds in the loss.

The game was much tighter between the Sharks and Nuggets, with the home team starting off strongly to lead by two points at the first break. It was the middle two quarters that broke the match open for the Sharks, as the visitors piled on 49 points to 28 in that time to blow open the game to lead by 19 points with a quarter to play. Otago stormed home thanks to a dominant 31-19 final term, but it was a case of too little, too late and the Sharks won, 85-78.

Dom Kelman-Poto had 24 points and six rebounds, teaming up well with Brayden Inger who starred with 22 points – four out of 10 from long-range – five rebounds and four steals. Toby Gillooly had 17 points and four rebounds in a superb effort off the bench, while Josh Cunningham did not have his usual accuracy (six points off two from 13 from the field) but managed 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Courtney Belger (seven points, three assists and three steals) also stepped up.

Isaiah Moss racked up a match-high 25 points for the Nuggets, draining four of 11 from long-range, and also have seven rebounds for his troubles. Sam Timmins had a huge double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds – seven offensive – as well as three assists and two steals. Richie Rodger (13 points) and Gerasimos McKay (11 points, four rebounds) also impressed, while Pafe Momoisea had eight points and three assists in 15 minutes off the bench.

All four teams have a break until next week, with the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets doing battle on Thursday night, before Southland Sharks host Manawatu Jets on Friday, while Wellington Saints wait until Sunday to host the Jets.

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Sharks hand Saints first loss as Hawks and Huskies claim wins

IT was a triple treat of action in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night, as Southland Sharks became the first side to reach seven wins, downing the previously undefeated Wellington Saints to temporarily take top spot, while Hawkes Bay Hawks and Auckland Huskies both collected wins to remain in the top five. While the Sharks knocked off the Saints by 14 points, Hawkes Bay Hawks smashed Franklin Bulls by 37, and Auckland Huskies easily accounted for Taranaki Mountainairs by 22.

The Sharks came to play at ILT Stadium in front of home fans, proving themselves a title contender by racing out to a four-point lead at quarter time, which grew to 11 points by the main break. Wellington hit back in the third term to cut the deficit back to six with a quarter to play, before a dominant final term in favour of the Sharks (20-12) saw them run away with the 14-point victory, 84-70.

Dom Kelman-Poto racked up a massive double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, as well as six assists on the night. Courtney Belger top-scored with 19 points, and had the seven assists, four rebounds and two steals in an all-round effort. Fellow starters, Alonzo Burton (15 points, five assists and five steals), Josh Cunningham (13 points, nine rebounds) and Brayden Inger (14 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) all clocked in some serious minutes in the Sharks’ win.

Kerwin Roach Jr had a team-high 17 points for the visitors, also notching up seven rebounds and six assists, while Dion Prewster (11 points, eight rebounds and four assists) also came close to a double-double. Taane Samuel (13 points, three assists and two rebounds) was the other player to record double-digit points, while Tohi Smith-Milner (seven points, nine rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (eight points, four rebounds) were also solid despite the defeat.

In the biggest win of the night, Hawkes Bay Hawks easily accounted for Franklin Bulls, winning by 37 points on the road, 110-73. The Hawks put the foot down early with a dominant 33-10 first quarter, and whilst the Bulls managed to win the second term by four, were no match for the dominant Hawks, who went on to score 56 points to 38 in the second half, and consolidate a top three spot with a big win.

Ethan Rusbatch was sensational with a whopping eight of 13 from long-range to help him accumulate 27 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the victory. Derone Raukawa finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Jonathan Janssen came off the bench for 18 points and eight rebounds. Others who had no trouble scoring were Rhys Vague (15 points, five rebounds) and Jordan Hunt (15 points, six rebounds), while Devondrick Walker came agonisingly close to a triple-double of nine points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

In a disappointing night for the Bulls, Denhym Brooke still stood up with 17 points – five of 17 from three-point range – eight rebounds and three assists. Jett Thompson (12 points) and Dylan Wilkie (11) had their fair share of points, whilst Joseph Nunag (nine points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Zachary Easthope (nine points, five rebounds) were both solid in the loss.

In the third game of the night, Auckland Huskies posted a 22-point triumph over Taranaki Mountainairs. The Huskies won the first half by 11 points, to head into the main break with a 53-42 lead. The third term was even, but the visitors stepped it up a gear in the last quarter, pouring on 28 points to 17 to double their lead and win, 106-84.

Chris Johnson had a night out with 26 points – nailing all four three-point attempts – 11 rebounds – nine defensive – and five assists in a double-double effort. He was far from alone however, with two more players recording 19 points, and two more reaching 18. Coming off the bench, teenager Dontae Nance helped himself to 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, levelling with Takiula Fahrensohn (19 points, three rebounds). Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (18 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals) and Zach Riley (18 points, five assists and three steals) also notched up big numbers.

For the Airs, Marcel Jones did his usual thing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in a workman-like effort. Carlin Davison had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in the loss, while Haize Walker (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Francis Mulvihill (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) also had busy nights on the stats sheet.

The quickest turnarounds belong to the Southland Sharks and Wellington Saints who both hit the road to face Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams respectively tonight. The Auckland Huskies travel to lock horns with Hawkes Bay Hawks tomorrow, whilst the Franklin Bulls tackle the Manawatu Jets, and the Taranaki Mountainairs face the Nelson Giants on Monday.

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Sharks make it four consecutive wins as Rams punish Hawks late

SOUTHLAND Sharks and Canterbury Rams came away the winners in last night’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) contests, holding off Manawatu Jets and Hawkes Bay Hawks respectively to post victories. In what were relatively even contests, the Rams came from behind at the final break to overcome the Hawks, while the Sharks took control early and maintained that advantage in the second half to win by 12 points.

In the Rams-Hawks game, it was Canterbury that burst out of the blocks with a 27-17 first term to open up a double-digit advantage at quarter time. The Hawks started clawing their way back into the contest by cutting the deficit back to eight at the main break, before a dominant third stanza of 23-13 swung the momentum in their favour. With the lead now two points to the visiting team, the Rams needed something special, and they pulled it out with a 25-15 final term to run out 87-79 winners.

While the Hawks were more efficient from their shooting (41 to 38 per cent from the field and particularly 54 to 43 per cent from inside the arc), the Rams lead most key statistics. Canterbury finished ahead in the rebounds (51-41), steals (9-5), points in the paint (42-30) and bench points (22-9), with less turnovers (12-18) leading to more points from turnovers (20-14). The Hawks won the assists (19-15) and were the only team to produce any blocks (8-0).

Deshon Taylor was outstanding with 33 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals in a double-double performance for the Rams. EJ Singler had 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Quintin Bailey (10 points, seven rebounds) and Ben Constable (10 points, six rebounds) were also busy.

For the Hawks it was a triple threat of Ethan Rusbatsch (23 points, three rebounds and two assists), Devondrick Walker (18 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Rhys Vague (14 points, eight rebounds and three assists), while Jonathan Janssen (nine points, nine rebounds and five blocks) was prolific off the bench in the defeat.

Southland Sharks won three of the four quarters against Manawatu Jets to post a 12-point victory over their opponents at the Fly Palmy Central Energy Trust Arena. The Sharks got out to a two-point quarter time lead and extended that to nine by half-time, before the Jets managed to cut it back by one to remain in the contest at the last change. Southland steadied in the final term to post 26-22 and record a 100-88 victory.

The Sharks were deadly from long-range with a 45 per cent to 28 per cent shooting efficiency outside the arc, for an overall 48 to 46 per cent from the field. They led the steals (7-5) and second chance points (16-11), with less turnovers (8-14) allowing them to have more points from turnovers (18-10). The Jets had more rebounds (43-37), assists (16-12) and blocks (3-0).

Alonzo Burton put up 27 points, four rebounds and two steals for the winners, shooting six of 11 from long-ranger in the process. Dom Kelman-Poto (14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals), Courtney Belger (15 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Brayden Inger (19 points, three assists were all lively.

Daishon Knight picked up a team-high 22 points, as well as three assists and two rebounds for the Jets, while Deandre Daniels was the star with a double-double of 19 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Shane Temara (20 points, eight rebounds and three assists) was not too far behind, while Jayden Bezzant managed the 18 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

The Manawatu Jets are the first of the four sides to play again with a huge clash on June 3, with the Southland Sharks hosting Wellington Saints, and Hawkes Bay Hawks taking on Franklin Bulls on June 4. A day later, the Canterbury Rams host the Saints in a huge clash for the Rams.

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