Tag: Tai Wynyard

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the men’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There are just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Manawatu Jets
Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Mountainairs
Tasman Suns

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

A number of familiar teams are competing in the shortened competition, with this year’s Sal’s NBL premiers Otago Nuggets in Pool A alongside their grand final opponents Manawatu Jets. Taranaki Mountainairs are the other side to have competed earlier this year that falls into Pool A, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Tasman Suns also join the party.

In Pool B, a special NZ Select side will help even the numbers at 10 teams, whilst Southland Sharks also return to the competition after not competing in the shortened NZNBL format this year. The three other sides are Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls who will all be looking to add some silverware to their cabinets after missing out in the NZNBl season.

Southland Sharks would be one of the favourites for the title with some serious firepower including teaming up Hyrum Harris and the much-improved Dom Kelman-Poto. The pair will make it difficult for opposition teams given their size and range, whilst Alex Pledger showed he could impress in bursts during the NZNBL season, and Alonzo Burton rounds out the four.

Franklin Bulls are also a danger team with Mr Double Double himself, Marcel Jones returning to the club for the 3×3 tournament and is joined by a trio of Bulls’ teammates. Isaac Davison was the star of the competition in the early rounds of the NZNBL season, and can shoot from range with ease. Nikau McCullough is also a known three-point shooter, as Joel Vaigangina rounds out the list.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks cannot be discounted with Derone Raukawa leading the charge after a mammoth NZNBL season. He can just about do anything, and he teams up with veteran Everard Bartlett, as well as Ethan Rubatsch and Taane Te Kira Samuel. Otago Nuggets will be keen to do the double and back up their NZNBL win with a 3×3 Cup victory, and they had a strong four. Sam Timmins is the big body close to the basket, whilst Josh Aitcheson, Kane Keil and Richie Rodger are all underrated scorers with plenty of talent.

Looking across the board, the Manawatu Jets will have the talents of Jayden Bezzant and Haize Walker, while the Taranaki Airs have gone with experience thanks to Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Tai Wynyard. Jordan Hunt is a crucial cog for Auckland Huskies this tournament, with Canterbury Rams sticking to what they know with Ben Carlile-Smith, Jack Exeter and Mason Whittaker all named in the side. NZ Select will have players to watch such as Samuel Aruwa, whilst the Tasman Suns welcome the talented Tom Ingham who will prove hard to stop.

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #7 – Battle of the Opposites, Airs and Bulls elimination final

THERE are only so many coincidences that can occur in any season or competition, but thankfully fans of the NZNBL were able to witness one. This came as the best offence and best defence of the league got to settle their differences in a win or go home Elimination Final. Due to this, Draft Central sees it fitting to place the Taranaki Mountain Airs’ final contest with the Franklin Bulls in the seventh slot of this season’s Top 10 Moments.

For the full match report of the Airs and Bulls Elimination Final – Click HERE

It was during the regular season that both sides displayed their playing styles and strengths. The Airs, who concluded their season with a respectable eight win and six loss record earned the moniker of best offence in the competition. Taranaki maintained a team average of 98.6 points per contest and cracked the 100-point mark on eight different occasions. For Franklin, they earned the opposite title of best defence, due to holding teams to 82.2 points each time out, 4.2 points less than the Otago Nuggets (second in points against).

Prior to their Elimination Final on July 29, the two sides had met three times with the Airs holding the series’ bragging rights two to one. But in their most recent encounter, it was Franklin that came out the clear-cut winners in a dominant 92-65 win. But with a must-win contest to begin, all prior matchups had little to no meaning in what was a seesawing affair between the two clubs with a semi-final spot up for grabs.

Following their All-Star Five presentation, Taranaki’s two leading individuals in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones had their confidence brewing in the opening phase, helping their side to a 26-18 lead in the initial 10 minutes of basketball. During that pivotal first term, Doug Courtney employed some defensive tactics of his own, notably setting up a 2-3 zone defence to minimise Franklin’s inside scoring threats. This in turn forced the Bulls to settle for long range shots, which proved ineffective as they made just two from 16 attempts.

Eventually shots started to fall for Franklin, as the game started to even out for both sides. Back-to-back threes from Jackson Stubbins cut the deficit to a single basket, with the Airs holding the three-point lead at the second intermission.

While an And-One from Dominique Kelman-Poto gave the Bulls a brief lead, the continuous scoring output from Jones kept Taranaki’s noses in front for the majority of the game. In addition to this, Jones was grateful to receive the aid on the boards from teammates Tai Wynyard and Shane Temara, who each finished their nights with eight and seven boards respectively. This proved a pivotal statistic in the sequences of the game, as the Airs pushed their lead back up to eight points with a quarter to go.

Good hustle from Isaac Davidson and Everard Bartlett enabled the Bulls to get within four points, but the duo of Raukawa and Jones was put on full display once more. They carried their side over the line on a night where everyone was making their free-throws. The Airs emerged triumphant in a 99-90 slugfest and set up a semi-final date with the Manawatu Jets.

It was a clinic on both ends of the floor for Raukawa (28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) and Jones (31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists), meanwhile the team’s rebounding and free throw shooting proved to be the difference. A plus-seven on the boards (44-37) and 90 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (18 of 20) put the cherry on the cake as Taranaki fell just a single point short of another 100-point performance.

Despite the emotional loss for Franklin, the Bulls had numerous efforts worthy of praise. Kelman-Poto led the way with his 31-point, 10-rebound and three-steal night, whereas Davidson’s 24 points off of four triples was a major contribution.

On a night that saw offence prevail over defence, it was exciting to see two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playing style, go at it in a do-or-die matchup in the postseason. Thus, putting this moment at number seven in the NZNBL’s Top 10.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #10 – Season Tip-Off and Opener

TO begin this edition of Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments, we look back at the season opener between the Taranaki Airs and Nelson Giants and the steps taken to get the NZNBL season underway, in a year filled with unpredictability.

For our full match report between the Airs and Giants – Click HERE

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking the world by storm the NZNBL season did not look likely to happen, however New Zealand’s swift response to the outbreak enabled them to eradicate cases and regain some form of normalcy on the the sports front.

The league’s season opener could not have been more of a success, as both sides from Taranaki and Nelson arrived at Trusts Arena with a fire in the belly and an eagerness to get out on the floor. Before too long, the opening tip was conducted, and the 2020 season was off and running.

While both sides lacked accuracy in most facets of the early stages of the contest in an adrenaline filled building, Airs bigman Tai Wynyard converted on a layup around the rim to not only set the game in motion, but the rest of the league as well, putting the first points on the board for this year’s NZNBL.

As neither team could separate from one another after 10 minutes, in what was a tit-for-tat opening quarter, the scoring prowess of eventual All-Star Five selectee and league leader in points and assists, Derone Raukawa came into effect.

Capping off 30-23 second quarter, Raukawa alongside teammates Francis Mulvihill and Carlin Davison were able to keep themselves in the driver’s seat with a six-point lead heading into the main break.

Following the second intermission, onlookers at the season-opener saw first-hand what the second half of the Airs’ duo was capable of, as Marcel Jones, the eventual leader in rebounds across the competition, proved why Doug Courtney selected him in his squad on Draft Night collecting a stockpile of offensive and defensive rebounds.

Meanwhile, Shane Temara proved why he would become one of Taranaki’s most prolific role-players as the Airs continued their good play extending their lead to double digits with a quarter to play.

Despite Nelson’s best efforts in the fourth thanks mostly to Thomas Ingham and Tysxun Aiolupotoea, the Airs proved to be too strong in their initial matchup of the fixture in a relatively even fourth quarter as Taranaki earned the 112-96 victory.

Raukawa recorded the first of many Man of the Match honours with a 28-point and 10-assist night, as Jones fell three assists short of a triple-double in what was an exemplary start to an exceptional season with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Whereas for the Giants, it was Nicolas Trathen with a game-high 25 points, while Aiolupotoea and Ingham combined for 53 points between them.

The free-flowing contest the game would become set the tone for an entertaining and meaningful season for the seven teams that participated in the NZNBL, as well as New Zealand basketball as a whole. Therefore, it fits in handsomely at the number 10 slot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.

NBL Free Agency update: 36ers, Bullets and Taipans

IN the first of a three-part series this week, Draft Central looks at the Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets and Cairns Taipans Free Agency moves thus far ahead of the delayed 2020/21 National Basketball League (NBL) season.

ADELAIDE 36ERS:

Adelaide is certainly undergoing a change after a tough end to the season saw coach Conner Henry replacing the controversial Joey Wright. Immediately they picked up one of Australia’s brightest talents in Josh Giddey, who at 17-years-old will be a valuable guard for the side as he eyes of an NBA career in the future. In what could be one of the most potent four-five combinations, Daniel Johnson re-signed with the club, and Isaac Humphries came on board after languishing in the G-League. A former NBL Rookie of the Year with the Sydney Kings, Humphries was on the roster for Atlanta Hawks, took part in the NBA Summer League for the Los Angeles Clippers and then signed with the Orlando Magic, but after being waived opted to return back to Australia.

Humphries will replace the outgoing Harry Froling who has headed to Brisbane, with two-way player Anthony Drmic also headed north. The inclusion of former Illawarra Hawks’ guard Sunday Dech will help soften the blow of Drmic leaving while 25-year-old Keanu Pinder returns home after completing his college at Arizona and then spending a couple of seasons in Poland with Legia Warszawa. The 36ers were looking at including Tall Blacks talent Jack Salt, and returning shooting machine Jerome Randle, but unfortunately both suffered long-term injuries with Randle suffering an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Contracted:

Jack McVeigh
Daniel Dillon
Alex Mudronja
Obi Kyei

Re-signed:

Daniel Johnson

Signed:

Josh Giddey (NBA Global Academy)
Isaac Humphries (Lakeland Magic G-League)
Sunday Dech (Illawarra Hawks)
Keanu Pinder (Legia Warszawa Poland)

 

BRISBANE BULLETS:

The Bullets had a breakout year in the 2019/20 and were always going to gamble on whether they could retain their bigs in Will Magnay and Lamar Patterson. Magnay re-signed, while Patterson is still a work in progress with the hope that he returns to Brisbane. They were quick to re-sign Jason Cadee, Nathan Sobey and Tyrell Harrison, with Matt Hodgson initially exploring his options then re-signing to negotiate a better deal than the COVID-19 pay cut, much like many of the NBL biggest and best talents. They also have only lost the two players thus far, with Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi both heading south for the summer.

Gliddon had an inconsistent year in 2019/20 and was viewed as better to have a clean run somewhere else, whilst Te Rangi has been keeping in form representing the Canterbury Rams in the second half of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season. While they both could be big talents on their day, the ins are certainly valuable ones and make Brisbane a genuine contender in 2020/21. Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling have jumped ship from the 36ers, whilst Tanner Krebs has returned after finishing his college years at St Mary’s. The 198cm shooting guard will replace Gliddon, whilst NBA Global Academy talent, Tamuri Wigness will slot into the other guard spot and no doubt have some court time next season. If they can re-sign Patterson, then watch out for how damaging this side could be.

Contracted:

Jason Cadee
Nathan Sobey
Tyrell Harrison
Matt Hodgson

Re-signed:

Will Magnay

Signed:

Anthony Drmic and Harry Froling (Adelaide 36ers)
Tanner Krebs (Saint Mary’s NCAA)
Tamuri Wigness (NBA Global Academy)

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS:

A major question mark still hangs over a number of Taipans players, with the club relatively quiet thus far over the Free Agency period. Re-signing Scott Machado and Nathan Jawai was important for he club, whilst a host of others opted to remain at the club in guards, Mirko Djeric and Fabijan Krslovic, and forwards, Majok Deng and Kouat Noi. All up they already have seven players on the list for next season when counting in Mojave King, an NBA Global Academy talent. The 195cm shooting guard is one who who no doubt learn off the likes of Machado who was one of the best players in the competition last season.

The question marks remain over un-signed Free Agents, Sam Froling, Cameron Oliver and DJ Newbill who all remain yet to to put pen to paper. Froling and in particular Oliver have other suitors, and the way they opt to go could determine how deep the Taipans go in season 2020/21. Newbill looks likely to re-sign, whilst a couple of Tall Blacks in Jarrod Kenny and Tai Wynyard are also among those left un-signed at this stage. Kenny had a strong season in the NZNBL, but has no officially signed anywhere in the NBL as of yet, the same as Wynyard who was one of the more impressive fives in the NZNBL.

Contracted:

Majok Deng
Mirko Djeric
Kouat Noi
Fabijan Krslovic

Re-signed:

Scott Machado
Nathan Jawai

Signed:

Mojave King (NBA Global Academy)

Jets defeat Airs in semi, set up top two grand final with Nuggets

THE Manawatu Jets have knocked out the Taranaki Mountain Airs in a fast-paced second semi-final 105-95, therefore earning the right to compete for the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Championship for just the second time in the club’s history.

MANAWATU JETS 34 | 21 | 12 | 38 (105)
TARANAKI AIRS 23 | 27 | 20 | 25 (95)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Having fallen to them in both of their prior meetings, the Airs had no intention of getting off to a slow start against the Jets. But to make sure they got off on the right foot, Doug Courtney’s side had to neutralise the newly crowned MVP in Thomas Vodanovich. Meanwhile for Manawatu, their priorities laid with halting the league’s most lethal duo in Derone Raukawa (led the League in points and assists) and Marcel Jones (led the League in rebounding).

Both sides traded buckets early on, exchanging the lead seven times in the opening five minutes in a seesawing opening quarter. Five straight points from Ashton McQueen seven minutes in, saw the Jets produce the first noticeable advantage in the game leading by eight with two minutes to go in the first. This was emphasised further after a triple from Nicholas Fee found its mark and as a result, Manawatu found themselves leading by double-digits at the first intermission and shooting at a remarkable 68 per cent.

Taranaki’s frontcourt started to make its mark on the game, as Shane Temara and Tai Wynyard got early buckets in the second, using their strong bodies to gain valuable second chance points. A 6-0 run for the Airs brought the contest back to just a single possession, but the stint was quickly undone after Hyrum Harris converted a momentum killing And-One. Nevertheless, a physical brand of basketball from both teams kept spectators on their toes for the rest of the first half. Even though Manawatu maintained an efficient shooting clip, so did Taranaki. This time it was the Airs’ backcourt that started to make the difference, with individuals like Raukawa and Kenneth Tuffin closing the gap at half-time.

If Zachary Easthope had not fouled Jayden Bezzant on his last second three-point attempt, the Airs would have only trailed by a single basket at the main break. However, that was not the sequence and Bezzant capitalised, making all three shots from the charity strike and gifting the Jets a convenient five-point lead. As both teams shot at 51 per cent, it was Manawatu that could thank their aggressiveness for getting their noses ahead, getting to the line 11 times compared to the Airs who shot just five free-throws.

On an individual level, Jones stood alone at the top of both rosters. The All-Star Five nominee secured 18 first half points and nine rebounds without a missing a second of play through 20 minutes. Meanwhile, guards Bezzant and Raukawa both made noticeable contributions with 13 points each for their respective teams. Wynyard’s size proved too much for Taane Samuel and the Jets early on, with a couple of baskets two minutes into the third and Temara provided the extra points where they were needed. This tied the game at 58 three minutes into the second half and the seesawing affair would resume again. A magical spinning floater in the key from Raukawa with three minutes to go in the third, gave the Airs the lead for the first time since the opening term. This was further compounded following an exquisite pick-and-roll between Jones and Wynyard, extending their fragile lead to three with a quarter to play and a critical quarter overall for the Airs, winning the term 20-12.

The duo of Samuel and Harris proved fruitful in the infant stages of the final quarter, helping their side even up the game and eventually retake the lead two minutes into the period. Then, a 10-0 run from the Jets capped off by a McQueen fast-break three, got Manawatu’s noses in front by eight and regained control back to Tim McTamney’s boys. Manawatu blew the game out of the water at the mid-way stage of the fourth, putting the deficit into double digits once again and forcing Raukawa and Jones to force their hands on numerous trips up the floor. With Taranaki in the bonus with more than four minutes still to play, it made closing the gap on the Jets that much more difficult, as they trailed by 10 in the dwindling moments of the game.

League MVP Tom Vodanovich would contribute to seven of his team’s final 11 points before picking up his fifth foul with a minute remaining, as consistent free-throw shooting topped off a well-rounded night for the Jets, eliminating a resilient Taranaki side 105-95 and earning their second ever Grand Final spot in club history. Even though the Airs shot better overall on the night, it was Manawatu that forced Taranaki to make an abundance of errors throughout the four quarters. While the Jets conceded eight takeaways in 40 minutes, Taranaki were induced into giving up the ball a total of 16 times, 12 of which were as a result of steals. In turn the Jets punished the Airs for this, scoring 25 points from turnovers, being a major factor in their side’s victory.

Vodanovich put together a team-high 28 points along with 11 rebounds, while Harris contributed another multi-faceted game with 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals accounting for more than half of the team’s steal totals. Another surprising participant for the Jets was big-man, Taane Samuel, securing 23 points and five rebounds in over 30 minutes on the floor. In their final outing, like so many times before, the Airs’ highlights came from predominantly two men. Raukawa who was a man on a mission found his way to account for 32 points and five assists, while his right-hand man in Jones submitted 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the loss.

Manawatu Jets’ forward, Harris credited the outcome post-game to a strong second half, noting a change in defensive transition and focusing their attention more on their scoring, but remains confident heading into the grand final.

“I think with us it’s just a mental thing,” said Harris. “We’ve just got to push through those sorts of calls and any stuff that happens, but I think we did a good job of it [tonight] and obviously we came out with the win.”

The Jets look to Saturday’s Grand Final looking to exact revenge on an Otago Nuggets team that has beaten them in all four of their previous encounters to this point (most recently by 25 in the qualifying final). Can Manawatu promote a different result the fifth time round? We will find out tomorrow night.

All-Star duo lead Airs to elimination final win over Bulls

IN a clash of completely different styles, the Taranaki Mountainairs have defeated Franklin Bulls in a nine-point thriller to advance through to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals last night. In a seesawing contest the Airs were able to finish stronger, defeat the Bulls 99-90 and set their sights on a final four clash with Manawatu Jets tomorrow night.

TARANAKI AIRS 26 | 22 | 24 | 27 (99)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 27 | 19 | 26 (90)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

There were not many better ways to start off finals week than to have Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa be unveiled in the Sal’s NBL All-Star Five. That and to have the Airs – the best offence –  to face the Bulls – best defence – in a knockout elimination final.

In an attempt to control the rhythm of the game, the Airs came out with a 2-3 zone, an excellent strategy used to slow down play. So in order to combat this sluggishness, the Bulls tested their luck from deep, a lot. Safe to say the Airs’ coaching staff made the right choice as the Bulls came out cold, making just three of their first 14 shot attempts. 

A timeout was called by the Bulls, but to no avail. The more the Bulls missed open threes, the colder they got and the less the Rams were inclined to give up paint position. When the Airs did find a way to force themselves in the paint, they were swarmed with five yellow jerseys cutting off all angles, hence forcing a kick out pass to a shooter on the perimeter.  

Eventually Isaac Davidson drained a contested three – his first after three bricks – and the Airs saw their first slither of momentum. What preceded in the next 40 seconds however was truly remarkable. The Bulls stole the ball three times and snatched two offensive rebounds before they finally made a basket. That is five shots taken before the Airs could even leave half court, all resulting in a singular layup.  

The Bulls ended the first down by only eight points. Which is not too bad considering they just shot two for 16 from three. But yet, the lack of aggressiveness that so badly inhibited their offence in the first, had now transferred all the way over to their defensive efforts, as they frequently allowed Bulls’ players to drive past them for easy layups. Simply put, the more the Bulls threw up ugly shots from three, the more the lead continued to grow. Hence, the greater the hill to climb for what is statistically the least impactful offence in the league. 

This missing aggressiveness was only highlighted when the Bulls took their first free throws of the game with five and a half minutes left in the second. 

But when you throw enough up, they have to start dropping soon and that is exactly what happened for Jackson Stubbins who hit back to back threes to shrink the deficit to three points. Slow close outs, clumsy passes and a technical foul put on Jones and the Bulls had officially climbed the hill, tying the game 40 apiece. Although the Airs were responsible for reeling them back in, they never allowed them to lead, ending the first half 50-48.

The Taranaki Mountainairs lost the privilege to say that as the Bulls saw their first lead of the game, with an ‘aggressive’ and-one from Dominique Kelman-Poto. One reason the Bulls kept within a fighting chance was for their work on the glass. Poor box-outs and lack of communication on behalf of the Airs had brought this once anaemic contest to a now fiery battle.  

If the Bulls wanted to remain the leaders on the scoreboard, they would have to find an answer for Jones who seemed to have the hot hand all night, as he brought back the lead for his team. The Bulls tried to answer back with a missed three, then another, then another, all while Jones had hit his last three three-pointers. Within a blink of an eye, the Bulls went from breathtaking comeback to down by nine points… again. 

The Bulls had already been on a 24-9 run, but with only 10 minutes on the clock, down by eight, the last quarter was not going to be easy. To do this, they needed to stay tight on the perimeter defensively and get a little lucky on offence. Funny enough, the Bulls started the quarter with suburb switching and smart help defence, forcing the Airs to put up an ugly shot before the Bulls splashed it in from three in transition. 

More aggressive drive plays from Kelman-Poto and the Bulls were able to cut the deficit to four. But like with every time the Bulls fought the deficit, they fell right back down the hill. The Airs won the game 99-90, and now head off to the semi-finals to take on the Manawatu Jets.

The win was only possible on the back of some special players like Raukawa who finished the contest with 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Clearly Jones was motivated after being named in the All-Star Five as he left the ball game with 31 points while also securing 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. Tai Wynyard (11 points, nine rebounds) came close to a double-double, whilst Shane Temara finished with eight points and seven rebounds in a solid effort. Coming off the bench for 15 minutes, Mitch Dance sank a couple of baskets and nailed his free throws to go at 100 per cent efficiency for six points and five rebounds.

Although it was not the Bulls’ night, no one will hold the result against Kelman-Poto who notched up 31 points alongside 10 rebounds, four assists and three rebounds. Isaac Davidson played a handy role with 24 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steel, but struggled with accuracy, shooting just 38 per cent from the field. Stubbins (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal) was the other player to reach double-figure points. 

The Taranaki Mountainairs take on the Manawatu Jets tonight at 7.30pm local time.

Bulls charge through Taranaki as Airs fall out of top two race

TARANAKI Mountainairs’ bid to finish within the top two in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) standings is officially over, following their 92-65 drubbing by way of the Franklin Bulls, as Everard Bartlett’s perfect night from the field helped cement his side their seventh win of the campaign.

FRANKLIN BULLS 24 | 25 | 20 | 23 (92)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 13 | 14 | 20 | 18 (65)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Prior to last night’s meeting, the Bulls had fallen to the Airs in their two previous encounters. How Franklin looked at getting lucky the third time round, was to limit the effect of the Airs’ role players, which also included the much anticipated matchup between Samuel Timmins and Tai Wynyard, as each big-man looked to gain the upper hand over the other.

The Bulls kicked the contest off with Bartlett’s three free-throws, but that remained the only event of the opening couple of minutes, as each side missed their initial five attempts from the field. Three minutes in however, Timmins’s layup got the ball rolling for the Bulls. The layup was further compounded by Isaac Davidson’s first three-pointer, capping off a 9-0 start to kick off the first quarter. As a result of Franklin’s fast-paced start, Taranaki repositioned their defence to a Zone setup, but to no avail, as every stop the Bulls made triggered a loud response from their bench. After both teams gradually became more accurate over the course of the quarter, it was the Bulls that tightened their sights from beyond the arc, knocking down four from deep to round out the opening 10 minutes and putting their necks ahead by 11 at the first intermission.

Leading in to the second quarter, 26-year-old Chris McIntosh continued the barrage from three-point range and continued to separate themselves from an Airs offence that struggled to find their target. A beautiful no-look assist by Davidson with a few minutes remaining in the half to Nicholas Barrow, prolonged the Bulls’ momentum. The Airs, they could not muster a response. Franklin’s target finder was working at maximum effort, shooting over 50 per cent since the fourth minute of the first quarter. Three-pointers from each of their stars in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones, cut into the deficit with less than a minute to go. But Bartlett struck a dagger into the arm of Taranaki with his second three of the contest and the fourth for the team in the second quarter alone, putting Franklin ahead by 22 at the midpoint of the ball game, 49-27.

The Bulls killed Taranaki on the boards, winning the rebounding contest in the first half 25 to 16, which translated into 10 second chance points as a result. Furthermore, Franklin’s bench proved their mettle in the opening 20 minutes, contributing 17 points to the team’s 49 in total at half-time, compared to the Airs’ four. This left Doug Courtney with a mild headache during the break, as he scrambled for second half solutions. For the majority of the third period, both sides managed to trade baskets, until Bartlett really started to put his stamp on the game. The 34-year-old’s back-to-back threes extended their lead to 29 points, as they continued to create separation for the Airs..

To make matters worse for the Airs, Nikau McCullough decided to join in on the shooting party, converting back-to-back threes as well. However, a small scoring run by Shane Temara, Francis Mulvihill and Jones brought the scoring difference back to 22 points with the final 10 minutes yet to unfold. The main headline at three-quarter time was easily the perfect shooting from Bartlett up to this point, going four from four from the field, nailing three threes to accompany those shots. Adding three free-throws, it would accumulate to 15 points through 18 minutes of court time over three quarters, putting him in good stead for man of the match honours with a quarter to go.

Raukawa began the fourth taking matters into his own hands, scoring eight quick points to begin the phase. However, it would take more than an individual to make a substantial dent in Franklin’s defensive blockade, as another Bartlett three stunted Taranaki’s fightback. The Airs would not make any more headway for the rest of the game, as Franklin held Taranaki to just 65 points at the conclusion of play, as Franklin would knock off a side which they had not beaten in two prior meetings by 27 points.

Bartlett continued his perfect form from the field, despite a quiet fourth quarter. He finished with 18 points off of five three-point shots. Alongside Bartlett, Isaac Davidson and Dominique Kelman-Poto added to the team’s cause significantly. Davidson amassed 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Kelman-Poto compiled 16 points, six boards and five assists.

Looking at the Airs’ performance, their 19 turnovers deflated their offensive intentions, nevertheless Raukawa and Jones remained the side’s constant. Raukawa still managed 19 points on 50 per cent shooting, whereas Jones fell one board short of another double-double, ending his night with 17 points and nine rebounds. In their final game of the regular season, the Airs’ loss last night solidifies their position outside the top two, as Franklin gifted Taranaki its sixth loss of the campaign. On the other hand, the Bulls go above .500 and improve their record to seven wins and six losses.

The outcome for Franklin ties themselves for fourth in the standings next to the Auckland Huskies, as they compete in their final game before the finals against the Canterbury Rams in Saturday’s opener.

Airs keep top two hopes alive with win over Giants

TARANAKI Mountainairs have kept their dreams of finishing in the top two of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown alive after downing Nelson Giants by seven points last night. In what was a team effort – five players scored double-figure points – the Airs reached the hundred mark yet again in the 102-95 win.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 20 | 26 | 28 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 24 | 27 | 16 | 28 (95)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Both teams were able to gets shots off early, but back-to-back threes by Thomas Ingham and Dane Brooks gave the Giants an early advantage. Denhym Brooke countered with a triple of his own for the Airs, and the big guns in Derone Raukawa, Mika Vukona and Mike Karena all got on the board with some points. Trailing by as much as six, the Airs drained three consecutive treys – one to Marcel Jones and two to Shane Temara – to hit the front themselves. They did not lose it again for the rest of the quarter as both teams share the points around.

The Airs long-range shooting was a huge feature of the opening term as the Giants looked to get as close to the basket as possible. The teams traded baskets in the last couple of minutes as Nic Trathen had a late triple to follow on from Mitchell Dance, but it would be Zach Easthope who had the last say with a layup as the clock ticked down to four seconds for Taranaki to lead by four at the first break.

The second term opened with Ken Tuffin scoring his first points of the game with a jump shot after missing his earlier three-point attempt, as the Giants kept in touch with the third placed Airs through another Trathen triple just two minutes into the game. Raukawa and Jones scored the next seven Airs points, but then their side went three minutes without scoring. Despite the long period, Nelson did not fare much better with a Karena driving layup a minute earlier the first time the Giants had been in front since midway through the first quarter.

The teams traded buckets in the second half of the term, as the Giants through Ingham and Karena built a handy lead. Temara scored five late points for his side to cut the deficit to three points by the main break. Having had a break later in the term, Raukawa returned to the court for the second half to try and spur his team on after conceding the lead in the second quarter.

Just nine seconds into the quarter and Tuffin got to the rim with a nice layup and Vukona fouled Jones on a three-point attempt to send the big man to the line which he duly delivered to give his side a two-point advantage. Vukona soon made up for his error with a two-pointer of his own, and the teams again traded passes. Josh Bloxham cleverly picked up a steal off a Raukawa pass and Karena fed the ball to Ingham for a triple to hit the front. No sooner had the Giants went ahead, and Raukawa quickly drained a triple of his own to give his team the advantage.

The Airs maintained that advantage throughout the term, as the Giants got as close as three points with 2:22 left in the quarter. However the last two baskets – to Raukawa and Tai Wynyard – extended the lead out to seven at the final change, with no score added in the last 74 seconds of the game as the Giants kept having chances but not nailing them. Four consecutive shots resulted in three offensive rebounds for Nelson, before Wynyard finally grabbed a defensive board, only for Jones to turn the ball over again. Not long after the siren sounded with the Airs up by seven.

Still within striking range, the Giants continued to push as Karena, Trathen and Ingham all scored early baskets. Temara produced an entertaining dunk, while Raukawa was still making life difficult for the opposition with his shooting. Midway through the term, the game was well and truly alive with the Giants drawing within a point on a number of occasions. Vukona capitalised off an and-one chance with two minutes and 43 seconds remaining and the scores 89-88 in favour of the Airs.

That seemed to wake the third placed team up a little as Jones and Brooks both contributed with jumpshots to push it out to six points and the Giants never got closer. Karena’s basket with 56 seconds on the clock put the Giants to within six, but then the deliberate fouling was on and the Airs made sure to get the ball in the hands of Raukawa who delivered from the charity stripe. An Ingham turnover in the last 38 seconds resulted in a Tuffin basket, and while Theo Johnson nailed a late triple, it was too little, too late for the Giants who went down 102-95.

Raukawa finished with a double-double of 15 points, 11 assists and two rebounds, while Jones picked up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in another big performance. Temara had 20 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench, while Dance (13 points) and Brooke (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the Giants, Ingham top scored with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Trathen came off the bench for 20 points of his own to accompany five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Karena (18 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Brooks (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) both picked up double-figure numbers while Vukona aided his teammates well with five rebounds, three steals and two assists to go with eight points.

Taranaki takes on Franklin Bulls tomorrow in a must-win clash if the Airs are to secure a top two spot, while Nelson plays its final game on Saturday against Otago Nuggets knowing it is set for the first elimination final on Tuesday.

Jets navigate Airs in explosively high-scoring contest

MANAWATU Jets powered on in the final term of their 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown contest with Taranaki Mountainairs to record a memorable 15-point win over the top of the table side. It was no surprise that the two highest scoring sides went toe-for-toe and surpassed the ton, with 11 individual scorers reaching double-figure totals. Leading the way was Hyrum Harris who returned to the court following injury, and the star made an impact with his first game back, producing a jaw-dropping triple-double in the victory.

MANAWATU JETS 22 | 32 | 21 | 33 (118)
TARANAKI MOUNTANAIRS 25 | 23 | 32 | 23 (103)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

It did not take long for the first and fourth placed sides to get going as Mr Double Double (Marcel Jones) dropped a jump shot and then was immediately countered by an Ashton McQueen bucket off a Harris assist. Whilst Harris looked a little rusty in his return game early – with a turnover and missed layup in the opening couple of minutes – it was good to have the Jets talent back on court. In the meantime though, Tai Wynyard and then Derone Raukawa skipped the ladder-leading Airs out to a lead with Raukawa’s triple and then one of two free throws handing the hairs an early 8-2 lead.

Harris scored his first basket of the contest with a nice layup four minutes in, and despite the Jets clawing to within three points, Taranaki got some air on its opposition with a couple of Jones free throws and a Mitchell Dance jump shot. Harris returned from a brief stint on the bench to immediately be a worry for the opposition, fouled off attempting a triple. He did not hurt the Airs as much as he could have, sinking just the one of three from the charity stripe. Nelson Kirksey soon drew his side within four, but that was matched by Jones dropping another triple 10 seconds later.

When Jones landed a handy hookshot with 93 seconds left on the clock in the first term, the Airs led by seven points. Then a quick flurry of points, including a Haize Walker layup in the final 10 seconds resulted in the Jets cutting the deficit to three points at the first break.

That three-point deficit was eroded in the first minute as a Harris jump shot from long-range levelled the scores. Wynyard found Shane Temara for a memorable Airs dunk in response, as Taranaki was forcing fouls off the opposition. Ken Tuffin scored his first points of the match a few minutes into the second term, as the Airs built a handy seven-point buffer with six minutes to play. Then the Jets came hard. Kirksey in particular decided enough was enough, dropping five points as his side scored 10 of the next 12 points.

Surprisingly, high volume scorer Tom Vodanovich only put up his first points of the contest with three and a half minutes left in the first half, while Raukawa was already cooking in what was building to be another sensational performance. The momentum had turned in the meantime with the Jets up by one following a pair of Jones free throws to cut the deficit back, only for the Jets to sink 14 of the next 20 points – including four triples – to blow out the margin to nine with a minute to play. Raukawa got a crucial long-range shot to drop to cut the half-time deficit to six, but the jets were here to play.

Both teams were going to hang around in the second half as they traded blows early with Harris and Taane Samuel putting up five consecutive points for the Jets to lead by nine just 90 seconds into the contest. It would be the Airs turn to go on a scoring rampage though, shooting the next 14 points, including five to Jones, four to Raukawa and a triple to Tuffin, for Taranaki to again regain control. A Jayden Bezzant steal off Tuffin proved crucial though, as he and Samuel scored six of the next eight points to pull within a point midway through the term.

After Jones completed a couple of free throws, Vodanovich tied the game with a triple off a Harris assist, and then despite Wynyard momentarily regaining the lead for the Airs, the Jets sank back-to-back baskets through Samuel and Harris. The long-range shooting of the Jets was proving the difference with Manawatu maintaining a small lead over Taranaki heading into the final break. Jones was still being a nuisance for the Jets, regularly set to the charity stripe and with 48 seconds to go, he drew his team within one. But the Jets scored the final four points of the game to head into the last term with a 85-80 lead and the stage was set for a thrilling finish.

Denhym Brooks was quick to drop a triple for the Airs and draw within two points in the opening minute of the game, but the Airs had the answers with McQueen and Vodanovich again extending the lead out to eight points a minute later. Each time Taranaki would draw closer, a Jets player – such as Kirksey – would drain a triple and undo the hard work the Airs had put together. Manawatu leader Tia Temata-Frost scored his basket at a crucial junction to go seven points clear, and soon Kirksey had another triple and the lead was into double-digits.

Back-to-back triples from the Jets thanks to Vodanovich and McQueen meant the Airs’ back-to-back two-pointers were not only countered but built upon, and when Vodanovich drained another long-range bomb with just over four minutes remaining in the contest, the lead was out to 13 points. Harris and Samuel all but sealed the game in the next minute with a combined five points buffering the advantage to 18, before a couple of free throws to Francis Mulvihill brought the Airs to the century with just under three minutes to play.

Mitchell Dance scored three of the last five points of the game, but it would not be enough as the Jets secured the 118-103 victory courtesy of a strong final term. In terms of team stats, the Jets shot at a much higher 67 to 52 per cent from the field, and drained 15 triples to seven – a third of their long-range shots going in. The Airs work from the charity stripe kept them in the contest (86 per cent accuracy), but the Jets scored 17 points to 11 from turnovers, and made good with 18-11 second chance opportunities. In particularly, scoring 31 points from 18 off the bench was impressive, though both teams only had the 11 turnovers each in what was a high quality game by two genuine Sal’s NBL Showdown contenders.

Harris was voted best-on in the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award thanks to his remarkable triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks, leading the way for the Jets. He was one of six players to notch up double-figure points with Samuel (22 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Kirksey (19 points, four rebounds, four assists and one steal) both having plenty of it. Vodanovich was by his standards quiet but still amassed the 17 points and six rebounds, while McQueen and Bezzant both had 12 points and three rebounds in the win.

For the Airs, Raukawa and Jones were the standout players. Raukawa helped himself to a double-double of 29 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and two steals, while Jones picked up 24 points and 10 rebounds. Temara also achieved a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, while Tuffin was the other starter to record double-figure points with 11. Dance’s last three points of the game saw him too notch into double-figure points with an identical 11.

Heading into the final week, the now second-placed Jets take on Franklin Bulls on Tuesday, before matches against Otago Nuggets and Auckland Huskies to play the four other top five teams in consecutive matches to end the regular season. The Airs meet Nelson Giants on Wednesday before a clash with the Bulls on Thursday the last encounter ahead of finals, having the most break of any side ahead of the post-season series tipping off on Tuesday week.

Final quarter thriller leaves Airs two games clear at top of the table

HIGH-octane offence combatted stringent defence, as Taranaki Mountainairs came out on top of the Otago Nuggets, 106-105 in one of the games of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. For much of the game, both teams took care of the ball, but it was Taranaki that took home the win despite a fierce second half comeback from the Nuggets.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 32 | 29 | 22 | 23 (106)
OTAGO NUGGETS 21 | 28 | 27 | 29 (105)

[… FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The opening night of week four action rounded out with what was promised to be the game of the season so far between the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs and the third-placed Otago Nuggets. It is fair to say that fans were made good on that promise, and then some.

The promise of plenty of offence was certainly delivered with 53 points being scored in the first quarter. The Nuggets won possession off the tip which resulted in a missed dunk opportunity for Jordan Hunt, one of many shots missed at the rim for Otago. Marcel Jones opened the scoring for the game with a silky post-hook, as the reply came straightaway from Josh Aitcheson with the corner three.

Jones would continue to show why he is one of the best players in the league as he was stealing defensively, facilitating the offence with multiple assists, and banking in threes, it all seemed to be going his way early. His activity was contagious for his team as Taranaki was doing it on both ends.

With the starters beginning to have a break, it was the unlikely performances of bench players Denhym Brooke of the Airs and Matthew Bardsley of the Nuggets who would turn super subs for the quarter. Brooke would go five for five from the floor and end the quarter with 12 points, while Bardsley would drop eight, keeping the Nuggets in the game.

A Francis Mulvihill splash would intervene his efforts as the lead extended to double digits for the Airs. Jordan Ngatai’s only three points for the half would close out the quarter to end 32-21. An evenly poised contest with offence the clear difference. Taranaki was shooting 60 per cent and had twice as many assists than Otago for the quarter as its static offence needed to get moving as the game progressed.

A Jarrod Kenny splash started the second quarter and set the tone for he and the Nuggets as they outworked the Airs early. Kenny looked to score aggressively inside and out and another triple from him prompted a reply from MVP race leader Derone Raukawa, who earned three points the old fashioned way.

To typify a slow scoring night, a Ngatai air ball preceded a big Brooke put back and-one from the weak side, while the offensive explosion began to settle as both teams started to sort themselves out defensively.

Though the Nuggets made in-roads to the early deficit they gave up, another Mulvihill splash pushed the lead out to 12. Backup forwards in Brooke and Zachary Easthope supported Jones and Tai Wynyard, however, it would be Mitchell Dance that would take over, scoring six down the stretch.

Despite new inclusion Aaron Roydhouse knocking down his first shot in the competition from downtown, the Airs would maintain their first quarter lead heading into half-time up 61-49. Though they only shot 10 per cent less from the field, some inconsistent defence from the Nuggets allowed 29 bench points and 38 points in the paint for Airs. Brooke (15 points) and Jones (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) were important for the Airs while Hunt (11 points) led the way for the Nuggets.

Kane Keil opened the second half with a big triple in a quarter that would see him score eight. Hunt’s physicality inside would lead to a couple of baskets as the lead was suddenly back down to five. Much like the start of the second quarter, a renewed energy surge struck the Nuggets, but they were still unable to string that big run together that would see them within a possession of the Airs.

Ngatai forced his way back into the game late in the quarter with a smooth spinning layup and a three-point play, however, Raukawa going coast to coast and a Shane Temara dunk kept the scores at 83-76 heading into the last break. You still could not help but feel the momentum was with the Nuggets as it seemed the Airs starters were starting to fatigue.

The final 10 minutes were some of the most exciting basketball the competition has seen so far. Some big blows either way held the margin until the Nuggets stars in Ngatai and Kenny took control, while Bardsley was so vital down the stretch with his athleticism and hustle all over the court.

Kenny found his way to the line multiple times, but it was free-throws from Hunt that tied the game at 98-apiece with just over two minutes left to play. It was the first time the scores were level since the score line read 0-0.

A go-ahead basket from Kenny was answered with the double-double machine Jones hitting a jumper to tie, as he went back to back with a pretty floater to give the Airs the lead with one minute to play. As he had done all game, Keil came up clutch with a much-needed triple before some Kenneth Tuffin free throws changed the lead again.

With thirty seconds left, who else was going to step up? That’s right, the super subs of the first half decided to end the flurry they began with Bardsley laying it in, and Brooke doing the same to make the game 106-105.

The Nuggets had no timeouts left and went to their star player Ngatai who had some scoring left in him. His baseline teardrop narrowly missed as time ran out on the loose ball, handing the Airs the narrow but well-deserved victory in a thriller.

Jones (26 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals) and Raukawa (22 points, seven assists, 9/9 free-throws) put up another good performance as Brooke (17 points, seven rebounds) played big minutes off the bench. Temara’s (14 points, 12 rebounds) effort flew under the radar as Taranaki sit two games clear on top of the ladder. They face Auckland on Thursday and will be looking to continue their high-scoring winning ways.

Hunt (24 points, eight rebounds) and Kenny (20 points, eight assists) starred for the Nuggets as well-rounded games from Keil (20 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bardsley (18 points, eight rebounds) almost pushed them over the line. Ngatai (11 points, 28 per cent shooting) was quieter than usual and will no doubt come out firing in their match against the Rams on Thursday.