Tag: taranaki airs

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Taranaki Mountainairs

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Airs finished fourth on the ladder and lived up to their billing with a semi-final berth after defeating Franklin Bulls in the elimination final to finish third overall post-finals. We take a look at their season.

Played: 16
Won: 9
Lost: 7

KEY STATS:

Points: 98.6 (1st)
Rebounds: 47.1 (1st)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 6.6 (7th)
Blocks: 3.4 (1st)
FG%: 48.5 (1st)

BEST WIN: defeated Otago Nuggets by 26 points

In a really season-defining win, Taranaki Mountainairs stormed from seven points down at half-time to piled on a massive 68 points in the second half, whilst restricting the Nuggets to just 35, on the Airs’ way to a big 107-81 victory. Derone Raukawa led the way in scoring with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals, though Marcel Jones was best-on with a ridiculous 15 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Overshadowed by Jones’ remarkable numbers, Shane Temara still picked up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Francis Mulvilhill (17 points, four rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (15 points, five rebounds) also had accurate shooting nights.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 27 points

With a qualifying final spot on the line, Taranaki Mountainairs had to win their final match of the regular season to keep their top two hopes alive. They had beaten Franklin Bulls twice earlier in the season, but this night was different, blown off the court early and never able to recover, they went down in a deflating 92-65 loss and had to settle for fourth. Raukawa (19 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Jones (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) dug deep, but the likes of Joe Reddish (18 points, five assists), Isaac Davidson (17 points, four rebounds and five assists), Everard Bartlett (16 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Sam Timmins (seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and five steals) ran rampant. Luckily for the Airs, they beat the Bulls a few days later to reach the semis.

TOP PLAYERS:

Derone Raukawa 23.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 steals
Marcel Jones 22.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals
Shane Temara 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals
Ken Tuffin 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals
Tai Wynyard 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Jones and Raukawa’s seasons for a start, as both were named in the All-Star Five at the conclusion of the regular season. They were phenomenal each and every night, and were hard to stop even on quieter nights. Combining for 46 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals per game, they were the most dominant duo in the Sal’s NBL. Secondly, if the game was played on paper, the Airs had the best stats across the board of any side, finishing first in points, rebounds, blocks and field shooting percentage, as well as second in assists, which was a remarkable effort.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

When the depth stepped up, it was hard to match the Airs as you knew what you were going to get out of the two elite talents. However when the depth struggled, so did the Airs, with the heavy rotations making them unpredictable, but also not as consistent in the back-end of the season. Early in the season they looked like the premiership favourites, but were just overrun at the end by a couple of quality units.

SUMMARY

Taranaki Mountainairs were always a genuine contender with their elite talents and the dominant duo. The rare finds in Tuffin and Mulvihill proved steals in the competition, while a number of young talents stepped up to find their feet at the level. They fell a match short of the big one, but expect them to be back bigger and better next year.

2020 NZ NBL: End of season stats leaders

WITH the NZNBL season done and dusted Draft Central takes a look at some of the top performers throughout the season. Taranaki Mountainairs, Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets have quite a few players that feature within the top five areas in focus given their impressive 2020 campaign.

AVERAGE POINTS:
Taranaki Mountainairs star, Derone Raukawa leads all comers when it comes to points with an average of 23.7 a game. Raukawa was a commanding presence for the Airs and was a key reason his side got as far as they did with his ability to find the basket and score. Hot on his heels was teammate Marcel Jones who also impressed throughout the season averaging an impressive 22.8 points thanks to his tenacity and drive to the rim. MVP winner Thomas Vodanovich also had a commanding influence on the scoreboard with the Manawatu Jets bigman leading the way for his side and hitting the scoreboard regularly to register an average 22.4 points. Although the Auckland Huskies had a challenging year it did not seem to faze Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa who proved to be the go to when it came to posting a decent tally single handedly influencing the outcome of games with his average of 20.7 points a game. Rounding out the top five is Jordan Hunt who managed 19.6 points a game for premiers Otago Nuggets.

AVERAGE ASSISTS:
Topping the table for points, Raukawa also took out top spot for assists with the Airs playmaker amassing an average of 7.4. Classy with ball in hand, Raukawa was both a threat on the scoreboard and in transition constantly dishing off dimes to his teammates to create attacking forays. Jets player Hyrum Harris also impressed throughout the season racking up 6.4 assists a game thanks to his vision and execution while Mauriohooho Le’Afa showcased his strength with ball in hand to record 5.4 a game. There is no denying that premiership player Jarrod Kenny was electric with ball in hand, able to slice through the full court press and release the rock with confidence racking up 5.2 assists a game as Taylor Britt closed out the top five with 4.6 assists for the Canterbury Rams.

AVERAGE REBOUNDS:
Frequently hitting the scoreboard, Jones also showcased his firepower and strength off the backboard with a whopping 13.1 rebounds a game. Jones was an integral member for the Airs with his ability to gobble up anything that came his way. Not far behind him was Harris with the Manawatu Jets representative proving to be a menace for opposition teams with his rebounding position to pick up an average of 11.6. Coming in at third on the leaderboard, Leon Henry had a solid season for the Huskies dragging down 10.9 rebounds while Vodanovich showcased why he was MVP featuring in the top five for rebounds with an average of 10.2 thanks to his commanding frame and read of the play. Although he did not get as much court time as his counterparts Alexander Talma secured fifth spot on the tally with a season average of eight rebounds.

AVERAGE BLOCKS:
When it came to defensive pressure and blocks Samuel Timmins led the way not only for his side but for the competition with the Franklin Bulls player notching up 1.7 a game testament to his impeccable foresight and elevation to get hands to ball. Shane Temara was not far off the pace with 1.1 blocks a game while Joshua Leger recorded an average of a block a game. Both Dane Brooks and Henry managed just under a block a game sitting at 0.9 blocks a game highlighting their defensive pressure for their respective teams.

AVERAGE STEALS:
Harris had a hand in just about every facet of the game with the Jets star taking out top spot for steals with a competition high 2.7 highlighting his ability to cleanly attack the ball and most importantly succeed. Similar to Harris, Mauriohooho Le’Afa had an impressive season featuring highly in most areas with an average of 2.5 steals while Jayden Bezzant also starred for the Jets with his speed to dart around the court and get a hand in at every opportunity that came his way with 1.9 steals a game. Henry amassed 1.6 steals a game as Josh Bloxam completed the top five with 1.5 steals.

LEADERBOARD:

AVERAGE POINTS:

Derone Raukawa: 23.7
Marcel Jones: 22.8
Thomas Vodanovich: 22.4
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 20.7
Jordan Hunt: 19.6

AVERAGE ASSISTS:

Derone Raukawa: 7.4
Hyrum Harris: 6.4
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 5.4
Jarrod Kenny: 5.2
Taylor Britt: 4.6

AVERAGE REBOUNDS:

Marcel Jones: 13.1
Hyrum Harris: 11.6
Leon Henry: 10.9
Thomas Vodanovich: 10.2
Alexander Talma: 8

AVERAGE BLOCKS:

Samuel Timmins: 1.7
Shane Temara: 1.1
Joshua Leger: 1
Dane Brooks: 0.9
Leon Henry: 0.9

AVERAGE STEALS:

Hyrum Harris: 2.7
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 2.5
Jayden Bezzant: 1.9
Leon Henry: 1.6
Josh Bloxam: 1.5

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.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 14: Bulls v. Huskies and Mountainairs v. Nuggets

A TOP four clash is set to headline Week 4 of Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) with the Taranaki Mountainairs playing the Otago Nuggets in the second game of the night while the Huskies will be hoping to continue to bridge the gap between them and the top four with a win over the second placed Franklin Bulls.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting in second spot the Bulls will have to throw everything they have at the Huskies to keep them at bay and maintain their position inside the top four. Last time they met the Bulls prevailed, albeit by four points in what was a hard fought battle, meaning this rematch could definitely follow suit given the progression of both sides throughout the season. Although Auckland are coming in off a mere five points, they have strung together a couple of strong performances, finding some continuity on court.

The Bulls will take plenty of confidence from their last performance and come into the match having won four of their last five outings. Their ability to treasure possession and make the opposition pay is what they pride themselves on averaging 11.8 turnovers a game compared to the Huskies’ 14. In terms of accuracy the Bulls also have the upper hand going at 43 per cent field goal efficiency while the Huskies only manage 39.8 per cent. However from three point range both sides don a similar percentage with the Bulls slightly ahead at 32.6 compared to Auckland’s 31.6.

The Bulls and Huskies are also quite evenly poised when it comes to scoring averaging 82.6 and 82.1 per game respectively, showcasing just how much of a tight battle this match will be. With both sides even in terms of scoreboard output it could come down to rebound ability something the Huskies are renowned for. Auckland are one of the strongest teams in the leagues when it comes to rebounds amassing an average of 45.4 each game an area of the Bulls they will be hoping to exploit given they only manage 38.4 a game, the lowest in the competition.

It has been a more consistent effort from the Huskies in recent weeks however the pressure still solely lies on Izayah Mauriohooho LeAfa to do most of the heavy lifting 18.7 points a game, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds showcasing just how dominant he is across all facets of the game. Teammate Taine Murray has also enjoyed a recent run of hot form, finding the basket with ease averaging 17 points a game, while the influence of Leon Henry has not gone unnoticed for the Huskies with Henry imposing himself on the boards with a team high average of 11.7 rebounds and 11.3 points to average a double-double. Another threat for the Bulls is Tohi Smith-Milner with the bigman showcasing his range sinking 12.4 points a game.

For the Bulls they have no shortage of options when it comes to doing damage on the scoreboard but Isaac Davidson is the main points scorer sitting at an average of 18 points a game. Next in line when it comes to scoring potency is Dominique Kelman-Poto who averages 14.3 points while also being the leading rebounder in the team, collecting 7.1. Samuel Timmins is the only other player to average double figures with 12.9 points to his name and has proven to be strong off the boards with 5.6 rebounds a game.

Given just how dominant Mauriohooho Le’Afa can be when he gets going the Bulls will have to pull out all the stops if they are any chance to nullify his presence on the scoreboard. Expect a high intensity battle considering what is at stake for both teams when it comes to ladder positioning and a creating potential separation between the top four.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS v. OTAGO NUGGETS

The second game of the night will draw plenty of onlookers and attention. Locked in a battle of one versus three expect the Taranaki Airs to try and put the foot down to claim some ascendancy atop of the ladder. When they played earlier in the season the Airs got the job running out with a convincing 26 point win while the Nuggets simply struggled to generate their normal game play. Taranaki have won four of their last five games while the Nuggets have experienced a similar vein of form registering three wins from their past five matches.

Coming in on a three game winning streak Taranaki will be hoping to make the most of their momentum and rattle the Nuggets with their prolific scoring. Although no slouches themselves when it comes to scoreboard impact sitting third in the competition with an average of 93 points a game, the Airs are a class above sinking an average of 101 points a game credit to their explosiveness. Another major discrepancy between the two sides lies in the rebound column with the Airs strong off the backboard with 8.7 more than the Nuggets 48.9 compared to 40.1.

Not only do the Airs have the upper hand when it comes to scoring prowess but so too blocks with the competition ladder leaders recording 3.1 blocks a game, while the Nuggets manage 2.8 a game. However when it comes to turnovers the Airs can be quite costly often throwing ball away in transition with 15.1 per game. Conversely the Nuggets are cautious with ball in hand, looking to flick the ball around and not push the ball until something opens as shown through the side averaging the second lowest turnover rate in the competition with 13.6.

There is no denying that Derone Raukawa is the go to man for the Airs, able to find the basket with ease and ply his trade up and down the court averaging a team high 22.9 points. While his efforts on the scoreboard impress he is also crafty with ball in hand dishing off yet another team high 7.3 rebounds a game. Teammate Marcel Jones is just as influential for the Airs able to light up the scoreboard with an average of 20.3 points while his presence at the rim is just as impressive recording 15 rebounds a game to average a double-double. Shane Temara is another key figure for the Airs sinking 11.6 points a game while reeling in 5.4 rebounds. Kenneth Tuffin has been known to hit the scoreboard while Francis Mulvihill is an excitement machine with the youngster able to find the basket and dish off dimes left right and centre.

It will be up to bigman Jordan Ngatai to lead the way for the Nuggets once again with his influential presence often causing headaches for opposition teams. He leads the team in points and rebounds with 20.5 and 6.3 respectively.  While Ngatai is the most prolific the Nuggets have a wealth of other options such as Jarrod Kenny who has proven he can burst out of the blocks and dominate, sinking them from range with no problem at all. Kenny averages 11.1 points a game and is number one in the team for assists with 4.9. Jordan Hunt is a key play maker for the Nuggets with his drive to the basket sitting at 16.8 points a game and 6.3 rebounds while Josh Aitcheson registers in the top five for points scored, assists and rebounds with 10.1, 2.1 and 4.5 respectively showcasing just how well rounded he is.

Both sides possess very similar attributes however it will come down to whether or not the Nuggets can shut down the ease and freedom with which the Airs can hit the scoreboard that will be the true test. Looking to protect their spot on top of the ladder expect Taranaki to leave no stone unturned and make it two from two against Otago.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 10 night preview: Nuggets v Jets and Rams v Airs

A COUPLE of teams hoping to break into the top two, and a top-against-bottom clash are what fans will come to see in the Saturday night outing for Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs MANAWATU JETS

Opening up Saturday night action is a battle between a couple of mid-table teams who at their best can push anyone in the competition. The Nuggets started strongly to win their first two games in week one, but have dropped three of their last four since then to slip to a 50 per cent win-loss record. If they win here, they will leapfrog the Jets into third and sit a win off the top two. For the Jets, victory would move them on level pegging with the top two teams – at least temporarily – and give them some breathing space on the rest of the competition.

As it stands, the Nuggets are averaging 87.8 points per game, slightly below the Jets’ 94.6. Both teams have some top-end scoring power, so putting up big numbers is not too difficult for the respective teams. The Jets are far superior when it comes to rebounding though, ranked second with 43.6 per game compared to the Nuggets’ sixth ranking of 35.8. When it comes to assists, the sides are dead level on 18.3 per game, while the Jets have the higher shooting accuracy.

In the Nuggets’ first game this season, they got up in a four-point thriller thanks to a barnstorming third term. Trailing by six points at half-time, Otago piled on 27 points to 16 in the third quarter to hit the front and then hold on in a high-scoring last term to win 104-100. On that night, Jarrod Kenny had a massive game with 28 points – including five of nine from outside the arc and a total 61.5 per cent accuracy – while dropping six dimes in the process. Jordan Ngatai had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists himself, while Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) were also prominent in supporting roles.

Three players did all the scoring damage for the Jets in the loss, with Jayden Bezzant finishing with a game-high 30 points, as well as five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tom Vodanovich dominated with 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Taane Samuel helped with 20 points and four rebounds. Hyrum Harris fell short of a double-double and had nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on the night.

With Harris having missed the last couple of games, the Jets have missed him, but have also made do, still making their way up the table. It will be a tough game and it could well come down to the depth, with both teams fourth and fifth players capable of contributing to the headliners.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs TARANAKI AIRS

Two teams at opposite ends of the Sal’s NBL ladder take to the court in the second game, with the Airs looking to go outright top with six wins from nine games if they get up, while the Rams hope to peg back a win and break a five-game losing streak.The good news for Canterbury is that the ladder is so even, by the end of the night, the Rams could theoretically sit fourth again after slipping to seventh following last night’s loss to the Auckland Huskies.

The Airs have been the team to beat throughout the season with 101.5 points per game to rank first overall, while the Rams come in at a respectable third, though somewhat down in the averages with 88 points per game. Taranaki is also ranked number one in rebounds with 45.5 and assists with 19.6. While the Rams are mid-table in both statistical areas, it is clear to see the Airs are playing better basketball both in theory and practice. The one aspect the Rams hold over the Airs is the experience and knowledge that they have beaten them before.

Back on June 27, Canterbury got up by 11 points, 112-101 despite a fast start from the Airs. Trailing by four points at quarter time after a 66-point combined opening quarter, the Rams won the next three terms by four, eight and three points respectively. More importantly though, the Rams have to win to avoid becoming the first team to lose to every team in the competition once. In the win, it was Taylor Britt who came agonisingly close to a triple-double after having ridiculous numbers of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, shooting at 63.2 per cent from the field. Sam Smith was also impressive with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, while three other players – Alex Talma, Thomas Webley and Mason Whittaker – all score double-digit points. Talma and Webley combined for 18 boards too with the former picking up double-double for his troubles.

The Airs still had some strong performers with Derone Raukawa leading the way once again with 25 points, though it was Marcel Jones who did the most damage, dominating his way to a double-double thanks to 19 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Ken Tuffin (14 points, six rebounds) and Denhym Brooke (11 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points in the defeat, with Mitch Dance contributing as well with eight points and four rebounds.

The Airs will go in as strong favourites in this game and the Rams really need to find something soon to turn their form around. If they can rekindle their first week form then they are capable of anything, but the Airs are in ripping form and will want to secure outright top spot at the end of the night.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 9 night preview: Airs v Giants and Huskies v Rams

TONIGHT’S 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NZNBL) Showdown matches are a Throwback to opening night of the season, when the Airs faced the Giants and the Rams took on the Huskies.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs NELSON GIANTS

Top spot is on the line for the Taranaki Mountainairs who will be keen to take back pole position from Franklin Bulls with an impressive win over the Nelson Giants in this game. However the Giants have plenty to play for because they can level with the Airs at a 50 per cent win-loss record if they get up in this contest, moving into the top three.

The Airs have been a high-scoring side this season, averaging a whopping 102.4 points per game, while the Giants sit fifth overall with an average of 85 per game. The Airs are also the number one rebounding side, picking up 45.4 per game to the Giants’ 37.1, whilst Taranaki leads the assists too thanks to 19.9, while the Giants have struggled, ranked sixth with just 14.1 per game. It will also be a case of the best three-point shooting outfit (39.7 per cent for the Airs) compared to the worst (29.6 per cent for the Giants), but Nelson have the capability to cause an upset.

Last night’s heavy defeat at the hands of Manawatu Jets would sting the Giants, as they dropped only their second game in five matches, though the 30-point beating will be one they want to put quickly behind them. The Airs looked to have slipped a little earlier in the week with three losses in four games, but managed to compose themselves for a really strong 14-point win over the Franklin Bulls to temporarily take top spot before the Bulls won last night.

In their earlier encounter, the Giants had a fast start to lead by a point in a high-scoring opening term (28-27), before the Airs took control. Taranaki won the next three quarters by seven, eight and two points respectively to run out 16-point victors back on opening night. In fairness to the Giants, they were without their three top draft picks in Mika Vukona – who is still injured – as well as Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Instead, it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tyxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) who stepped up to the plate, but it would not be enough.

Instead, second pick in the Sal’s NBL Player Draft, Derone Raukawa, went to town with a first game double-double of 28 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and a steal, shooting at a remarkable 66.7 per cent from the field, including draining five of six from three-point range. Francis Mulvihill (16 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals) also impressed, but it was another double-double of Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) that caught the eye. Tai Wynyard (13 points, three rebounds) and Shane Temara (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points for the Airs on the night.

Expect the Airs to be strong favourites in this one for consistency reasons, but Wynyard will have a massive job trying to quell Karena who is in some absolute sensational form of late – though had a quieter game last night.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs CANTERBURY RAMS

No one would have thought a week ago that this could be a bottom two clash, and that an Auckland win could theoretically push the Huskies above the Rams. Canterbury started the league like a house on fire, winning the first three games, including an opening night 32-point demolition job of the Huskies. Since winning their first three games, the Rams have not been able to muster a victory, losing four on the trot and are in danger of slipping to the bottom of the Sal’s NBL table after being the front runners for the first week. The Huskies on the other hand might only have the two wins, but spectators can see they are on the rise, winning two of their past three games and arguably deserve favouritism in this game.

In the earlier encounter between the sides, the Rams never looked like losing, blowing away the Huskies in the opening term with a 29-12 stanza to already opening up a 17-point lead. While the Huskies hit back in the second term, the Rams continued on their merry way in the second half, outscoring Auckland by 18 points to cruise to a 102-70 victory. The partnership of Taylor Britt (22 points, eight rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks) was damaging for the Rams, while Jack Exeter added 13 points off the bench, and Sam Smith and Thomas Webley combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds.

It was a disastrous shooting night for the Huskies, but Tohi Smith-Milner was a shining light thanks to 15 points at 62.5 per cent accuracy, while picking up four rebounds and two steals. Nate Wilson amassed 10 points at an identical clip, as well as four rebounds, two steals and two blocks off the bench. Leon Henry and Taine Murray had shaky starts to the season, sinking a combined three from 19 from the field at a lowly 15.8 per cent accuracy,. They did put together a combined 10 rebounds and five assists however.

Since that fateful night, Auckland has welcomed back top pick, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa who has averaged team-highs in points (16.5) and assists (4.3) as well as third overall in rebounds (5.0). Both Murray and Henry have also been strong since misfiring on night one, helping themselves to top five placings in points and assists, while Henry leads the way off the boards with 11.6. A lot of the load for the Rams has been placed on the shoulders of Britt who has put up team-high numbers in points (20.9) and assists (4.1), as well as second in rebounds (7.1). Alex Talma has provided good support off the boards with eight rebounds per game, while Gillooly has been a crucial omission through injury of late after having a strong start to the season.

The Huskies can really join the mid-table logjam with a win here, while the Rams are just desperate for a win. They cannot afford to lose a fifth straight game because then the only team yet to beat them is one of the title contenders in Taranaki Mountainairs, and the Rams would not be keen to go into finals knowing they had lost to the rest of the competition at least once.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 7 night preview: Nuggets v. Huskies and Bulls v. Airs

WEEK 3 of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action kickstarts with the top two sides in the Franklin Bulls and Otago Nuggets taking on the bottom two teams in the competition, Taranaki Mountainairs and Auckland Huskies. Each team has shown throughout the season that they have the ability to burst out the blocks and wow the opposition making for an exciting night of action.

OTAGO NUGGETS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting second on the ladder it could be argued that the Otago Nuggets have the upper hand heading into the clash, but the Huskies have proven that they can score quickly and easily when on song despite only winning one game for the season so far. The Nuggets are a formidable unit, with a wealth of players able to pop up and ply their trade across the boards while the Huskies tend to rely upon the services of one key player.

When it comes to scoring the Nuggets sit third while their opponents take out last place, often unable to generate scoring opportunities.  The Nuggets average 91.6 points per game showcasing their attacking mindset and freedom in which they can score at. On the other hand the Huskies only manage an average of 77.6 points per game, meaning they will have their work cut out for them against Otago considering the 13 point differential between the two sides.

In terms of rebounding the Huskies have the upper hand with Auckland averaging 41.4 a game, a clear testament to their skill around the rim and desperation to win the ball back whether it be offensively or defensively. The Huskies will be hoping to exploit the Nuggets weakness in this area with Otago only registering an average of 37 per game the lowest of any team in the competition.

It will be up to Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa to stand up for the Huskies with the guard leading the charge when it comes to scoring with an average of 18 points a game. His efforts don’t stop there, with Mauriohooho Le’Afa contributing on the rebound front with 4.7 and leads the assist column with an average of 4.7 per game. Teammate, Taine Murray has also been solid on the scoreboard with an average of 13.2 while Leon Henry has stamped his authority averaging a double-double thanks to his 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

For the Nuggets the load has been relatively evenly spread despite Jordan Ngatai dominating for his side. The big man is a commanding presence across the court able to have an influence both in offence and defence averaging a whopping 19.6 points and also gobbling up 5.6 rebounds each time he steps out on court. Excitement machine Jarrod Kenny can turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye with the 34-year-old able to shoot the lights out and dish off dimes willy nilly. Kenny averages 12.4 points and 4.8 assists a game proving to be a real playmaker for Otago while the efforts of Jordan Hunt (14.8 points) and Joshua Aitcheson (10 points) do not go unnoticed, making them a very hard team to overcome.

Ngatai will definitely be one to watch for the Huskies if they are any chance to register another win for the season, while expect the Nuggets to put a lot of time into shutting down the influence of Mauriohooho Le Afa. Coming off a loss the Huskies will be desperate to notch up their second victory of the season and really try to get some respectability back on the scoreboard. But with their fourth win in sight and the potential to leapfrog the Bulls into top spot expect the Nuggets to throw everything they have at Auckland to get the job well and truly done.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

 In the second game of the night, the top placed Franklin Bulls take on the Taranaki Mountainairs who have had an up and down campaign so far but are only one game off the top team. With three wins under their belt the Mountainairs will have plenty of belief that they can knock off the top of the table Bulls and jump up the ladder. However the Bulls are coming off a strong showing and on a four game winning spree, a feat they will be hoping to continue tonight.

When it comes to scoreboard impact that is where the Mountainairs can well and truly flex their muscles averaging a whopping 102.5 points per game while their opponents sit second last with 78.5 points, something the Airs will be hoping to take advantage of. Their ability to score with haste and accuracy makes them a real threat to the Bulls able to burst out of the blocks and pile on the pressure.

Another strength for the Mountainairs is their rebounding ability, averaging the highest in the league with 49.7 displaying their ability to impose themselves around the rim and limit their opposition’s chance of regaining possession. The Bulls however are not as proficient in this area sitting fifth in the competition for rebounds with an average of 41.2 which is still impressive.

Although the Airs are a strong attacking team the Bulls have proven to be a tricky team to score against, given their defensive work. The Bulls are cautious with ball in hand, treasuring each possession and only averaging 12.5 turnovers each game, the least amount of any team but the Airs can be sloppy with ball in hand averaging 14.5.

The Bulls have a wealth of options that can hit the scoreboard none more prominent than Isaac Davidson with 17.5 points per game. The youngster has been a focal point in the Bulls line-up able to apply scoreboard pressure, take the court for an average of 30 plus minutes and dish off a dime every now and then. Teammate, Dominique Kelman-Poto has also been influential for the Bulls and will be eager to continue his run of hot form, currently averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Samuel Timmins (12.2 points) and Nikau McCullough (10.2 points) are also valuable avenues to the basket for the Bulls showcasing the plethora of options they have when it comes to posting a commanding tally.

Taranaki have five players averaging over double digits in the points scoring column with Derone Raukawa leading the charge. Raukawa has proven to be a scoring machine for the Airs constantly delivering at the basket and rising up to the challenge time and time again, averaging a whopping 22.5 points per game while also registering 7.3 assists. Averaging a double-double, Marcel Jones will be one to watch for the Bulls with Jones able to explode out of the blocks securing an average of 17.7 points and 15.5 rebounds. Shane Temara and Kenneth Tuffin are other key members of the Airs side with the duo able to knock back shots while youngster Francis Mulvihill is exciting to watch with his drive to the basket  and vision to pass off to teammates.

It will be an enthralling battle with both sides boasting stacked line ups. Despite sitting at vastly different ends of the table expect this match to go down to the wire with the Airs able to fight back from commanding deficits credit to their scoring prowess.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 5 night preview: Huskies v Giants and Jets v Airs

THE bottom two sides searching for a second consecutive win to keep building their form go at it in the first game, before the Taranaki Airs hope to take top spot with a win over the up-and-down Manawatu Jets.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES VS NELSON GIANTS

A battle between the two bottom sides opens the final night of week two action, with both teams desperate to get a win on the board. Despite being in the bottom two, there is still plenty of time to turn things around, with Nelson Giants technically a win off second, and the Huskies a win behind them with a 1-3 record from four games – and a game in hand. The Giants have a marginally better points differential with a minus 35 to minus 48, but both also come into the match after winning their last start.

These teams are not traditionally huge scorers this season with the Giants ranked fifth with an average of 86.4 points per game, and the Huskies at the bottom with 76.3. In terms of their rebounds, the Huskies have the advantage with 43 per game compared to 39.6 from the Giants. The Huskies also shade their opponents with 15.5 to 14 assists per game, but still sit in the bottom three sides in the competition. Accuracy is still a worry for Auckland, with a competition-low 36.6 per cent from the field, whilst the Giants are fourth overall with 44.8 per cent. If the Huskies are to win, they will need to make the most of their chances.

Both teams will be missing key players in this game, with the Giants still missing Mika Vukona who remains on the sidelines, while Leon Henry will be out for the Huskies due to suspension sustained in the last game. Since Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa joined the team after missing the opening game, the Huskies have started to pick up, with the young talent averaging a massive six assists per game to go with his 11 points, while Tohi Smith-Milner (14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds) will need to step up in the absence of Henry who has been dominating off the boards with 10.8 rebounds per game. Young gun Taine Murray has also been one to watch, ranked in the top five for points, assists and rebounds showing just how bright of a future he has.

The Giants have improved since their opening couple of games, winning two of their past three matches and only dropping the other one by four points. If the Giants can continue that good form, they can continue to rise up the ladder in such a short season. Mike Karena has been borderline unstoppable for the Giants and he continued his ripping form against his former side, Canterbury Rams last start. This season he has posted numbers of 23.3 points, 8.3 rebounds ad 2.3 assists in the season. Thomas Ingham has also been strong, averaging the 14.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists, as Nic Trathen has also recorded top five averages for his side in 2020.

This is a tough game to pick because both sides have been on the improve, but Giants seem a touch more settled, though the Huskies have the ability to pile on the points when they need to, if they can overcome the loss of Henry in this game.

MANAWATU JETS VS TARANAKI AIRS

The second game of the night sees the Taranaki Airs hoping to go back-to-back and join the Franklin Bulls on four wins if they can topple the fifth placed Manawatu Jets in this contest. The Jets are just a win behind in an even competition, with two wins from five games, and whilst they had won two of the past three coming into last night’s contest, missed Hyrum Harris to injury and went down to slip to a third loss. If they win, they could even leapfrog the Airs, whilst a win for the Airs would see them take equal top with the Bulls.

Statistically speaking, the Airs are the high-powered scoring team, still managing a remarkable 104.4 points per game. The Jets are not too far behind however, equal second with 91.6 points per game. The Airs are also ranked at the top with rebounds, something the Jets could well match them in, sitting second on 44, six behind the top ranked Airs.  Taranaki is also ahead in assists, with 19.4 to 17 per game, ranked first and third respectively though the Jets are more accurate with their two-point shooting. Manawatu is ranked first for their accuracy inside the arc with 58 per cent compared to the Airs’ 52.6, whilst outside the arc it is a different story as Taranaki ranks top with 42.1 per cent to the Jets’ 32.8 per cent. It could be a case of inside shooting up against outside shooting.

Whilst Harris was a huge loss for the Jets last night – having averaged the 14.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists – Manawatu still has plenty of firepower. Tom Vodanovich has been a scoring machine, with 23 points per game to go with 11.6 rebounds to pick up a double-double average with Harris. Jayden Bezzant has also been on a tear, ranking second in both points and assists, thanks to 22.2 and 4.0 averages respectively. Taane Samuel is another averaging in the top five across the board putting up numbers of 17.2 points (third), 5.8 rebounds (third) and 1.6 assists (fourth) for the 2020 season.

After back-to-back losses, the Airs have regained some momentum with a good win against the Nuggets and are keen to notch up another win here. Derone Raukawa continues to cause headaches for opposition players, averaging team-highs in points (22) and assists (7.2), as the top playmaker in the competition. Marcel Jones has been in elite form across the board, ranking in the top two across the three major stats thanks to 18 points, 15.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists himself. Ken Tuffin and Shane Temara are the other two Airs players to rank in the top five for team points, rebounds and assists, so can also not be forgotten.

The Airs will head into this game as deserving favourites having bounced back from a couple of losses with an important win. While the Jets might be missing Harris, they still have what it takes to get the job done.

Airs tame Bulls, climb to second win in three-point shooting extravaganza

TARANAKI Mountainairs withstood a number of gallant charges by Franklin Bulls last night to earn a second consecutive win in Week One of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Bulls were in their inaugural game and raced out of the blocks early, but the consistency of the Airs throughout the match – including when Franklin hit back hard early in the fourth term – saw Taranaki claim the victory and remain unbeaten thanks to a 107-95 victory.

FRANKLIN BULLS 31 | 21 | 18 | 25 (95)
TARANAKI AIRS 25 | 30 | 27 | 25 (107)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Coming in for their first ever match, no one knew exactly what to expect from the Bulls. After Taranaki’s strong performance the night before, many expected the Airs to burst out of the blocks as Franklin would work its way into the match. Instead, it was quite the opposite. Dom Kelman-Poto scored the first ever point for his side with his second three throw after a foul, and then something no one would have predicted. Three consecutive triples – two from Isaac Davidson and one from Everard Bartlett – saw the Bulls race to a 10-0 lead courtesy of a few misses from the Airs.

The Airs worked their way back into the quarter, but the Bulls long range shooting was clearly going to be a problem as Bartlett sank another triple, and despite Marcel Jones and Shane Temara teaming up to steady the ship, it was Kelman-Poto’s turn to strike the dagger from long rage. In less than four minutes of action, Franklin had drained five triples and led 16-6. The match was seemingly starting to slip away from the Airs when Davidson hit back-to-back triples – making it four in a quarter – and the lead was out to 15. Tarananki worked its way back in after a few Franklin misses to cut the deficit as little as five, before Jackson Stubbins joined the part with a triple late. Luckily for the Airs, Tai Wynard made good on a two-point jump shot with three seconds remaining.

Returning to the court for the second quarter and a six-point deficit, the Airs needed to find something, and one positive was that Derone Raukawa (four points in quarter one) had not lit it up yet. Instead, Wynyard and Jones were working together to claw back the lead, as Sam Timmins scored his first points in Bulls colours early in the second quarter. The teams were trading blows until Davidson once again popped up to drain a fifth triple and Franklin had some breathing space with a seven-point lead.

On debut, Ken Tuffin scored his first points with a nice defensive rebound and move down the other end for a layup move. With the Bulls leading by eight points midway through the term, Raukawa stepped up with an important triple, and he, Jones and Tuffin went on a scoring spree. The latter drilled a three-pointer to hand Taranaki its first lead of the game thus far with just over four minutes remaining.

When Wynyard sank a turn around jumper a couple of minutes later, the crowd could hardly believe the side that was eight down, was not seven up in a 15-0 scoring run themselves. The Bulls managed to claw their way back, then the term fittingly ended with the teams trading triples, Francis Mulvihill for the Airs and eight seconds later, Bartlett for the Bulls. When it was all said and done, three points separated the sides in favour of the Airs.

Jones’ hot hand continued early in the third with five of the first six points to pick up the Airs’ form where they left off. The Bulls would not be done with yet, as Kelman-Poto and Nicholas Barrow drew the new team within a couple of points, but again it was the team work of Raukawa and Jones who went to work, seven consecutive points. The Bulls were not able to properly capitalise on their free throw shooting when getting the chance, with Barrow only scoring one of the two for the second time in the term, before Baxter Fenwick drained a three-pointer, and Raukawa drove the dragger in with another one of his own. When Tuffin joined the party with a long range bomb at the six-minute mark, the lead had blown out to 17.

Since the midway point of the second term, the Airs had scored 30-15 and were dominating on all fronts. Every challenge was answered by the team that has catapulted itself into genuine title contention. Whilst the Bulls finished the term on a high with a triple from Kelman-Poto – to cut the deficit to 12 – the Airs were firmly in control leading by 12 points, 82-70.

If anyone thought it would be over, then they were given something to seriously consider early in the fourth, as with the exception of a couple of Wynyard buckets for the Airs, the Bulls dug deep to turn it into a contest. Nikau McCullough decided he had not yet had enough of a say on the contest, so casually drilled three triples to start the quarter, as Bartlett joined him in that quest and Timmins managed to gain another couple of points. Within the first three minutes of the term, the Bulls were on parade and had bolted to a two-point deficit.

Jones decided enough was enough and reminded those at The Trusts Arena of his long-range prowess with back-to-back triples himself, the first six points of an 11-point stint. The Bulls could only score one point in that time and the Airs were well on their way to victory with a few minutes remaining and a 14-point lead again. Davidson tried to rally his side back into it with a couple of baskets, and whilst McCullough drilled another three – his fourth of the term – with seven seconds remaining, the Bulls would fall 12 points short as Taranaki headed to bench with a 107-95 victory.

Jones was the star of the show, putting up 29 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three steals, shooting at 57 per cent from the field and draining four of nine from long range. Raukawa worked his way into the contest after a quiet start to finished with a strong 18 points, and whilst his accuracy was lower than his first night’s contributions, he dished it off six times to teammates. Tuffin’s 10 points, four rebounds and two assists was strong, whilst Wynyard also reached double-figure points thanks to 11 to go with a couple of rebounds.

The ridiculous long-range shooting of the Bulls saw them put up a remarkable 40 attempts, sinking 18 of them, which was more than their points from inside the arc. Davidson was the key architect for the Bulls with 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, as well as six triples from nine attempts. His partner-in-crime, Bartlett had four long-range baskets for 13 points, five assists, three steals and two rebounds. McCulloch drained five of seven from beyond the arc – four in the final term – for 17 points and two rebounds coming off the bench. Kelman-Poto (10 points, four rebounds) and Barrow (11 points, five rebounds) were the other strong contributors.

The Airs now have a couple of days to rest before a blockbuster Saturday night clash with Canterbury Rams, whilst the Bulls will take on the Rams tonight, before facing the Auckland Huskies on Sunday.

2020 NZNBL team snapshot: Taranaki Mountainairs

THERE have been known under a number of monikers over the years, but the Taranaki Mountainairs have remained strong over the past decade. Playing out of New Plymouth, the ‘Airs’ are yet to win a New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) title, but they did finish atop the ladder in 1992. Whilst they finished eighth in a nine-team competition last year, the Airs are back on a level playing field in 2020 ahead of Thursday’s Player Draft.

The Airs quartet of players they had signed for the initial 2020 Sal’s NBL season prior to the COVID-19 – including three Americans – had not been able to nominate for the Player Draft according to the Player Pool on the NZNBL website.

Whilst there is unknown about the playing group, the Airs had an early win off the court by securing the services of Doug Courtney. The New Zealand Under 17s assistant coach – who has had experience at NZNBL level – has signed on as the Airs’ coach for the 2020 season. In speaking to the NZNBL website, Courtney said he was looking forward to the challenge ahead in the modified season.

“I am excited by the opportunity to be a part of the Mountainairs in the newly revamped Sal’s NBL,” he said. “My expectations as Head Coach, together with the organisation, is to put together a competitive team built around current and local players. “The draft is an exciting element with a number of top-level players set to be involved and available.”

In the same article, the Airs also announced the signing of former Airs talent, Joshua Paurini as assistant coach. Playing across 14 years in the NZNBL, Paurini spent the bulk of that in Taranaki between 2005-2012. Airs Chairman Laine Hopkinson said the club was ready to hit the ground running in a couple of weeks under the experienced leadership.

“We are really excited about this year’s competition,” he said. “Locking Doug and Josh in to lead our team is a big step in the right direction. We think they will be a great combination and ideal for this year’s format.”

2020 SAL’S NBL TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS FIXTURE

Tuesday June 23 vs Giants @ 5:30pm
Wednesday June 24 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Saturday June 27 vs Rams @ 7:30pm
Tuesday June 30 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 1 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 5 vs Jets @ 7:30pm
Tuesday July 7 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Thursday July 9 vs Giants @ 5:30pm
Saturday July 11 vs Rams @ 7:30pm
Tuesday July 14 vs Nuggets @ 7:30pm
Thursday July 16 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 19 vs Jets @ 7:30pm
Wednesday July 22 vs Giants @ 5:30pm
Thursday July 23 vs Bulls @ 5:30pm 

For Taranki Mountainairs fans, the club has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts from which to follow to keep track of updates.