Tag: Theo Johnson

Huskies hold nerve in tense finish against Bulls

AUCKLAND Huskies have saluted in the tightest of matches to secure a win in the ‘Battle of the North’ clash, defeating Franklin Bulls by three points thanks to a late Jeremy Kendle dagger. The Huskies got up 99-96 at the Bulls’ home court last night, trailing by six points at the final break, but then scoring 30-21 in the last term to grab the victory. It was far from a simple run home though, with the Bulls in front in the dying 30 seconds, before the Huskies held their nerve and regained the lead by the final buzzer.

The first term saw the Bulls start off strongly, scoring 24-17 to take and early seven-point lead into the break. The home team was making it count from beyond the arc, with Denhym Brooke and then Jaylen Gerrand (twice) grabbing their side an early lead. Kendle was getting on the Bulls’ minds though and was already beginning to have an impact in the paint. The Bulls were hitting the scoreboard in a big way though, with another Brooke triple with five minutes on the clock, and the lead had ballooned out to 17-6. The Huskies hit back to score nine of the next 13 points to cut the deficit to six, as Nicholas Barrow was starting to add to his total. Brooke was still a problem though, securing an and-one chance, and then Bulls took the first break with a strong advantage.

The early going in the second term went all the way of the Huskies as Zach Riley, Theo Johnson and Kendle piled on eight consecutive points for the visitors to hit the front within 90 seconds. Josh Selby steadied the ship for the Bulls, but he Huskies were beginning to hit their straps. They got out to an eight-point lead when Dontae Nance nailed a triple, but the Bulls kept the Huskies within arms-length to head into the break only four points down, but it was a dominant last 15 minutes from the Huskies who were on a 46-31 roll since being 17-6 down.

A Nicholas Fee triple in the opening 10 seconds of the second half show that the Bulls were up for the fight, but Barrow responded a minute later for the Huskies. After leading by six points with seven minutes on the clock in the third term, the Huskies watched their lead evaporate as it was the Bulls’ turn to take control. Fee hit a triple and then Selby nailed back-to-back layups and the Bulls were back in the lead. The Huskies regained it back with a few minutes remaining, but Selby and Dane Brooks proved to be a problem and the Bulls held a handy six-point buffer at the final break.

The intensity was high early in the final term as neither team could strike in the first 90 seconds, but it was Gerrand who hit the two-point jumper for a seven-point Bulls lead. It was never going to be enough the way the game was going, and the Huskies kept getting it back to within a single basket with every chance they got. Each challenge was answered, and with six minutes left, the teams traded baskets – and the lead – multiple times.

Once Brook Rosuco-Taiaroa put his Huskies in front 86-85, then nailed a triple moments later, the lead was beginning to grow. Shot after shot missed, with Adam Dunstan eventually breaking the drought for the Bulls, and Nance responding almost immediately for the Huskies. Joseph Nunag handed the Bulls the lead with two minutes on the clock as the sides prepared their final substitutions for the run home. When Brooks scored a two-pointer, the lead was three and the Bulls were in a better position. He would miss the next two-point jumper though, and Barrow made a free throw, and Kiana Saxon produced a successful jump shot and scores were level with 38 seconds on the clock.

Selby held his nerve with two successful free throws in the last 30 seconds, and the Huskies made the decision two points down they would take out the clock until an opening, which they found through Kendle who made no mistake. With nine seconds remaining, the Huskies were 97-96 up. The Bulls hoped Selby would be the man to win the game a second later, but the shot missed, and a deliberate foul on Nance after collecting the rebound sent him to the line where he hit the winning free throws for a 99-96 victory.

Kendle racked up a massive 32 points, shooting seven triples from 13 attempts, and also collecting six rebounds, there assists and two steals. Nance (18 points, four rebounds and three assists), Barrow (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Ruscoe-Taiaroa (17 points, eight rebounds and two assists) also worried the opposition across the court. For the Bulls, Selby knocked down 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds), Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Nunag (14 points, three assists) were all lively.

Auckland Huskies next face Manawatu Jets on Friday, while the Franklin Bulls take on the Jets the day after in a quick turnaround for their opponents.

Picture credit: NZNBL

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Nelson Giants

NELSON Giants are first up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Giants ended up the bottom placed team after a sixth placed regular season finish, going down to Canterbury Rams in the first elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 5
Lost: 9

KEY STATS:

Points: 84.0 (6th)
Rebounds: 41.1 (5th)
Assists: 14.7 (7th)
Steals: 7.3 (5th)
Blocks: 2.3 (7th)
FG%: 44.2 (5th)

BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 5 points

It might be easy to say the Giants’ best win came against eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets in the final week of the season, but realistically taking into account what the motives were in that game in terms of management ahead of Finals, the narrow victory over a full-strength Manawatu Jets side earlier in the season takes the cake. No Jets player scored more than 18 points, as Theo Johnson put on 20 points and three rebounds, while Mike Karena had 17 and six, and Nic Trathen had 11 and six.

WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland by 29 points

The game was over by quarter time after the Huskies shot a lights-out 17 from 17 to start the match, piling on more than 40 points in the best first term of the season. The Giants managed to match it with their opponents after that, but the gap was a bridge too far despite the best efforts of Karena (15 points, eight rebounds).

TOP PLAYERS:

Mike Karena – 17.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Thomas Ingham – 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Dane Brooks – 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals
Nic Trathen – 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals
Mika Vukona – 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Nelson Giants always looked like a dangerous team at times given their big man out on court, Karena was the best center in the competition, and his ability to be able to go inside or outside, and shoot at a high 54.2 per cent clip from two-point range and 37.5 per cent from three-point range was always going to be hard to stop for opposition clubs.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

A slow start to the season caused by injuries to Karena, Dane Brooks and Mika Vukona, the latter of whom did not return until late in the season. If the Tall Blacks legend had played a full season, there is every chance the Giants might have finished higher on the ladder, with his experience crucial to the side.

SUMMARY

The Nelson Giants might have finished seventh overall post-finals, but given the losses of key players to injury, the team was always playing catch-up basketball. At their best, the Giants were clearly able to match it with the best sides, and it was more the fact they struggled to get their full side on the court often enough. There were enough signs there to suggest if they can retain their big guns for another season next year, the Giants could be more competitive when the whips are cracking, and more consistently as well.

Huskies’ 45-point first quarter squashes Giants with huge win

AUCKLAND Huskies produced the most efficient first quarter of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown season, sinking 17 consecutive baskets without a miss on their way to 45 points in their 96-67 victory over Nelson Giants. Despite missing Taine Murray whose season ended with a broken hand in their last outing, the Huskies’ first quarter was the difference in building a staggering 32-point quarter time lead that was never really challenged.

NELSON GIANTS 12 | 19 | 23 | 13 (67)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 45 | 17 | 23 | 11 (96)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies showed no signs of missing Murray’s valuable offence in the first quarter as they exploded for an offensive barrage of 45 points. Even more staggering was their efficiency as their first missed shot came with 1:20 left on their eighteenth shot.

If the start of the game was a sign of things to come, it never looked good for the Giants as big man Josh Leger was caught sleeping on defence, before Leon Henry lobbed it in to Tohi Smith-Milner for the finish inside to open the game’s scoring.

Reuben Fitzgerald started in the place of Murray and grabbed the opportunity with both hands hitting a corner three, on his way to 12 first quarter points.

It was clear early that Henry was looking to attack the smaller Nelson outfit in the paint which opted to start without Mike Karena or the returned Mika Vukona. Once Karena was substituted in, Smith-Milner was able to stretch him to defend the perimeter, leaving Henry unleashed with the size advantage inside.

Every starter got involved for the Huskies with a deep three from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa following a Marvin Williams-Dunn triple. Nate Wilson missed the first shot of the game for Auckland, but the Huskies were even able to grab the offensive board, rubbing salt into the wound for Nelson.

A Dane Brooks air ball accurately represented the quarter for the Giants as Wilson made up for his blemish with a big transition dunk. The first quarter ended 12-45 as the Huskies shot an incredible 90 per cent, including 89 per cent from deep.

There was no real offensive determination out of the gates for Nelson as they struggled to 22 per cent shooting, recording one assist compared to Auckland’s nine. Henry led all scorers with 13.

If the Giants were any chance of making it a respectable margin, they had to respond immediately. Besides a Karena technical foul, two Brooks blocks and a Tysxun Aiolupotea three gave them that start they needed. A Jaylen Gerrand three and a Wilson and-one quickly put a stop to that as the Huskies would not let any inroads be made into their huge lead. They passed 50 points with seven minutes to go in the second quarter and managed to continue to trade baskets with Nelson having made a very comfortable lead for themselves.

Karena’s shot was not falling as it usually does while Isaac Miller-Jose was trying to match his frustrated physicality for much of the game as the match threatened to heat up at times in the second quarter.

A Zeb Lovell and-one brought the lead below 30 until Mauriohooho Le’Afa dropped a deep two, and Murray replacement and New Zealand basketball veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell scored his first competition points.

Smith-Milner barrelled his way to the hoop to close out a dominant first half for the Huskies which saw them lead 31-62, still shooting 56 per cent from beyond the arc. Though their burning hot hand couldn’t maintain their ridiculous first quarter shooting, they still attacked the paint, scoring 18 more points inside than Nelson.

Henry and Fitzgerald did not add to their quarter time tally as Lovell and Aiolupotea led the scoring for the Giants with seven points each.

Coming out of the locker room much later than their opposition, you had to wonder what Nelson were looking to achieve in the second half. Whatever it was, Smith-Milner was not having any of it as he scored 11 points in the first three and a half minutes which included two three-pointers and an and-one.

Theo Johnson and Brooks both put up athletic finishes inside as Mauriohooho Le’Afa did what he does, knocking down a beautiful step back mid-range jumper.

Williams-Dunn and Aiolupotea went head to head down the stretch until Karena imposed himself on the game with a spin out of the post for the reverse baseline dunk, only to follow it up with another one-hand dunk not long after.

With four seconds left, Fitzgerald burst out of the half court inbound for the layup, but another Miller-Jose offensive foul prevented it from counting. Though they showed better signs, the Giants were unable to take a big enough chunk out of the margin as they trailed 54-85 heading into the last break.

The Huskies did not play Mauriohooho Le’Afa, Smith-Milner or Henry in the final quarter giving some bench players good minutes.

Unfortunately, the game ended with little excitement as Nelson won the quarter scoring just 13 points to Auckland’s 11. Karena showed some fight out of the post but it was too little too late with them losing 96-67, a loss they will be keen to move on from as soon as possible having not been in the game after the first quarter deficit they gave up.

With 11 out of their 12 players scoring, Smith-Milner led the way with 20 points with Fitzgerald the next best with 14. Mauriohooho Le’Afa (12 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Henry (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) enjoyed well-rounded performances as the Huskies fired on all cylinders offensively for much of the night. Their final week of NZNBL action will start when they face the Otago Nuggets on Tuesday and if they can mirror their first quarter in any way, it will go a long way toward them winning.

A disappointing night saw Nelson shoot just 38 per cent with Karena (15 points, eight rebounds) and Aiolupotea (13 points) the only players to reach double figures. The loss sees them sit at sixth place as they will want to start fresh against the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs on Wednesday.

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets slay Giants by 30 in three-point shooting masterclass

THE last time these two sides met the Giants secured a come from behind win, but the tables were well and truly turned this match with the Manawatu Jets putting on a spectacle especially when it came to sinking them from deep. Despite not having Hyrum Harris in the mix, the Jets went about their business as usual, bullying the Giants and creating plenty of scoring opportunities to run out convincing 30-point victors (102-72).

MANAWATU JETS 26 | 22 | 25 | 29 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 17 | 16 | 23 | 16 (72)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

With three wins apiece under their belt it was a tight contest from the opening whistle with neither side willing to give an inch. Thomas Ingham opened the account for the Giants sinking a triple but it did not take long for the Jets to respond through Ashton McQueen to level the scores. In his first game since coming out of quarantine, Nelson Kirksey added another three to the tally for the Jets in what was shaping up to be a showing of long range shooting. With both sides feeling each other out and settling into the fast paced tempo of the game Michael Karena inserted himself into the contest getting involved in a couple of passages of play and scoring some early points.

As the quarter progressed, inaccuracy seemed to plague both the Jets and Giants with neither side able to sink a shot whether it be from inside the paint or beyond the arc forcing the ball to constantly scream up and down the court. Unable to really find a rhythm it was the Jets that settled first applying a wealth of pressure and most importantly hitting the scoreboard.

Efforts from Kalib Marsich-Mullins and Jayden Bezzant continued to give the Jets the upper hand with the latter converting from down town to push his side out to a seven-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the term. Bezzant was having things his own way in offence while teammate Taane Samuel had a blistering end to the quarter knocking down five points in less than a minute. With the lead out to 13 points the Giants rallied thanks to Theo Johnson and Nicolas Trathen who reduced the margin to nine heading into the break.

The Giants came out with more intensity and started to find their rhythm in offence with Karena eating into the margin within the opening minute of the quarter to draw back within seven. But Tom Vodanovich proved that anything you can do I can do better with the big man sinking a triple and extending the lead once again. While his efforts in offence were impressive his ability to get back and bring down the rebound also shone, proving to be a real thorn in the Giants side.

Renowned for their physicality, Samuel came off second best with the Jets star notching up his third foul for the game not even half way into the term. With a slight shift in momentum the Jets struggled to find the basket while the Giants found their stroke, sinking them from everywhere to minimise the lead to four. But an unsportsmanlike foul from Riley Bensemann gifted the Jets a couple of free throws and allowed them to regain some control on the game. Following that came an increased defensive pressure from the Jets, smothering every option and pushing the Giants to play the ball around.

Vodanovich upped the ante driving to the basket while McQueen put on a masterclass from three point range. With four minutes left in the quarter McQueen had nine points to his name while Vodanovich was on his way to a triple double with seven points, 13 rebounds and five assists before half time. The Giants simply had no answers for Bezzant who was causing headaches with his 13 points nor Vodanovich with the big man throwing his weight around across the court.

It was a much closer third quarter between the two sides as Karena once again stepped up to the plate for the Giants and steered the ship. It was the usual suspects for the Jets doing all the damage with Vodanovich and Bezzant combining well across the court and regularly hitting the scoreboard while Samuel and Kirksey also got involved in the action, helping to open up a 20-point lead at the six minute mark of the quarter.

Some good ball movement from the Giants allowed them to swinging the ball around the court and keep the Jets guessing with Dane Brookes sinking a timely basket from inside the paint. Samuel registered his fourth foul for the game subsequently forcing him to the bench for large chunks of the game. Meanwhile a hungry and revitalised Giants outfit fought back, with a couple of their young guns stepping up to the challenge with Josh Ledger and Tysxun Aiolupotea leading the charge on the scoring front. Finding their mojo across the court the Giants managed to cut the margin to 17 at the final break.

It was a dominant fourth quarter from the Jets who simply capitalised on every opportunity that swung their way. They impressed with their speed through court to slice through the Giants defence while McQueen continued to dominate from the three point line with four from five. In fact he and Bezzant could not be contained with the two sinking a combined eight triples from 10 attempts.

Although in foul trouble, Samuel stepped up to the plate collecting a couple of crucial offensive rebounds to steadily extend his sides lead but it was Haize Walker that stunned many with an explosive final term. Walker downed a huge three pointer, but to prove it was no fluke he backed it up with two more triples within two minutes to well and truly seal the deal for the Jets and take home a 27 point win.

Falling agonisingly short of a triple-double Vodanovich starred for the Jets amassing 19 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in what was a stats stuffing performance. Bezzant also left his mark knocking back 24 points while McQueen slotted 17 points of his own. All of the starting five for the Jets recorded double figures for points with Kirksey nailing 12 and Samuel finishing with 10 while Walker also sunk 13. On the other hand only three players managed to reach double figures for the Giants with Ingham posting 19 points and six rebounds, Karena (14 points, four rebounds) and Trathen (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists).

The Giants front up tonight in a quick turnaround to play Taranaki Mountainairs, while the Jets take to the court over the weekend in back-to-back games against Otago Nuggets and Auckland Huskies.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 8 night preview: Jets v Giants and Rams v Bulls

TONIGHT’S 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action is sure to help break up the mid-table logjam of teams in some form at the midpoint of the season as sides hope to either continue or turnaround their form. The two matches see Manawatu Jets up against Nelson Giants, and Franklin Bulls going head-to-head with Canterbury Rams.

MANAWATU JETS vs NELSON GIANTS

The opening game of the night sees two teams who could be regarded as danger sides still looking to regain top stars. The Jets are missing Hyrum Harris, whilst the Giants remain without Mika Vukona, but both sides have been able to remain just one win off the pace in an even competition. The Jets have a higher percentage in terms of both for and against points, but dropping games to the Giants and Otago Nuggets earlier in the season sees them sit fifth on a head-to-head basis.

In the Jets and Giants’ earlier clash back on June 28, the Jets flew out of the blocks to lead by eight at half-time but were begged back by the Giants. Nelson only trailed by a point at the final break before scoring 26-20 in the last term to run over the top of Manawatu and win by five points, 88-83. In what was Mike Karena‘s first game of the season, he broke the Giants’ two-game losing streak to start the 2020 Sal’s NBL season, putting up 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and one block.

Theo Johnson scored a game-high 20 points for the Giants, as well as three rebounds, whilst Nic Trathen finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two assists. For the Jets, Harris top scored with 18, as well as 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal, as partner-in-crime Tom Vodanovich recorded a double-double too, thanks to 16 points, 16 rebounds and two assists. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Taane Samuel (15 points, five rebounds and two assists) also had big numbers.

In that game, the Jets dominated the boards with six more in total, as well as three more steals and a higher shooting percentage. However Manawatu also had six more turnovers which is something they would want to change in this encounter with the Giants. Nelson comes in as the more in-form team, winning three of the past four and narrowly dropping the other game to Franklin Bulls by four points in between. It was the victory against the Jets that started the roll on for Giants’ success, with Karena a huge part of that. All season the Jets have maintained a yo-yo win-loss record and have a chance to go back-to-back wins for the first time in 2020 if they can get up here.

 

CANTERBURY RAMS vs FRANKLIN BULLS

In terms of seasons, these two sides could not have had more opposite entries in the first six games facing each of the other teams in the competition. Canterbury Rams, missing two of their stars for the season on the edge of the first tip-off in Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, stunned the competition to win the first three games. They then slumped to three consecutive losses and have fallen to sixth on the table, only a win ahead of Auckland. Franklin Bulls on the other hand, dropped their first two games, then strung four consecutive wins together prior to last night’s loss to Taranaki Mountainairs.

The defeat to the Airs meant the Bulls surrendered top spot, but still sit second a win ahead of the logjam of four teams. The only problem if they lose this game is that the Rams will overtake them on the table having also beaten them in their earlier encounter. In what was effectively the Bulls prior defeat to last night, the Rams took control from the onset to score 40 points to 30 in the opening half. Franklin hit back with 42 to 35 in the second half, but fell three points short despite the best efforts of a number of players.

Taylor Britt was unbelievable in the win for Canterbury, recording a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block, while Toby Gillooly acted as a strong supporting act thanks to 16 points, five rebounds and a steal. Alex Talma was strong off the boards with nine rebounds to accompany his seven points, while Sam Smith had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. The Bulls had their own stars on the night, with Dom Kelman-Poto also notching up a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block, while Isaac Davidson dropped 21 points, three rebounds and a steal. Sam Timmins was productive in center with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Coming into this this match the Bulls are in the much better form and will be keen to bounce back from the disappointing 14-point loss to the Airs last night. Taranaki flew out of the blocks in the first half to pile on 56 points to 29 to all but end the contest. Franklin was strong in the second half, but it was too little, too late by that stage, and they will be keen to make a statement early in the match tonight. Similarly, the Rams will be desperate to turn their form around and break a three-game losing streak.

Bulls book back-to-back wins with Giant triumph

FRANKLIN Bulls have moved to an even win-loss record in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown after downing Nelson Giants in a low-scoring, tight tussle. The Bulls survived a second quarter surge by the Giants to win three of the four terms and get up by six points, 75-69.

NELSON GIANTS 14 | 21 | 18 | 16 (69)
FRANKLIN BULLS 21 | 15 | 20 | 19 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Isaac Davidson kicked off proceeding with an early hot hand, draining a triple 21 seconds into the contest. For the Giants, Mike Karena looked busy early with a couple of two-pointers including an impressive fade away jumper, while Jackson Stubbins and Sam Timmins were also getting involved for the Bulls. After the Giants hit the front three minutes into the quarter, Timmins and Davidson helped the Bulls go on a nice little run with eight consecutive points, and then Joel Vaiangina joined the party once he came into the action.

Sensing the urgency to turn things around, Nic Trathen nailed two free throws to keep his team in the contest, as the Bulls had chances but missed a number of jump shots both inside and outside the arc. A Riley Bensemann attempted triple was made good thanks to a double chance points rebound and lay up by Josh Leger with just over three minutes left on the clock in the first term. Dom Kelman-Poto got his first point of the night with one of two successful free throws upon returning to the court from substitution.

Just as the Giants got close, Adam Dunstan decided to take matters into his own hands and add five consecutive points to stretch the lead to nine with 29 seconds to play, before a Dane Brooks jump shot late in the peace brought the quarter time margin back to seven.

The early going was all the Bulls as the Giants could not seem to buy a basket, with Franklin adding the first six points of the term to move 13 clear of their opponents. But then the range issues hit the leading side as well, with 90 seconds going by before Karena made good on a jump shot for the Giants for their first points of the quarter, and a minute later Kelman-Poto was fouled and successfully dropped two free throws.

The Giants started to turn it around after a slow start to the term, trailing 19-34 with three minutes and 14 seconds remaining. Then everything started to click into place. Theo Johnson and Tysxun Aiolupotea dropped back-to-back triples as the usually reliable Everard Bartlett missed his chance. Timmins produced a statement dunk with just under two minutes remaining to settle the team and ensure they held a 10-point lead, but it would be the last points of the quarter for the Bulls.

Johnson sank another triple, Thomas Ingham converted two free throws, and then Karena and Ingham both added a couple of extra points to game in the last minute. In that time, the pairing of Stubbins and Bartlett could not seem to find the accuracy from long range, and the Bulls’ lead had been cut to just one at half-time.

The Giants momentum continued after the main break with Karena immediately showing why he was so dangerous, getting close to the basket with a great lay up, and then draining a two-point jump shot. The hot hands flowed onto Ingham – who was fouled by Timmins – and Brooks as the Giants had piled on 17 consecutive points across either side of the break for a seven-point advantage.

Kelman-Poto broke the five-minute scoring drought for the Bulls with an important jump shot – and the and-on conversion from the foul line. Karena was making life difficult for Franklin however, slamming home another dunk at the two-and-a-half minute mark of the term. Chris McIntosh relieved some pressure with a triple midway through the term to cut the Bulls deficit to three, but Zeb Lovell soon increased that back up by answering that with a two-pointer. The teams traded blows late in the term with Bartlett finally nailing a triple, and his second triple – with 51 seconds remaining – saw the Bulls find the form of the first term.

Trailing by four points with just over a minute remaining, Kelman-Poto, Bartlett and Connor Woodbridge added a combined seven points to regain the lead at the death by three points. It set up a huge final term between the teams with everything on the line and the crowd on the edge of their seats.

It was the Bulls who struck first blood in the final stanza with Kelman-Poto and Timmins both impressing to give Franklin a seven-point advantage. Bensemann cut that back with a triple, but Nikau McCullough responded with a nice lay up. Neither team could seemingly hit a shot over the next couple of minutes until McCullough broke the drought, this time with a triple and the Bulls were out to a nine-point lead with seven minutes to play. Karena again stood tall with a fade away jumper, but as soon as he had cut the deficit back to seven, Davidson responded with a double of his own.

Each time the Giants were in trouble, it was Karena who stepped up as he continued to drain baskets and seemingly do it all in a desperate bid to haul his team over the line. With three and a half minutes to play, he earned one last rest after the last six points for the Giants. When he returned, there was two-and-a-half on the clock and Davidson drained a jump shot to stretch the Bulls lead to five.

There was no way Karena and his side was going to fade away – apart from his jumpers – as Lovell drilled a triple, and Karena quickly added a layup after Davidson missed a two-point jumper. The Bulls looked to be struggling to find avenues to the basket with a 24-second shot clock violation expiring and the ball handed back to the Giants as they trailed by two with 44 seconds remaining. The ball landed in the hands of Ingham who took a chance at the long-range jumper but missed, and Kelman-Poto got it to Stubbins who was quickly fouled to ensure the Bulls could not take time off the clock.

After missing his first free throw, Stubbins converted the second and the lead was three with 35 seconds remaining. Ingham again had the chance for redemption, but again missed it. This time it was Davidson collecting the defensive rebound and was immediately fouled. He too went at 50 per cent from the charity stripe, but it was enough to make it a two-possession game with a four-point lead.

The pressure was now getting to the Giants with Josh Bloxham called for ball handling and turned it over, with Stubbins getting fouled and making both free throws to put the result beyond doubt – barring a miracle – with 15 seconds remaining. Ingham tried to slice up the defence with a pass but Davidson picked his pocket and with nine seconds remaining, it ensured the Bulls would get up in a massive edge-of-the-seat contest, 75-69.

Whilst Karena was the star off the boards across the game with 26 points – at 70.6 per cent efficiency – as well as seven defensive rebounds – it was the even spread of the Bulls that got them home. Davidson recorded a team-high 15 points, as well as four rebounds and two steals, whilst McCullough (11 points), Kelman-Poto (10 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double figures. Whilst Stubbins only shot one from four from the field, he still nailed some important free throws and had 10 rebounds to go with his five points and two assists.

Other than Karena, Ingham (eight points, nine rebounds) and Lovell (six points, six rebounds) were prominent off the boards, but the former could not find his range with just one from 13 from the field, and five turnovers. The Giants will now take on the Canterbury Rams tomorrow night, whilst the Bulls play in the earlier game against Otago Nuggets.

Karena and Brooks returns sees Giants down Jets

The final game of the first week of the NZNBL (New Zealand National Basketball League) saw the Nelson Giants seeking their first win against the Manawatu Jets who were coming off a huge win the previous night, boasting many good performers.

While Mika Vukona did not return, the return of Mike Karena and Dane Brooks would have boosted the confidence of the Giants which would have been needed having known what the Jets did in their last outing.

NELSON GIANTS 16 | 18 | 28 | 26 (88)
MANAWATU JETS 22 | 20 | 21 | 20 (83)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Fatigue from back-to-back games did not bother Manawatu as we were treated to a much higher scoring game than the earlier match. Winning the tip, Jets guard Jayden Bezzant passed to Taane Samuels who drained a triple within seconds of the tip. He then traded baskets with Karena who had not missed a beat. Despite huge games the previous night, Hyrum Harris (13 points, 21 rebounds) and Tom Vodanovich (38 points) were not feeling it early, although they did pick it up later. Harris turned the ball over for a Karena score, while Vodanovich missed his first shot.

Brooks found himself subbed into the game as coach Mike Fitchett was hoping he would have an immediate impact. An evenly poised first quarter of play after a Theo Johnson and-one conversion, the Jets would close the quarter out scoring eight of the last 10 points on back of a Haize Walker three and a Harris block, leading to a nice spinning layup for himself. Pulling away at the end of the quarter, Manawatu found themselves up 22-16 at quarter time.

Brooks launched himself into the game at the start of the second quarter with a huge swat off the backboard which led to a smooth finish up the other end from Nic Trathen who has enjoyed solid performances in the absence of Nelson’s star players. Vodanovich then suffered two missed three-point attempts and an offensive foul in just over a minute, a far cry from his heroics the previous night. Another Samuels triple gave the Jets an eight-point lead, and with Karena subbing out with foul trouble due to Samuels taking his second charge of the game in the tantalising matchup, it was looking dire for the Giants.

After trading baskets for two minutes, the Giants would get a stop and a Tysxun Aiolupotea floater would bring the deficit down to three-points. From there Vodanovich would leave the perimeter and put the ball on the floor as he and Walker would each score four points to extend the lead back out. If it were not for Johnson scoring five points late for the Giants, it would have been an ominous margin heading into half-time. The Jets were certainly much more convincing through the first half of play, shooting a much better percentage from the floor and controlling the tempo of the game. Johnson and seven second chance points from the Giants kept the margin to single digits with the scores 54-62.

Needing to lift the intensity, the Giants started the second half full of energy, securing a jump ball which led to an Aiolupotea layup. The good start the Giants needed was halted when Samuels continued to challenge Karena forcing him out onto the perimeter, draining another triple. The battle continued as Samuels drew a third offensive foul call on Karena, leading to a Vodanovich three, pushing the margin out to a game-high 12.

Nelson then turned it around and went on a 10-0 run for the next two minutes, including an unsportsmanlike foul and an offensive foul for Vodanovich, seeing him subbed out with four fouls. A big opportunity for the Giants, the Jets then scored seven straight points before Brooks hit the scoreboard for the first time with a much-needed triple. Johnson then secured a five-point play to see them trail by one. He would finish off his large third quarter with a go-ahead basket, before Samuels would regain the one-point lead for the Jets heading into the last quarter.

With the game in the balance heading into the final quarter, Vodanovich looked to assert himself early, but only mustered up an air ball attempt from deep and a turnover. While trading baskets, he would end up making a three in what was proving to be a see-sawing final quarter. Riley Bensemann then stepped up for Nelson and made some big plays with a block, a steal, a layup, and a triple following a stop. A Bezzant three would bring the game back to two points, yet the next two and a half minutes would bring trading baskets and turnovers back and forth until Johnson made it a two possession game with a triple with 40 seconds left.

A Harris layup would make the scores 84-83 the Giants’ way, until he committed an unsportsmanlike foul, all but ending the game. With intentional fouls and free throws ending the game at 88-83, the Giants recorded their first win for the season. A solid second half performance saw them score 13 more points than the Jets, giving them the confidence they need going forward. Johnson (20 points) and Karena (17 points, six rebounds) led the way while Trathen (11 points, six rebounds) and Aiolupotea (nine points) were both serviceable. They now sit in fourth place and face the Franklin Bulls on Tuesday.

Vodanovich (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Harris (18 points, 13 rebounds) were both impressive again as Bezzant (17 points, six rebounds) and Samuels (15 points, five rebounds) also put up solid numbers. The seventh placed Jets will be looking for more scoring depth when they face the ladder-leading Canterbury Rams on Wednesday.

2020 Nelson Giants season preview: Triple threat Giants excited about depth

MUCH talk has been about Nelson Giants’ top three players snared in the recent 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Player Draft, but it is the depth in the final few rounds that head coach Mike Fitchett is just as excited about.

Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks have joined forces for a formidable triple threat as the Giants stand as a clear title contender with that experience and ability both on the point-scoring and rebounding fronts. Whilst Fitchett said those three were superb players, he was astounded that he was able to pick up a couple of diamonds in the rough late in the draft.

“I didn’t expect either Thane O’Leary or Theo Johnson to be available at the 10th and 11th rounds,” Fitchett said. “To me that was crazy to be able to get them there. “I was happy to grab them though, I think they will really help us.”

The duo will join the top three with NZNBL experience, something that will be huge in the stretch considering the modified season.

“That was something we were looking for in the draft – guys with NBL experience. Mika, Dane and Mike come with that experience,” Fitchett said. “We were able to select Thane and Theo as well who also bring NBL experience. “Theo was with the Saints last year, so he brings some championship experience too.”

NELSON GIANTS TRIPLE THREAT:

Mika Vukona

The biggest name when it comes to talking about New Zealand basketball, the 38-year-old power forward is a massive influence both on and off the court for any side he represents. Vukona has a long history in both the NZNBL and Australian NBL, most recently representing the Brisbane Bullets after crossing from the New Zealand Breakers. He has represented a number of NZNBL sides, but four stints with the Giants has the club legend closely attached to the place. He will be a massive influence off the offensive boards.

Mike Karena

Joining Vukona as a dual big man threat, fellow Tall Black Mike Karena will play out of the center position and be very hard to stop standing at 210cm and 122kg. Still only 26-years-old, Karena has plenty to offer for many years to come. In the 2019 NZNBL season, the Canterbury Rams big man averaged 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds – 3.8 of which came off the offensive boards. For the Giants to pair Karena up with Vukona allows them to have two quality big men that will be incredibly hard to move and make life difficult for opposition defences.

Dane Brooks

After playing six seasons with the Taranaki Mountainairs in the NZNBL, Brooks had opted to sign on with the Southland Sharks ahead of the 2020 season. When the Sharks announced they would not compete this year, it left the 190cm guard without a team. The Player Draft came along and somehow Brooks was still available at the Giants’ third pick which they subsequently snaffled him up. Whilst he does not have the size of his two teammates, Brooks still represents a danger across the court, averaging 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

HEAD COACH MIKE FITCHETT ON HOW HE ENVISAGES THE TRIO WORKING TOGETHER:

“Mika and Mike will be great to play through in the post, they are both good scorers and facilitators inside. “Dane gives us more athleticism on the wing and also adds to Mika and Mike’s ability to crash the O (offensive) boards.”

Whilst the triple threat will be a huge concern for the opposition sides, Fitchett said monitoring the health and recovery of players with up to three games a week was key to success in the 2020 Sal’s NBL competition.

“Health is going to be a huge factor through this competition,” he said. “I anticipate changing starters, resting guys here and there and generally experimenting with line ups throughout the first half of the league, and then starting to focus in on the playoff rotation as we get closer to the end of the regular season.”

As for a few ones to watch, Fitchett said there was some promising young talents who might surprise this season with more experience in the NZNBL.

“We have a few local Nelson guys that haven’t played a huge amount in the NBL yet, so I am really looking forward to seeing what Riley Bensemann, Nic Trathen and Tysxun Aiolupotea can do in this league,” he said.

Nelson Giants tip off their season in the first game of the year against Taranaki Mountainairs from 5.30pm local time next Tuesday, June 23.

2020 SAL’S NBL NELSON GIANTS INFORMATION:

FULL LIST:

Mika Vukona
Mike Karena
Dane Brooks
Tom Ingham
Josh Bloxham
Nick Trathen
Riley Bensemann
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Zeb Lovell
Thane O’Leary
Theo Johnson
Tommy Garguilo

FIXTURE:

Tuesday June 23 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Thursday June 25 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm
Sunday June 28 vs Jets @ 7:30pm
Tuesday June 30 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Thursday July 2 vs Rams @ 7:30pm
Sunday July 5 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 8 vs Jets @ 5:30pm
Thursday July 9 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 12 vs Nuggets @ 7:30pm
Wednesday July 15 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Saturday July 18 vs Rams @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 19 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 22 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Saturday July 25 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm

2020 Sal’s NBL Team-by-team lists

THE 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown is ready and raring to go with all seven teams not having completed their lists for the upcoming season. The Player Draft was completed last Thursday, and while three days of Trade Period did not not see a move made, a couple of players had to change sides due to college restrictions. Now that is done and dusted, teams are all set for the first tip-off in eight days. The teams all arrive in Auckland on Friday, June 19 with the opening round to run from Tuesday, June 23 through until Sunday, June 28.

Check out the full team lists below.

Auckland Huskies

Izayah Mauriahoohoo Leafa
Tohi Smith Milner
Leon Henry
Taine Murray
Rasheed Al-Kaleem
Tinashe Matambanadzo
Ana Haku
Johnny Fesolai
Marvin Williams-Dunn
Jaylen Gerrand
Nick Brophy
Nathan Wilson

Manawatu Jets

Tom Vodanovich
Hyrum Harris
Jayden Bezzant
Taane Samuel
Nick Fee
Haize Walker
Tia Temata-Frost
Ashton McQueen
Matangirei Hipango
Josiah Laracy
Nelson Kirksey
Kalib Mullins

Taranaki Mountainairs 

Derone Raukawa
Marcel Jones
Shane Temara
Tai Wynyard
Mitch Dance
Francis Mulvihill
Kenneth Tuffin
Denhym Brooke
Zac Easthope
Oscar Robertson
Carlin Davison
Baxter Fenwick

Canterbury Rams

Jack Salt
Taylor Britt
Joe Cook-Green
Alex Talma
Sam Smith
Toby Gilloly
Jack Exeter
Tom Cowie
Thomas Webley
Mac Stodart
Ben Carlile-Smith
Mason Whittaker

Nelson Giants

Mika Vukona
Mike Karena
Dane Brooks
Tom Ingham
Josh Bloxham
Nick Trathen
Riley Bensemann
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Zeb Lovell
Thane O’Leary
Theo Johnson
Tommy Garguilo

Franklin Bulls

Dominique Kelman-Poto
Sam Timmins
Everard Bartlett
Jackson Stubbins
Isaac Davidson
Nick Barrow
Joel Vaiangina
Nikau McCullough
Connor Woodbridge
Joe Reddish
Chris McIntosh
Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape

Otago Nuggets

Jordan Ngatai
Jarrod Kenny
Jordan Hunt
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Benoit Hayman
Darcy Knox
Richie Rodger
Sam Aruwa
Akiva McBirnie-Griffin
Jack Andrew
Matthew Bardsley