Tag: thomas ingham

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #8 – Nelson’s statement win over Otago to conclude season

FOR most of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, the Nelson Giants struggled to string together many triumphs in the 14 games of their campaign, finishing with a record of five wins and nine losses. But when the final game of the regular season came around, the Giants were hell bent on finishing on a good note.

The NZNBL this year has been touted as one of the most even in terms of the skill and the ability of all seven teams. Nelson’s final matchup with the first ranked Otago Nuggets is truly a testament to this statement, as it makes an appearance in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.

Full the full match report between the Giants and the Nuggets – Click HERE

Coming off of two demoralising defeats at the hands of the Auckland Huskies (67-96) and the Taranaki Mountain Airs (95-102) in their two prior outings, Nelson was in need of some dire momentum if they were to put themselves in as good of form as possible heading into finals week. However, to do this the Giants had to be flawless for a full four quarters if they were any chance to conquer minor premiers, Otago Nuggets.

While Otago limited the minutes of their marquee duo in Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny before their Qualifying Final as well as both bigs in Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil being absent due to “niggles” according to coach Brent Matehaere, the point still stood that Nelson needed to make a statement before finals.

The opening 10 minutes of play did not bode well for the Giants, as the Nuggets blew out of the starting blocks with their shooters ablaze, knocking down six first quarter threes led by Darcy Knox and Richard Rodger who had two each in the opening term. Otago produced an attractive 28-21 quarter time lead and it was obvious what Nelson needed to limit them for the remainder of the contest.

Mike Fitchett managed to hammer home the message of limiting Otago’s long-range shooting, as the Giants held the Nuggets to just four threes in total over the next three quarters and contribute to their fantastic defence during the stretch of play.

Through multiple stops and neutralising Otago’s scoring avenues, Nelson found themselves in the lead halfway through the second after a corner three from Thomas Ingham. The majority of the second entailed the trading of buckets, but a 7-0 scoring run thanks to Mike Karena and Tom Gargiulo, capped off the first half in dominant fashion and gave their side an eight-point advantage at the main break.

Despite a couple of big plays from Otago, the Nuggets could not eat into their double-digit deficit as Karena and his side continued their good defence in the final quarters of the encounter. Next to Karena, Zeb Lovell and Mika Vukona provided supplementary points down low in the paint as the Giants pummelled their South Island neighbours around the basket.

A final layup by Tysxun Aiolupotea with 27 seconds left in the game put the stamp on the one-sided affair, with the Giants putting on a defensive clinic over a Nuggets side that now had to quickly shift their focus to the Manawatu Jets a couple days later.

Nelson held the Nuggets to just 46 points in the last three quarters, as the Giants accumulated 76 points of their own in the same period of time. The winning side tallied 52 points in the paint, compared to the Nuggets’ 30, helping the Giants achieve a 52 per cent shooting average on the night.

Karena led the game in scoring with 26 points and three assists, while Ingham added a further 17 points and five rebounds. On the other side of the aisle, Knox displayed his offence for the Nuggets by serving up a team-high 17 points off the bench in 23 minutes of court time.

Nelson’s 97-74 demolition job of Otago marked their fifth and final win of the season and slotted them into sixth position to conclude the campaign. But the fact that Nelson was able to trounce the eventual champions of the season, fully embodies the level of competition the NZNBL had on display this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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).


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


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.


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.


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.

Giants trounce Nuggets, gain essential morale before finals

ANOTHER upset win for the Nelson Giants can be added to the books, as they came away with an impressive 23-point shellacking of the top of the table Otago Nuggets in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) middle game of the triple-header.

NELSON GIANTS 21 | 31 | 22 | 23 (97)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 15 | 15 | 16 (74)


Knowing full well the outcome of last night’s result was to have no effect on each team’s positioning for next week’s Finals, the Nuggets were without starting big-man Jordan Hunt and stretch-four shooter Kane Keil. As a result, both Brent Matehaere and Mike Fitchett could tinker around with their sides before their games next week, despite it being a clash between first and second last. It also allowed both coaches to allow any players with “niggles” to gain much needed rest.

Even though young Kiwi big-man Akiva McBirney-Griffin got the starting nod from his side, Mike Karena quickly reminded him of the pecking order to begin the game, converting on a running hook. Nevertheless, Joshua Aitcheson knocked down a triple to get the ball rolling for the Nuggets. It was evident early on that each team went about scoring in totally different fashions. For the Giants, it was attacking the rim hard and getting up close and personal with Otago’s frontcourt, as 14 of their first 17 points came from inside the paint. For the Nuggets, they knocked down five shots from deep in their first ten attempts, signalling a more distant approach to getting on the scoreboard. The quarter time totals would reflect a slight advantage in favour of the Nuggets, who’s 28-21 lead came as a result of their bench’s contributions, outscoring Nelson’s 12-2 in the first 10 minutes. Eight points of which, came by way of Darcy Knox, along with Matthew Bardsley and Samuel Aruwa hitting a shot each.

To commence the second, Nelson slowly but surely began to crawl their way back taking the lead halfway through the quarter, thanks to a corner three from Thomas Ingham. But, both sides would remain within earshot of one another, dealing blows to back and forth for most of the remaining few minutes in the first half. Consecutive fast-break layups from Karena and a three-pointer from Tom Gargiulo handed Nelson a commanding nine-point lead heading into the main intermission after a 31-15 period, due mainly to instrumental rebounds, which in turn translated to a bunch of second chance points in the paint over the first two periods (14-4). Karena and Knox both led their teams in scoring at halftime, with the Giants’ center compiling 17 points in eleven and a half minutes of court time, before getting the second half started with an and-one.

A nice Euro-Step by Jordan Ngatai got the number one draft pick going after a rather quiet first half, making just one three in the initial 20 minutes of game time. With this being just one example of lacklustre performances through three quarters, Otago struggled to cut into the double-digit deficit that the Giants had created. An enormous dunk by Ngatai looked to spark an injection of energy into his side, as McBirney-Griffin repeated the action on the next play forcing Nelson to call a time-out.

The task of a fourth quarter comeback was made even harder for the Nuggets however, after a hook-shot once again from Karena extended Nelson’s lead to 16 with 30 seconds left in the third, as both teams went to the huddle one more time for the regular season with Nelson on top 74-58. Nicolas Trathen made Otago’s lofty deficit even greater to start the fourth, following a friendly roll from deep. And to make matters worse, Zeb Lovell’s up-and-under layup helped Nelson to their biggest lead of the contest (20). The Nuggets remained persistent in staying in the contest, but the fact of the matter was that Otago was undermanned and lacking size. And after Gargiulo was able to find the target for his second three with three minutes to go, Nelson could secure the upset result and obtain their fifth win of the year, taking home the triumph 97-74.

It was a one-sided affair down low in the paint, as the absences of Hunt and Keil factored majorly into the statistics. Nelson put their foot down with an impressive 52 points in the paint compared to Otago’s 30. While a number of bench players got remarkably more minutes due to the insignificance of the meeting, it remained a two-man effort through four quarters. A stat line of 26 points in 17 minutes, alongside three rebounds and three assists rounded out a dominant night around the rim for Karena, whereas Ingham was feeling his stroke to finish off the season with three threes to go next to his 17 points and six rebounds in another quality performance.

In what was a quiet night for both Jarrod Kenny and Ngatai, with both combining for 29 minutes of court time, the night belonged to the youngsters. Props went to Knox, who came off the bench to account for a team-high 17 points, meanwhile McBirney-Griffin and Richard Rodger each paved their own way with 13 points apiece.

The fates of both teams are already known for their first matchups of Finals Week, as the Nuggets who locked up top spot in standings go up against the Manawatu Jets in the qualifying final on Tuesday night. At the other end of the table, the Giants lock horns with the Canterbury Rams on Tuesday night as well, however, it will be a win or go home situation, as the teams engage in first elimination final of the postseason.

Airs keep top two hopes alive with win over Giants

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 19: Giants v Huskies and Jets v Airs

THE weekend to close out week four of competition is the first of the short 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) season where all seven teams take to the court. Manawatu Jets and Taranaki Airs face off after a little break from their last matches, while Auckland Huskies also enter the fray for the first time, fresh up against a Nelson Giants outfit that played last night.


In the opening match of the night, a Giants side fresh off snapping its four-game losing streak come up against an improving Huskies side with fifth spot on the line in this clash. After a slow start to the season, dropping their first few games, the Huskies have rebounded nicely to notch up four of the pat five games and really look a damaging threat. Impressively, they have been able to knock over three of the top four sides and looked great in doing so, even when most of their wins have been low scoring, but effective. Their performance against the Airs on Thursday reaffirmed they could stick at it for longer and notch past 100. The Giants on the other hand have only scored above 80 once in their past five games, but managed to win last night by reaching that total and conceding just 64 points to the Rams.

The Giants were thrilled to welcome back Mika Vukona for his first game of the season, putting up eight points, three rebounds and two assists off just over 12 minutes in the match. With more time on court expected in this game, he could be a real danger for the Huskies who need to find a way to stop him. Along with Vukona, the Giants also have the top center in the league with Mike Karena also returning last night and he averages 17 points, five rebounds and two assists this season. For the first time, Nelson may well have its strongest starting lineup without minute restrictions, and the duo along with Dane Brooks (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Thomas Ingham (15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds) loom as a team not to be underestimated as they eye off consecutive wins.

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa has been sensational since coming into the team, averaging 19.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Leon Henry has shown his experience guiding the team with an identical points and rebounds balance of 11.7. Tohi Smith-Milner had a huge 20-20 game on Thursday to guide his side to the win, which resulted in his average going up to 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. The other crucial one to watch is teenager Taine Murray who has shown plenty of potential on the scoring front with 17.5 points per game to be a real game changer for the Huskies.

The match is a danger game for the Huskies who can join the top four, two wins clear of their opponents, or slip back level with the Giants. The stage is set for it to be a massive encounter.


A top four clash between Manawatu Jets and the top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs promises to be an absolute pearler to close out week four of competition. With only a week left until finals, the Airs have been the most prolific scoring team, but have also conceded the most points on average too. Their run-and-gun high octane style of basketball is exciting and they back themselves to match it with any other side. Franklin Bulls have beaten them twice, but have only lost two of the remaining nine contests. The intriguing note is that one of those losses was to the Jets back on July 5, which means Manawatu could be level on top by the end of the night. The Jets have transformed themselves from an inconsistent side to a really strong one, winning four of the past five, and only a disappointing 36-point shocker in between.

Impressively, the Jets have hit 100 in all of their most recent wins, so are the next highest scoring team behind the Airs. Both Jayden Bezzant (21.8 points) and Tom Vodanovich (21.5) are prolific scorers, though it would be remiss not to include Taane Samuel (18.3) and Nelson Kirksey (14.8) of whom the latter has filled the role of the recently injured Hyrum Harris (14.0). Harris is nearing a return which will only strengthen the Jets, as he and Vodanovich both maintain double-double averages thanks to 13 and 12 rebounds apiece respectively. The Jets have the same top five in different orders for points, assists and rebounds showing the importance of their top-end talent, and have the best starting team in the competition.

The Airs have not done too much wrong since the Jets loss, and won four consecutive games against quality opposition. They were all fairly close, but were able to notch up wins and move two games clear on top of the Sal’s NBL table. A disappointing defeat to Auckland Huskies on Thursday night bumped them back a bit, so they will not want to lose here and surrender top spot. Derone Raukawa is on track to win the competition’s MVP and is clearly an elite talent. He averages 23.3 points and 7.5 assists, able to do it himself or set up his teammates. He has been incredibly supported by the work of double-double specialist Marcel Jones. The big man time and time again gets it done with 22.3 points, 14.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists. The pair are near-unstoppable, and with Shane Temara (12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Ken Tuffin (10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds) providing great support, the team has a strong core.

Given these teams are the two highest scoring teams in the competition, expect the game to produce a couple of tons and plenty of electrifying baskets.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 18: Giants v Rams and Nuggets v Bulls

A BOTTOM two clash between the most out-of-form sides and a battle between two title contenders is what confronts teams in a big Saturday night of action in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.


To say the first match of the night is a must-win for both teams is an understatement, with a combined 12 games losing streak between them. Luckily for the Giants, they only share in four of those 12 straight losses, having last won back on July 5 over the Auckland Huskies. Since then, they have fallen to the top four sides consecutively, and by an average of 14 points, with the eight-point defeat to Otago Nuggets the closest. The Rams have now eight straight losses to their name after three initial wins, but their last four games have been agonisingly close. Since losing the Bulls by 25 points back on July 8, their last four defeats have been by an average of four points. The fact that they have gone down by seven, five, three and one, the pattern tells us the Rams could be in for a win.

Taylor Britt has been the standout player this season for Canterbury, adding 21.3 points, 4.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game, ranked first, first and second in those areas for his side. Alex Talma has been really impressive off the boards with an almost double-double average of 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Sam Smith (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists) has stepped up in the average of Toby Gillooly since the early rounds. Reuben Te Rangi is starting to head up for the Rams, and when the Tall Blacks talent really gets going, he will be crucial to their success as they try and make up some ground on the other teams.

The Giants have missed the influence of Mike Karena (17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists) of late, while Thomas Ingham and Nic Trathen have stepped up to average double-figure points and more than four rebounds per game. throughout the season. The Rams are a strong rebounding team with four players totalling more than five rebounds per game, but need to build their assist tally with just one player – Alexander McNaught – averaging more than 2.2 assists per game.

Nelson’s best has been very impressive, but the Rams have been better in their defeats of late. The last time these teams faced off the Giants won 97-90 in a tight contest off the back of a 39-22 first term, which is why the Rams must try and restrict the scoring early and it will go a long way to finally breaking the losing drought.


The second match of the night has finals ramifications in the scheme of things with a second and third clash between the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls. Both are level on 6-4 in the top three, with the winner to move ahead of the other clearly. The Nuggets fans may not have any nails left after their last two clashes – dropping a game to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, before bouncing back to defeat Canterbury Rams y the same margin. Overall, the Nuggets have been in great form, completely dismantling the Manawatu Jets a week ago to win by 36 points on their way to a season-high 130 points. The Bulls went on a four-game winning streak at one stage, but have had a yo-yo last couple of weeks with two wins and two losses rom their last four games. They have a real balanced squad and will be keen to make it two consecutive wins for the first time since early week three.

Jordan Ngatai is maintain a massive 20 points per game average for the Nuggets, also putting up 3.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds to sit second in those areas for his side. Since his massive first day out with 28 points, Jarrod Kenny has been the facilitator for his teammates, leading the side in assists with five per game to accompany his 12 points. Jordan hunt has stepped up as that second scorer with 16 points and six rebounds, but it is the work of underrated talents like Kane Keil and Josh Aitcheson who both average double-figure points, two assists and four rebounds, which has helped the Nuggets remain successful.

The Bulls have a side where all of their players can step up and be a scoring threat on their day, with Isaac Davidson averaging a team-high 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists, as big men, Dom Kelman-Poto and Sam Timmins have dictated play off the boards. Kelman-Poto (15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Timmins (13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds) have been prolific at the four and five spot, while captain Everard Bartlett, and fellow three-point shooter Nikau McCullough are no stranger to coming on and having bursts of impact throughout the match.

The last time these teams went head-to-head, Bulls got up by six points in an important win in the scheme of things. This clash has all the hallmarks of a thriller that could again go down to the wire, and possibly into overtime, with a flip of the coin as good a way as any to try and guess who takes out this match.

Bulls make early charge to stamp authority in win over Giants

FRANKLIN Bulls’ three quarter dominance of Nelson Giants helped the Bulls secure an impressive 12-point win in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Bulls won the first three quarters of the match to lead by 19 points at the final break, and while Nelson hit back to win the last term 19-12, it was too little, too late as the Bulls celebrated a nice 82-70 victory.

NELSON GIANTS 18 | 10 | 23 | 19 (70)
FRANKLIN BULLS 28 | 13 | 29 | 12 (82)


The Nelson Giants were undermanned in this uphill battle, but fought the Franklin Bulls valiantly all night. Unfortunately they put themselves in a hole early and spent the rest of the game trying to dig themselves out of it. Dane Brooks got the fans out of their seats early at the Trusts Arena with what was a no look, falling down layup that somehow found its way through the hoop. Very early into the game, the Giants’ defence looked fierce with back-to-back blocks from Josh Ledger. However Sam Timmins would come back with a gigantic block, right off the backboard. From the get-go, the match looked to be a highly competitive night.

But that thought came way too soon as the Giants offence instantly looked dire and stagnant. One second they were running the floor with first quarter liveliness, the next – they were not. With less than four minutes remaining in the first, the Bulls had already made twice as many field goals with three times the amount of assists. The Bulls’ decision to run plays through Isaac Davidson was working, as he was playing very aggressive. Shooting with confidence, clearing his way to the paint, he was foundational in the Bulls leading by 10 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter saw both teams play more smoothly. The Bulls stepped up on defence and the Giants started running screen heavy plays. This change in energy was nice to see, but late. Although it took the Giants way too long to realise that the constant dribble handoffs to the left side was simply not working, as the 10-point lead remained constant. And when they finally began to attack the middle, the Bulls clogged them up beautifully. 

It really cannot be said enough – the Bulls’ defence, especially when going around screens, was sensational. Their hustle on that side of the floor was the most exciting feature of the second. They forced the Giants to shoot wild threes with no seconds left on the shot clock. Despite the fierce defensive pressure from the Bulls, with a lot of luck, Thomas Ingham was able to hit one from long-range. The end of the half looked like a before training shootout, with four three point attempts from both teams in less than 30 seconds. It ended with the Bulls leading 41-28. 

One of the biggest differences in style was just the patience shown by the Bulls on offence. They spread the floor and attacked the rim when they should have. Not just when they could have. There were numerous times when the Giants just drove in on two or three defenders, just for the ball to bounce off the rim and into the hands of the Bulls. The Giants’ deficit continued to climb and with that came more ugly shots. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Bulls led 70-51 with one period left. 

The fourth appeared to be the classic, ‘winning team takes foot off the pedal as win is assured’ quarters. The Bulls scored only 12 while the Giants nailed in 19, finishing the game with dignity. The Giants shot 13 threes in the last period making only three, while the Bulls ran with the second unit. What struck out from this game was the similarities in rebounding numbers. Clearly effort was not what was holding the Giants back, that would be missing teammates – five more turnovers – and missing shots – 40.6 per cent from the field, 10 per cent less than their opponents – which are areas the Giants can work on for their next match.

Giants’ captain, Ingham was one of the few in the blue jerseys with a hot hand, dropping 18 points on 46 per cent from the field. He would also be the only player in the starting line with double figures on his stat sheet. Nic Trathen worked hard off the bench for 15 points, draining three of four from long-range in the process, while Alexander McNaught had seven assists, almost half of his team’s total.

For the Bulls, it was all about Dominique Kelman-Poto who ended the contest with 26 points in 28 minutes while shooting an insane 78 per cent from the field, as well as eight rebounds. He was far from alone though with Davidson sinking 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Chris McIntosh (10 points, three of which were triples) also reached double figures.

Both teams next play on Saturday night with Nelson Giants taking on Canterbury Rams in a bottom two battle, while Franklin Bulls lock horns with Otago Nuggets.

Nuggets Hunt for Giant win

OTAGO Nuggets have ended week three of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) with back-to-back wins over the weekend. The Nuggets backed up from a demolition job on the Manawatu Jets with a closer eight-point triumph over Nelson Giants last night, getting the job done thanks to some terrific defensive work and a standout game from Jordan Hunt.

OTAGO NUGGETS 23 | 18 | 28 | 18 (87)
NELSON GIANTS 16 | 22 | 23 | 18 (79)


The match opened with a Hunt layup, which would be a sign of things to come. Both teams were up for the fight early, with Thomas Ingham sinking a triple at the four minute mark of the term for his Giants side to hit the front, and after an and-one conversion from Zeb Lovell, Nelson led by four points. Jordan Ngatai had seen enough and knocked down not one, but two step back jumpers in the last five minutes of the game, then produced a layup to hand his side the lead. Hunt did the rest with a couple of free throws and a triple with 90 seconds left on the clock which helped his team to a seven-point advantage at the first break.

Theo Johnson was fast out of the first break, sinking a triple after missing an earlier two-point jumper. The teams traded blows in the opening few minutes as Mike Karena produced a neat hookshot to draw within four points, but Ngatai and Hunt again found their way to the basket, and Hunt’s second chance efforts off his own offensive rebound resulted in a neat layup and an eight-point lead. For every basket the Giants scored, the Nuggets had an answer, and it was not until Riley Bensemann delivered with back-to-back baskets in the last two minutes that Nelson drew within three points. Ngatai and Hunt again produced some magic to put it out to five with 48 seconds left, but a Dane Brooks driving layup had Nelson draw within three at the main break.

After the Giants had cut the Nuggets lead in that second term, Kane Keil came out fired up, immediately dropping a triple off a Ngatai assist. Brooks and Josh Aitcheson were trading blows themselves in the first couple of minutes, putting five points on the board apiece, and Aitcheson managed eight consecutive team points before being subbed out. Ingham continued his good form of late with a couple of jump shots as both teams started playing end-to-end basketball and making the most of their opportunities. At one stage Hunt had extended the lead out to nine with a step back jumper, and then in the space of a minute, four points to Johnson and two to Karena had the Giants raw within three. Once again Ngatai stepped up when it counted with five consecutive points, and then triples to Hunt and then the first points to Jarrod Kenny late in the term ensured the Nuggets were on top with a quarter to play, 69-61 ahead.

Sensing their moment early in the fourth, the Giants made a move with seven of the first nine points to draw within three at the two-minute mark. Hunt was still proving a thorn in their side and now Kenny was starting to get going with a couple of free throws and a layup to nudge the advantage back out to nine midway through the term. Karena was doing his best to try and stem the Nuggets lead which got out to 11 at one stage. Four points to Karena, and an Ingham layup had the Giants within seven, but again the time was winding down and the Nuggets were doing enough to defend with plenty of huge blocks. With a minute left, Hunt produced a layup to extend the lead out to 11, and while the Giants got within eight with 32 seconds on the clock, a deliberate foul on Ngatai and then the subsequent free throws going in ensured Otago would go home victorious, 87-79.

Hunt finished the match with 26 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal, shooting at 57.9 per cent from the field and picking up an important double-double. Ngatai also had plenty of the action with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Keil (11 points, five rebounds) and Aitcheson (nine points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks) stepped up when required, while Kenny was the facilitator until he needed to score late in the match for seven points, four assists and two rebounds.

For the Giants it was Ingham (15 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal) and Karena (15 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal) who top scored in a losing side. Johnson had 12 points and four rebounds off the bench, while Brooks finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in an important role for the Giants. Lovell was one of three players who had seven points as well, notching up five rebounds too.

Otago Nuggets have a short break before tipping off on the first day of week four against Taranaki Mountainairs in what promises to be an absolute thriller. Nelson Giants next play on Wednesday when they host Franklin Bulls in a must-win contest if they are to keep in touch with the top few teams.

Giant second half and OT not enough for Nelson, fall to Airs

FANS who tuned in to see the Taranaki Mountain Airs take on the Nelson Giants witnessed a treat, as for the first time this season an NZNBL game would need overtime to separate two teams at the end of regulation, with the Airs squeezing out a hard fought victory against a wiley Giants outfit, 95-88, and moving back to the top of the league standings in the process of doing so.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 27 | 30 | 6 | 12 | 20 (95)
NELSON GIANTS 19 | 17 | 20 | 19 | 13 (88)


Heading into Thursday’s opening contest, the Airs were in marvellous form as Derone Raukawa was leading the League in assists and forward Marcel Jones was at the top of list in rebounds prior to their clash with Nelson. Furthermore, there was much anticipation between the matchup of Taranaki’s Tai Wynyard and Nelson’s Michael Karena, as both of these Centers looked to dominated around their respective baskets and gain an upper hand on one another.

With both sides trading baskets early, the two sides would be attached at the hip early on with eight points apiece, as neither side could gain a dominant grasp on the game within the opening minutes.

Following a successful three-point play and an easy layup via Zachary Easthope, the Airs could start to gain some traction in Thursday’s matinee, but Dane Brooks would answer back strong with five consecutive points of his own. This, on the way to 11 of his side’s 16 initial points of the game.

With numerous scoring runs headlining the opening quarter of play, Taranaki would have the last laugh, closing out the first ten minutes of play with an 8-0 scoring run, to lead 27-19 at the end of one, as Raukawa and Easthope’s seven points each led an 11 of 22 (50 per cent) shooting effort to kick off the contest.

A Jones spinning jumpshot and a Mitchell Dance hook shot extended the lead for the Airs to 12 continuing their scoring run to 12-0, which essentially set the tone for the rest of the first half.

As Taranaki hoisted a 14-5 run to commence second quarter proceedings, Nelson had their work cut out for them heading into the main break, as their struggle to find answers continued.

Despite the Giants leading in the three-point shooting category making five first-half triples from deep, the Airs were slaying the matchup from two-point range, converting 20 of their 31 field goal attempts (64 per cent).

Individually, Raukawa had another superior first half leading his side in points and assists (12 and four respective), whereas Jones was providing valuable contributions in most facets of the game and especially on the board, adding nine points, nine rebounds and three dimes to his side’s box score.

On the flip side, Brooks maintained his good play into the second quarter, concluding his opening two quarters with 11 points, four rebounds and three steals, as he had to figure out how to motivate his team to overcome a 21-point deficit in the latter half of the game, as the Giants trailed 57-36.

More of the same opened up the second half, as a mid-range jumper from Jones signalled a similar half to their first for Taranaki. However, a 14-0 run for the Giants pulled the deficit back to 11 points eight minutes into the third period following Zeb Lovell’s free-throws.

Jones’s hook shot halted the Airs’ run the next play, but Nelson just kept punching at the deficit, closing out a massive third quarter and outscoring Taranaki 20-6 in the ten-minute stretch of time, with the score at just 63-56 and the Giants forcing 16 turnovers to this point from the other team.

A flashy euro-step layup from Brooks was just what the doctor ordered to start off the last ten minutes for the Giants, trimming the Airs lead to a mere five points with Taranaki’s frustrations appearing to boil over.

Tysxun Aiolupotea’s back-to-back baskets brought the contest to just a single possession ballgame, helping Nelson to get in a position to knocking on Taranaki’s door halfway through the fourth. Succeeding this, both sides continued to trade successful plays, as Nelson struggled to complete their comeback, getting as close as a single point.

In the twilight moments of the game, Nelson made their final charge off the back of a Brooks three-point play with less than two minutes remaining, trailing by two points. With 30 seconds left, an Aiolupotea floater would send the game into overtime at 75-75, the first for the competition this season and completing the Giants’ run, which started late in the first half when they trailed by as much as 25.

To kick off the five minutes of post-regulation, Jones’s post-hook put the Airs on the right track which was further compounded by the fouling out of Thomas Ingham. Scoring the opening six points of overtime, Taranaki snuffed out the remainder of Nelson’s spirit following another Jones layup to cap off an 8-0 run.

The Giants rolled the dice one last time with a 6-0 run, before Raukawa’s eight made overtime free-throws would cement Taranaki’s second win in a row, taking out the result 95-88 and joining the Franklin Bulls at the top of the table with records of five wins and three losses.

In what was an honourable contest on the side of the Giants, their poor first half proved the obvious factor in their loss, trailing by 25 points at one stage. But highlighting a positive, a 39-18 second half from Nelson was a task many punters would have deemed impossible, as they almost conquered an almost insurmountable mission. Nevertheless, important late-game free-throw shooting by Taranaki was the major factor in holding off a rampaging Giants outfit, as they collected their fifth win of the season.

Nelson’s most notable contributor was obviously Brooks, following his 23 point, eight rebounds and six assists game, shooting at an elite 75 per cent efficiency (9-12) from the floor including three steals. Other contributors included Ingham (18 points and four rebounds) and Lovell (11 points and 12 rebounds), who racked up a hard-earned double double.

If history is any indicator, the performances of both Raukawa and Jones was to be expected all along. Firstly, for Raukawa, it was a night of consistency and focus, following his perfect night from the free-throw line (13-13) which added to his 24 overall points, suitably accompanied by his seven assists. Secondly, for Jones, converting nine of his 22 attempts would account for his 21 points, alongside his whopping 16 rebounds and further adding to his historic season to this point.

Next up for the Airs is the struggling Canterbury Rams on Saturday night, who are now more than ever hungry for a win. Meanwhile, the Giants can recover for Sunday and look to cut the distance between themselves and the Otago Nuggets for fourth position.