Tag: Thomas Webley

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #9 – Webley’s third quarter helps Rams charge into Semis

LOCKING up the ninth-best moment of this year’s NZNBL season, comes from the lowest performing team in the competition’s regular season. The Canterbury Rams’ stellar third quarter against the Auckland Huskies in their Elimination Final encounter sits proudly amongst Draft Central’s list. Thomas Webley and his teammates produced one of the most efficient quarters throughout the entire season, capping off a historic postseason run.

For the full match report between the Rams and the Huskies – Click HERE

In a season that was hindered by injury and bad luck, Mick Downer and his coaching staff at the Canterbury Rams faced numerous challenges throughout the NZNBL regular season.

Nevertheless, in a season that saw the Rams finish bottom of the table with a record of four wins and 10 losses, how Canterbury finished the season, no one could have expected, with the Rams’ miraculous finals run culminated in one quarter of play from a determined squad with everything to prove.

Putting some context behind the Rams’ third quarter in the second round of Finals week against the Huskies, Canterbury began the season in as good of form as anyone within the league.

Exploding out of the gates with three wins in three games, Canterbury sat at the top of the standings to begin their campaign. But a flurry of injuries, and a squad restructure as a result, destabilised the side’s rotations and sent them cascading down a miserable path of defeat for the remainder of the season.

The Rams endured one of the longest losing streaks in New Zealand basketball history, coming out second best in 10 straight games between their fourth and final clashes of the season. However, momentum eventually found the red and black just in time for the postseason.

Managing to topple the mid-tabled Franklin Bulls in the final game of the regular season ending their double-digit winless run, it put them in good stead for their opening elimination game against fellow bottom-dweller, the Nelson Giants.

After strong second and third quarters from the Rams, as well as surviving a late charge from the Giants in the fourth period, the Rams took the first step in redeeming themselves throughout the finals.

The next day, it was time for the Rams to really test their mettle, as they now stared down a Huskies outfit that was hot off a convincing win against the Manawatu Jets to conclude their season.

Finishing in the third seed on the standings, it was no surprise that Auckland were the heavy-handed favourites heading into their matchup against the Rams. While Canterbury’s bigs had the monstrous task of slowing down the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry.

As was expected of the underdogs during the first two quarters, the Rams found themselves down by six at the end of the first half. Despite the deficit, Downer urged his side to work one possession at a time and to play a selfless brand of basketball. Following the huddle, the message rang true for Webley in the third, putting on one of the season’s most impressive periods of play for the entire season.

To begin the third quarter, Webley got the ball rolling immediately, kick-starting the term with a slam dunk and following up with two more baskets to get his side within a basket two minutes in.

Even though Webley carried his side for the majority of the third, much needed assistance came in bunches from the side’s captain and shooting marksman, Taylor Britt and Samuel Smith. Before anyone was able to blink, Canterbury surprisingly found themselves five points ahead a minute later after Webley’s fourth basket of the quarter.

Both sides traded buckets over the course of the next couple of minutes, as Quintin Bailey, Toby Gillooly and Reuben Te Rangi made their presence felt for the Rams. Meanwhile, Henry and Auckland guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (finished his night with 39 points, six rebounds and five assists) found their range with each of them knocking down a triple to keep the Huskies within arm’s reach, as the score stood 55-54 with four minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the third.

However, after Gillooly’s three with four and a half minutes left in the term, Webley and his teammates pulled together their best stretch of play for the entire season all the way to the final break.

A 20-8 scoring run concluded a 39-point third quarter for the lowest ranked team in the NZNBL, as Canterbury miraculously produced a 75-62 lead with a quarter to be played. In turn it flipped the contest on its head and set the Rams on their way to a semi-final matchup with the would-be champion Otago Nuggets, as Canterbury held on for the 98-84 upset win.

While many of Webley’s teammates contributed to the comeback third quarter, it was the 18-year-old that led the charge from the front. The 208cm-tall center accounted for 14 of his 21 total points in the third term. He also went on to snag seven rebounds and shoot an unwavering 69 per cent from the field, as he helped his side to a semi-final spot they were not meant to have.

Despite losing to the Nuggets by 18 points in the Semi Final a day later, the third quarter for the Rams in their contest against the Huskies stands firm as one of the most exhilarating and dominant performances for a team throughout the entire competition this year.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Canterbury Rams

CANTERBURY RAMS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Rams finished on the bottom of the ladder at the end of the regular season but won through to a semi-final after upsetting both Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies, before going down to eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 6
Lost: 11

KEY STATS:

Points: 86.4 (4th)
Rebounds: 44.4 (3rd)
Assists: 15.4 (6th)
Steals: 7.1 (6th)
Blocks: 2.9 (5th)
FG%: 44.8 (4th)

BEST WIN: defeated Auckland Huskies by 14 points

It was a remarkable win to the Rams in the elimination final, after really struggling in the first half with just 13 points in the second quarter, and trailed by double-figure points during the second term. A remarkable third quarter saw them run away with a 39-20 term to hit the front then hold on in the final term to win 98-84. Thomas Webley had a huge third term on his way to 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Taylor Britt came close to a triple-double with 16 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, while Toby Gillooly (12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists) had a double-double. Reuben Te Rangi (13 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Sam Smith (16 points) and Quintin Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were also prominent scorers in the win.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 25 points

Unfortunately the Rams had plenty of losses to pick from with 10 straight losses during the season. The biggest was that to Franklin Bulls, going down by 25 points where the Rams lost each of the four quarters. Alex Talma was a shining light with 25 points and seven rebounds, but Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Isaac Davidson (20 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals) went to town and led their side to a memorable victory.

TOP PLAYERS:

Taylor Britt 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Reuben Te Rangi 12.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals
Sam Smith 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals
Thomas Webley 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals
Alex Talma 10.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Canterbury Rams came good at the pointy end of the season which counted and strung together three consecutive wins to reach the final four. It was a deserving finish for a team that had to overcome plenty of challenges along the way, particularly when it came to injuries. They had a number of standouts and young players who stepped up and gained valuable minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The 10-game losing streak and injuries galore. Unfortunately for the Rams, injuries to Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green before the first tip-off had Canterbury on the back foot. Then Gillooly had an extended stint out and even Britt and Talma missed games. It truly was a tough season for the Rams, but led by Mick Downer, they did a remarkable job to reach the semis.

SUMMARY

Canterbury Rams started the season the same way they ended it: on fire with three wins. Unfortunately the injuries and 10 losses in between made it a game of catch-up for the side on the bottom of the table following 14 regular season games. They refused to let that stop them though, taking down the higher ranked Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies to enjoy a remarkable run that was only cut short by a super side in eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. Fully fit and with a good team chemistry, the Rams will be a team that could go all the way next year with very few changes likely to be needed.

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Auckland Huskies

AUCKLAND HUSKIES are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Bulls finished a strong fourth on the ladder at the end of the regular season, then went down to a red-hot Thomas Webley-inspired Canterbury Rams in the elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 8
Lost: 7

KEY STATS:

Points: 86.1 (5th)
Rebounds: 45.0 (2nd)
Assists: 17.0 (4th)
Steals: 9.3 (1st)
Blocks: 2.1 (3rd)
FG%: 40.5 (7th)

BEST WIN: defeated Nelson Giants by 29 points

Who could forget the first quarter of the Huskies during their impressive victory over the Nelson Giants. It was the only game where it was over by quarter time as Auckland piled on 45 points to 12, and from there did enough to secure the 96-67 victory. It was not just the total points that was impressive, but their first 17 shots dropped, going at 100 per cent to start the game in what was a remarkable effort from the Huskies. Tohi Smith-Milner dropped 20 points at 80 per cent, Leon Henry had 13 points at 71.4 per cent, as well as seven rebounds and four assists, whilst both Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Reuben Fitzgerald ran at greater than 60 per cent for double-figure points.

WORST LOSS: lost to Canterbury Rams by 14 points

The loss itself was not so bad, but more so the stakes on offer as Auckland went down to Canterbury by 14 points in the elimination final. The most frustrating aspect for the Huskies was the third term of the Rams, led by Webley, as the higher ranked side had been in firm control at each break, despite only being six ahead on the scoresheet. A 39-20 third quarter in favour of the Rams blew the game open and the Huskies went down 98-84. Webley finished with 21 points at 69.2 per cent, as well as seven rebounds. For the Huskies Mauriohooho Le’Afa went to town in a remarkable effort with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry had 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks.

TOP PLAYERS:

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.5 steals
Taine Murray 17.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals
Tohi Smith-Milner 15.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals
Leon Henry 11.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.6 steals
Jaylen Gerrand 6.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Auckland Huskies took a while to gel, but when they did, they looked might impressive. Taine Murray was superb and really lit it up showing the big future he had, while Mauriohooho Le’Afa’s all-round game and Henry’s defensive work was sensational. They had a good balance of talents across the board with great experience guiding the younger players along the journey, and if the team can stick together next season, they will be one to watch.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

The slower start to the season with inaccuracy being a real problem for the side early days. Once they honed in on their range, the Huskies were slick. Unfortunately just an inspired effort by Webley in the elimination final ended their season, but they can be proud of what they achieved and got to by the end of the regular NZNBL season.

SUMMARY

Auckland Huskies were the slowest out of the blocks in the early stages of the season, as a brand new side took a while to gel together having not had too much experience playing together before. They got back into it and not only became competitive, but were able to really knock off some quality teams along the way. It would have been nice to see them earn a semi-final place after their second half of the season performances, but it was not to be.

Nuggets reach first grand final in franchise history, halt Rams’ run

LIKE all great stories, there is eventually an ending. This was the case for the Canterbury Rams’ spectacular New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Finals Week run, as they fell to the minor premiers and championship favourites, the Otago Nuggets. In what was a clinic from the Nuggets’ marquee signings, Jordan Hunt in particular helped elevate his side to their Franchise’s first ever Grand Final appearance, after surgically defeating a fatigued Rams squad, 97-79.

Knowing full well that Canterbury was not fully rested, Hunt expressed post-game that it was a major point for him and his side to exploit. “We just wanted to come out strong,” said Hunt. “It was pretty tough on the Rams coming off of two previous games in two days, so we just tried to put the foot on early and keep it there.”

OTAGO NUGGETS 29 | 25 | 27 | 16 (97)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 17 | 18 | 22 (79)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Having already pulled of remarkable upsets in their first and second elimination finals against the Nelson Giants and the Auckland Huskies, Canterbury’s biggest and most challenging opponent stood directly in front of them.

Pre-dating their third matchup, the Nuggets had emerged victorious over their South Island neighbours on both occasions. But, with both of those meetings being decided by 10 points or less, the Rams were not an immediate write-off before the opening tip. However, coming off a strong qualifying final triumph over the Manawatu Jets, it certainly seemed a ‘David vs Goliath-type’ line-up for the two sides and Otago was determined to win the franchise’s first NZNBL title.

Number one pick Jordan Ngatai kicked off the proceedings with an aggressive layup with his favoured left hand, while Joshua Aitcheson added to Nuggets confident start. Then 100 seconds in, an up-and-under layup by Rams’ captain Taylor Britt on Defensive Player of the Year Jarrod Kenny, got the second of the two teams up off the ground.

The ball started to find some range during the middle stages of the first quarter as both sides starting looking to the deep-ball, and at an efficient rate. A 35-second stretch saw back-to-back-to-back threes from Rams Toby Gillooly and Alexander Talma and Otago’s Kenny, highlighting the accurate shooting in the opening 10 minutes of play.

Keeping Mick Downer’s squad at arm’s length during the first term, a corner-three via Hunt extended Otago’s advantage to greater than two possessions, helping the Nugs to an advantageous 29-22 quarter-time lead. The Nuggets maintained 61 per cent shooting from the field off of 11 made attempts, nine of which were created through assists, as Hunt and Ngatai accumulated nine and eight points apiece amongst a fast-paced first term.

Another Kenny triple extended Otago’s lead to 10 points kicking off the second, but the Rams tried another approach of scoring, which came evident throughout the duration of the period. Going with a twin-tower formation between Talma and Thomas Webley, Canterbury hammered Otago’s frontcourt around the rim with close-range shots. But the Nuggets continued to capitalise on easy baskets, more times than not through dribble penetration and lacklustre help defence courtesy of the Rams.

Canterbury’s second half prospects of a comeback were hindered further, following a put back layup from Hunt. Otago held a handsome 54-39 half-time lead as a result of forcing numerous turnovers with Canterbury’s total at nine. Talma led his side in points at the main break, but with Hunt, Ngatai and Kenny each in double-digits at this stage, the Rams needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they were to claw their way back into the match.

With the Rams shooting 40 per cent leading into the third quarter, the red and black needed to hit their shots and quickly with time running out. But the second half started with defence for the Rams, as Reuben Te Rangi’s statement block on Ngatai set the tone for the next 10 minutes.

Even though both teams struggled to convert from the field, the Nuggets at least found some success on their shots, slowly but surely stringing together a 7-0 run to begin the second half and pushing their already commanding lead to 20 points. With the Rams desperately needing solutions, Brent Matehaere’s squad could smell blood and looked to their ball movement to deliver one last debilitating blow to a struggling Canterbury outfit.

As more of Otago’s bench players were getting some court time, fatigue became more and more of a factor in the later stages of the contest, as the Rams just could not keep up with the top-ranked seed in the League. And after Kane Keil’s reverse layup with 20 seconds remaining in the third, the 24-point lead (81-57) in favour of the Nuggets looked insurmountable for Canterbury, while Hunt continued his rampage, sitting pretty with 28 points through three phases.

Despite Canterbury’s roster depth and winning out in the bench points statistic, there was simply no answer for Otago’s marquee signings. This, coupled with the fact that the Rams were playing their third game in as many days, marked a battle that the underdogs just could not win.

One last charge for the Rams would ensue, off the back of Samuel Smith and Benjamin Carlile-Smith baskets, bringing the deficit to as little as 13 points. But following Darcy Knox’s layup and Ngatai’s three with a few seconds left, the Nuggets would cross the finish line cementing their place in the club’s first Final ever, knocking off the dark-horse Rams 97-79.

Otago’s 50 per cent shooting carried them for all four quarters as well as their 22 assists, capping off a well-rounded team effort on the night.

Leading them through the game, Hunt’s game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds earned him man of the match honours, as Ngatai and Kenny added 23 and 16 points each, as well as both of players doling out seven assists.

Sam Smith led the Rams in scoring with a flurry of late buckets, compiling a modest 13 points. Meanwhile, the duo of captain Britt and Webley combined for 24 points, whereas Te Rangi concluded his night with 10, alongside three rebounds and three assists.

The Rams’ Cinderella story came to an unfortunate ending last night after surprising most pundits to this point, but the Nuggets were plainly the more superior side over four quarters and can now look forward to their first ever grand final appearance on Saturday since their inception in 1990 when they face the Jets.

Webley leads third term Ram-raid to tame Huskies

AN inspired third term by the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown last placed side, Canterbury Rams has continued the unthinkable dream with a come-from-behind 98-84 triumph over Auckland Huskies last night. Led by Thomas Webley who set the tone in the third term after his side had a slow start, the big man turned it on with unbelievable athleticism to drag his team back from the brink and over the line despite a remarkable 39-point effort from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 26 | 16 | 20 | 22 (84)
CANTERBURY RAMS 23 | 13 | 39 | 23 (98)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The first term belonged to the two talented Tall Blacks guards with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Reuben Te Rangi going head-to-head on the respective scoring fronts. The Auckland Huskies guard set up Tohi Smith-Milner with the opening basket of the game with a pass through traffic, and soon the size of Aaron Bailey-Nowell on offence added a couple more. Te Rangi would sink the first three-pointer of the game after being left wide open courtesy of a screen, but Bailey-Nowell immediately responded with a couple more points. Huskies had a number of chances but were missing them early, though that began to change when Mauriohooho-Le’Afa got cooking.

Te Rangi was still causing all sorts of issues for the Rams defence, piling on seven points, all of the Rams score in the first half of the term to get his side within four, and then assisted Quintin Bailey for a two-point deficit. But as would be the case, all the Rams scoring would come as a struggle, whilst the Huskies began draining treys like there was no tomorrow – which technically was correct for the losing side. Whilst Mauriohooho-Le’Afa was getting going, it was Leon Henry with a couple of triples and then a massive three first-quarter blocks that was intimidating the young Rams defence. At quarter time, the Huskies led by three after Taylor Britt’s first basket of the game with 40 seconds left got his side back into it.

Webley was having a promising game, and started well with three points and four rebounds, something he would build on in the second term. Despite the lead, Huskies coach Kevin Braswell was not happy with the defence on Te Rangi imploring his guards to double-team the Tall Black. They managed that better in the second term as he would not add to his seven first quarter scores, also gaining a bit of a breather as Sam Smith came on and piled on the baskets to be the most influential Ram with Webley in the second term.

But it was truly the Mauriohooho-Le’Afa show in the second quarter as he drained triple after triple to race to 20 half-time points courtesy of a 13-point second term. Between his offence and Henry’s defence, the inexperienced Rams were struggling to score. At one point, the Huskies guard was outscoring the Rams as Canterbury was two from 10 from three-point range, whilst the Huskies were draining a third of their chances.

The match was summed up by a fourth Henry block with four and a half in the term, followed by a Mauriohooho-Le’Afa trey putting the Huskies out to 12-point lead. With just 29 points to the midpoint of the term, the usually calm Mick Downer told his chargers that it was “the most selfish individual display I’ve seen from us this whole campaign and this is why we have 29 points.” The Rams managed to respond from that to cut back to six points as Smith drained a couple of layups. With 46 seconds remaining, Henry bowled over Ben Carlile-Smith and won the free throws, showing confidence with a stare down over his opponent on the ground. The half-time buzzer sounded with the Huskies up by six, 42-36.

It is unsure what went on at half-time, but whatever it was, it turned the Rams offence on. Whilst the Huskies defence was worried about Te Rangi and Britt, it was Webley who came to play, draining the first six points of the term and went on to finish the term with double-figure points as the big man was dropping floaters and slamming athletic dunks. He not only dragged his team back into it, but he lead the Rams to up to a lead themselves with a 16-4 run early in the term.

Mauriohooho-Le’Afa continued his form though with four points, but he was up against a team offence that had finally clicked. If it was not Webley, then it was Bailey or Toby Gillooly who were making the Huskies hurt. The biggest issue was the Huskies’ big men were getting into four trouble with Henry (three) and both Smith-Milner and Bailey-Nowell (four each) all close to being fouled out. Henry was still being aggressive on the offensive effort to try and help Mauriohooho Le’afa out, but everything the Rams touched turned to gold. Britt dropped a couple of treys off rare Henry fumbles out of bounds and the lead went out to 11 at one point.

Everything was going wrong for the Huskies as they were desperately trying to get some baskets, but a rushed pass from Smith-Milner was intercepted by Britt who went to the basket and was fouled to put the lead out to 13 by the final term. No one could quite understand what had occurred in the third quarter following a massive 39-20 term. What was even more remarkable was the fact that Te Rangi had not scored since the first term, and Britt only had 12 points – most of which came late in the term. For the Huskies, Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa and Henry combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds but needed more support.

The Huskies had 10 minutes to try and stay in the Sal’s NBL Finals Series, but it was not going to happen with a triple from Jack Exeter to push the lead out to 14 in the first 90 seconds. Henry responded with a last second trey before the shot clock expired. The Rams were still being aggressive on offence and throwing everything at the Rams in the last term. Henry was being incredible both inside and outside, and when Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa dropped another basket, his side was back within nine.

Six minutes in the Rams called a timeout with the 11-point lead and Downer implored his players to keep up the aggression on offence without going too far. The Huskies kept trying for long-range attempts, but the treys were now not dropping. Instead, Te Rangi was fouled shooting for a triple of his own and had three free throws, making two of them for a 12-point lead with five minutes remaining. The work by Canterbury’s defence to double-team Henry on the way to the hoop forced a miss, and Te Rangi almost ended the game with a triple but it rolled in and out.

With 3:47 remaining, Bailey-Nowell was fouled out for an offensive foul and a 11-point deficit. Henry continued his unbelievable work on defence and it led to a Huskies basket up the other end with Anamata Hatu scoring his first points coming on for Bailey-Nowell. Reuben Fitzgerald was using his speed to get to the basket but split both free throw opportunities in the final term with eight points the difference. When Smith-Milner was offensively fouled by Te Rangi with 2.31 on the clock, the Huskies had possession again and Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa was fouled on the way to the hoop and made no mistake with his free throws to go up to a massive 39 points and getting his team within six points.

Unfortunately for the Huskies that was as close as it got with Te Rangi draining an important basket, Britt doubling up with two nice jumpers and with just over a minute remaining the Rams held a 12-point lead. The Rams managed to wind down the clock and when Smith sank a trey with 30 seconds remaining, he iced the game to guarantee the Rams a most magnificent victory, 98-84.

Webley finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists, shooting at 69 per cent from the field, while Britt (16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists) ended up having a prominent night after a slow start. Te Rangi quietened down after his ripping first term but finished with 13 points, and still contributed with eight rebounds and six assists, while Gillooly picked up the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Smith (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were the other double-figure Rams. For the Huskies it was a two-man show with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa dominating everywhere with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry threw himself desperately at every ball to end with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks. Smith-Milner was the other Huskies player to pick up double-digit points with 16 but outside of the trio, the remainder of the team contributed just 11 points.

Whilst the Huskies exit the competition after some terrific basketball this season, the Rams advance to take on the top of the table Otago Nuggets tomorrow night, having to recover for the second straight night. While it is unheard of to think the last placed side could take out the title, the Rams so far have shown anything is possible.

Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Huskies v Rams and Airs v Bulls

ONE team is out and six remain in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) title race following the first night of finals action. Canterbury Rams won the first of four games they will need to win if they are to hold the title this year, defeating Nelson Giants and now moving on to face Auckland Huskies in another elimination final. Rounding out the elimination finals is a fourth against fifth clash between Taranaki Mountainairs and Franklin Bulls. Both sides have been ladder leaders at different stages through the season, but only one can advance to the semi-finals.

The semi-finals take place tomorrow night, with Otago Nuggets playing the lowest placing loser – which could be any of the three sides other than Auckland Huskies – while the Manawatu Jets could meet anyone bar Canterbury on the penultimate finals stage.

Auckland Huskies vs. Canterbury Rams

In the opening match of the night, the fourth placed Auckland Huskies take on the last placed Canterbury Rams who got through the first hurdle by overcoming the Nelson Giants last night. This clash will be substantially harder, but they have beaten them once, albeit in the opening week of the season.

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 29 | 17 | 24 | 32 (102)
Auckland Huskies 12 | 20 | 16 | 22 (70)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Auckland Huskies 18 | 30 | 28 | 12 (88)
Canterbury Rams 24 | 12 | 18 | 27 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies)** 19 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 8 steals
Leon Henry (Huskies) 9.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies) 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks
Toby Gillooly (Rams)** 25 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Taylor Britt (Rams) 21.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Thomas Webley (Rams) 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies) 19.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.7 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Huskies have really found their form in the second half of the season and have a really well balanced team. With Leon Henry guiding the younger players with his rebounding prowess, Taine Murray on a tear when he is red hot, and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa having a Defensive Player of the Year award type-season, they are a hard team to beat. That is before you get to the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner among a host of others off the bench who can contribute on the scoring front.

The Rams rely a lot on Taylor Britt to score, but can have cameos from others such as Toby Gillooly and more recently, Reuben Te Rangi. They have the strength off the boards with Alex Talma and Thomas Webley working hard on the inside, but will have their work cut out with Henry and Smith-Milner crashing the boards. It will need to be a clinical performance from the Rams to get up with the Huskies so strong defensively, you cannot afford to have too many loose balls.

WHO WINS?

Auckland Huskies were not too far off the top two, and deserve to head in as favourites here. While they lost to the Rams in their opening game of the season, they are in much better form of late, even with the Rams picking up back-to-back wins in the past few days. If the Huskies can play to their potential, they just have too much depth to rely on, while the Rams have some serious A-grade talent, but injuries have hurt them this season otherwise they would have finished higher up the ladder.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Franklin Bulls

The second match of the night has a huge clash between two genuine title contenders that neither the Nuggets nor Jets would particularly look forward to playing. The Airs have won both their previous encounters against the Bulls, but finals is a different ball game and this shapes up to be a beauty.

PAST MATCHES:

Franklin Bulls 31 | 21 | 18 | 25 (95)
Taranaki Airs 25 | 30 | 27 | 25 (107)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Franklin Bulls 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
Taranaki Airs 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Marcel Jones (Airs) 29.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Ken Tuffin (Airs) 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Isaac Davidson (Bulls) 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Nikau McCullough (Bulls) 11.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Derone Raukawa (Airs) 22.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Airs have had the edge over the Bulls in their opening two encounters thanks to the 12 and 14-point wins. Given they are relatively comfortable victories, they would head into this game with confidence, particularly given not only their All-Star duo in Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa‘s form against the Bulls, but also Ken Tuffin‘s 10-point and six-rebounds average against Franklin. They need to keep doing what they’ve been during the season, but need to put in a four quarter effort to ensure they remain alive in the competition.

The Bulls have one of the most even spread of sides in the competition. At one point they won five out of six games and looked like they were going to storm away with the minor premiership before slipping back to the pack in the second half of the season. If the Bulls can limit the influence of Jones and Raukawa then that will go a long way to winning. Obviously that is easier said than done, but perhaps the roles for Everard Bartlett and Nick Barrow could be huge, with Isaac Davidson and Nikau McCullouch trying to pile on the points, while Dom Kelman-Poto provides the inside presence.

WHO WINS?

With two wins in the bank against their opposition, the Airs will be favourites heading into this. Given they have 40 per cent of the All-Star team in their possession, they are genuinely a top four side ready to advance. The Bulls have such an even squad across the board, it is difficult to try and lockdown on one player, but Davidson might be that player whose hot hand early in the season led the Bulls to a number of victories.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.

Huskies snatch seventh win to stay in touch with top three

A HUGE ladder-defining Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown contest ensued on Wednesday night as the Canterbury Rams took on the Auckland Huskies with no winner in clear sight until the last few minutes when the Huskies emerged victorious. From the very beginning, the Rams enforced their dominance by killing the Huskies for rebounds. Both teams came into the game looking just a little sloppy, with silly fouls, thoughtless turnovers and questionable shots, yet the rhythm of the game was quickly about to change as Auckland got the points, 90-81.

CANTERBURY RAMS 15 | 25 | 17 | 24 (81)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 18 | 31 | 15 | 26 (90)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

What did not change was that with every shot, red jerseys swamped the glass but the Huskies were finding their way into the driving lane with ease. Nice interior passing and remaining patient near the basket was how the Rams kept it close for the start of the quarter. It was the Huskies’ strong defensive plays that saw Auckland begin to lead, extending to a three-point margin that would provide a buffer for the rest of the match.

Rams’ Thomas Webley had the play of the game, and maybe the season, as the quarter nearly closed. It was a jab-step crossover so deadly that it knocked the defender to the ground, closing in to slam it over a Huskies defender. Five seconds later, he swatted Jaylen Gerrand‘s ball – a 10-second clip that Webley might hold onto for a while.

But Gerrand came out streaky in the second, with back-to-back to back made threes, helping the Huskies to lead by nine. His value only increased when every defending Ram had one eye on the ball and one on Gerrand, leading the Huskies to knock down easy jumpers.

The Rams’ strategy was the exact opposite – they attacked the rim in nearly every possession. This is easier when you have someone like Taylor Britt, a player so quick on the dribble that he can beat his man or find the open one. But after running a play just like that, Britt hit his already injured elbow into a defender diving for a rebound. Britt crashed to the floor holding his elbow but would get back up a few seconds later. A timeout was called, and the Rams’ chances for a comeback felt increasingly slim, but as the timeout ended Britt re-took the floor and ran the first play for the Rams. A moment that would act as a turning point in the game, the Rams had time to reflect on it as they went back into the locker room down by nine at half-time.

With smart passing, aggression in the lane and immaculate defence, it was like the Rams just started the game again. Within two minutes of the second half beginning they were back within a basket. Finally after a 8-0 run coming out of half-time, the Huskies called a time out but it was too late – that 8-0 run became a 10-0 run, and before you knew it, the game looked like it was for a championship or bust. Diving on loose balls, scrambling for rebounds and piercing passes were just some of the things that made this quarter remarkable. Gerrand was able to stabilise the game for the Huskies with a flashy layup but the intensity did not waver. It was a hotly contested game, with both teams arguing with the referees on almost every call.

Quintin Bailey was instrumental in not allowing any easy baskets under the rim. Yet the same went for opposing big man, Leon Henry. Both teams were forced to settle for jump shots, especially in the third quarter. The tough battle continued, with Webley forced to exit the game for a blood rule though the origin of the blood was unknown. The third quarter would end 57- 64 as the Huskies had survived the comeback and were now battling with their head just above water in the fourth.

That burning resilience shown by the Rams in the third had clearly taken its toll, with the side allowing far too many close rim shots early. The Huskies, noticing this opportunity, directed all of their plays towards the rim to block the Rams and limit scoring opportunities. But fatigue hurt the Rams in more than one place, with Britt’s lighting quick moves slowing down as the game went on. Britt is not just the leading playmaker for the Rams, but is also a barometer for the team, meaning as his foot came off the pedal so did the rest of the Rams’.

Lucky for the cellar dwellers, the Huskies also went through the same issue in the latter stages of the game. Huskies coach, Kevin Braswell tried to counter this by running a zone on the other side of the floor, and the strategy worked as the Huskies hit back-to-back threes to bring the lead to nine with over five minutes to go. The hot hands would not leave the Huskies as that lead became 10, then 12 and then finally back to nine, to sound the horn as the Huskies won 90-81.

Tohi Smith-Milner (22 points) and Henry (13 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double doubles on the night, while Gerrand was the Huskies’ top scorer thanks to 26 points and two rebounds. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) and Reuben Fitzgerald (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the rams, Britt helped himself to a team-high 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Alex Talma (15 points, 11 rebounds) picked up a double-double. Toby Gillooly stepped up to recorded 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Bailey (13 points, six rebounds) was prominent off the bench.

Each team has one remaining game in the regular Sal’s NBL season and play on Saturday evening with the Rams to face the Franklin Bulls and Huskies to matchup against the Manawatu Jets in the final game of the night.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 22: Airs v Giants and Rams v Huskies

EACH 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown side only has two games left in the regular season as the finals seres has already taken shape. With the top two teams winning overnight, it all but locks up the qualifying final unless one massively stumbles, while the bottom two are also secured with Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams set to play off in the first elimination final. Both play tonight against a couple of top four sides hoping to have a strong run in the last couple of games. The remaining matches in the competition are the third encounters between the teams.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. NELSON GIANTS

Taranaki Mountainairs are the only side that can upset the current order of play with the top two sides in the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets. Whilst the league’s most high-powered offence can level the top two sides on eight wins after this game, the Airs have to hope they win their last game while both teams lose their final two encounters. For the Giants, they sit in the bottom two and are preparing to play the Rams in the first elimination final next Tuesday in which there will be no turning back. In saying that, claiming a huge scalp or two in the final week could do wonders for the confidence.

While the Airs dominate across the board in most statistical areas such as points (plus 19.8), rebounds (plus 9.1) and assists (plus 4.5), the biggest differential might be in the shooting efficiency from the charity stripe. The Airs are the top side at capitalising from the line, making 79.3 per cent of their free throws, while the Giants are last with just two thirds on their free throws going in. The Airs are the most efficient side in the competition which sets them up for finals, shooting at an average of 47.5, while the Giants are 43.3 per cent, ranked sixth of the seven sides.

In the first encounter between the sides back on opening night, the Airs got up 112-96 over an understrength Giants side missing Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Derone Raukawa (28 points, six rebounds and 10 assists) had a night out, teaming up with Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) who both were not too far off triple-doubles. Five Airs reached double-figure points in the opening game of the season, while it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tysxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds) who picked up 68 of the Giants’ 96 points on the night.

The Airs doubled down on their hold over the Giants in their second match on July 9, albeit needing overtime to finish them off. Leading by a whopping 21 points at half-time, Taranaki watched its lead dissolve as the Giants stormed home. Lucky for the Airs, they won overtime 20-13 to claim a 95-88 victory. Raukawa (24 points, three rebounds and seven assists), Jones (21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Ken Tuffin (10 points, 13 rebounds and three steals) all went to work in the win. For the Giants, Brooks topscored with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Zeb Lovell picked up a double-double courtesy of 10 points and 12 rebounds.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Auckland Huskies’ top two dreams might have been dashed with the loss to the top of the table Otago Nuggets last night, but third spot is still within reach if the Huskies can string together a couple of wins. They sit in fourth currently, but could still slide to fifth if they go down here and the Franklin Bulls get up. The Rams are locked into the bottom two, but have the chance to overtake the Giants with a couple of wins in the last two games and get off the bottom. In saying that, Canterbury is on a nine-game losing streak after winning its first three matches, so will need to lift in order to break that run.

Both these sides are evenly matched when it comes to the stats, with the Rams marginally ahead in points per game (86 to 85.3), while the Huskies shade them in rebounds (44.6 to 43.9). Auckland is one of the stronger assist sides, averaging 17 per game compared to the Rams’ 14.9, though Canterbury is far more accurate from the field, with a 45.5 per cent efficiency rate compared to the Huskies’ 40.3 per cent. Thought a lot of that damage was done early in the season, with the Huskies boosting their field goal numbers on the weekend having sunk the first 17 baskets against Nelson Giants. Not much separates them from a three-point shooting perspective, but the Rams are ranked second in free-throw shooting percentage.

The other game on opening night was a throwback to sweeter times for the Rams as they produced what would be their best performance of the season with a 102-70 triumph over the Huskies. The Rams dominated from the first tip-off and won three of the four quarters on their way to a 32-point victory. Taylor Britt lit up the court with 22 points and eight rebounds, well aided by Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks), as the side looked to have compensated for the loss of Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green on the eve of the season. The Huskies had a dirty shooting night, sinking just 33.8 per cent of their field goals compared to the Rams’ 52.1 per cent, with Tohi Smith-Milner‘s 15 points at 62.5 per cent, and Nate Wilson‘s 10 points at the same efficiency the only proficient and efficient scorers.

The second encounter on July 9 resulted in a Huskies victory, but not without a sluggish start. Auckland trailed by six points at quarter time, then poured on 58 points to 30 in the middle two terms to race off to a 22-point final break lead. The Rams tried to storm back with a dominant 27-12 final term, but fell short going down 88-81. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa played in this one after missing their early encounter and had a whopping eight steals to accompany 19 points. Inaccurate on opening night, Leon Henry (17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals) and Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds) both contributed at a higher rate. Britt had another impressive night with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, while it was Thomas Webley (15 points, six rebounds) and Sam Smith (12 points, two rebounds) who stepped up in the absence of Gillooly who had joined the injured group.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 16: Huskies v Airs and Rams v Nuggets

SAL’S National Basketball League (NBL) action sees the dangerous Auckland Huskies taking on the ladder-leading Taranaki Mountainairs, before the last placed Canterbury Rams hope to turn around their form against the Otago Nuggets tonight.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

The red-hot Taranaki Mountainairs take on the reformed Auckland Huskies in a match that is predicted to be quite the show to kick off some Thursday night action. The Airs have earnt the title as the team to beat if the form after 10 games is anything to go by, sitting a game clear of second with a comfortable 51 more points on the board than their nearest opposition. The Huskies might have the least points score – with a game less – but could well make their way level with fourth if they can win here, but more importantly, go two games clear of the bottom two sides.

Looking at the statistics, Taranaki is ahead in most areas. Their points per game sits at a mighty impressive 101.5 compared the Huskies’ 82.6, while their rebounds (48.9 to 44.7) and assists (19 to 16.1) are also higher. In terms of their accuracy, the Airs’ field goal percentage is almost 50 per cent at 48.7, well ahead of the Huskies’ 39.7, but that figure has been steadily improving after a shaky start to the season. From long range, the Huskies drop a third of their shots, just below the Airs at 37.5. One area where the Huskies clearly top the Airs is in the steals department, with an impressive 9.4 per game compared to 6.8, so Taranaki will need to be aware of Auckland’s pick-pocketing abilities.

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa has been the prime thief for opposition players, averaging a league-high 3.6 steals per game. In the last game between the teams, Mauriohooho Le’Afa picked up two steals, but had 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a really promising performance. Five players notched up double figures on that day from the Huskies, as Leon Henry (18 points, 14 rebounds), Tohi Smith-Milner (16 points, six rebounds), Taine Murray (15 points, three rebounds and five assists) and Nate Wilson (15 points, six rebounds) all had big nights out.

It was a rare loss for the Airs, as they were blown away in the first half – particularly the second term – with the Huskies piling on 66 points to 44 to set up a 109-93 victory. The Airs had four players reach double figures, with Marcel Jones having a sensational game of 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals, while Derone Raukawa went to town with the rock, notching up nine assists to accompany 19 points. Ken Tuffin (19 points, three rebounds) played his best game of the season, while his close friend Francis Mulvihill (11 points) also contributed on the scoreboard dropping three of six from long-range. The Airs should still start favourites in this one, but after their last match, the Huskies will head in very confident of toppling the top side again.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. OTAGO NUGGETS

In the second game, two sides hoping to overcome losses will go at it with the Otago Nuggets still looking strong, but are at the midpoint of the season at 5-4 and keen to remain up with the top group and not slip to the chasing pack. A one-point heartbreaking loss to the top of the table Airs would hurt, but a second half comeback would have been promising for a side that has taken plenty before it to-date, including knocking off its opponent, Canterbury Rams a couple of weeks ago. If one is talking needing a win, then there is no team more desperate than the Rams, who have now dropped seven on the trot after three wins to start the season. One promising aspect is the fact that they have got closer and closer each match, losing by seven, five and then three points the last three outings. They could be really primed for a big match here.

Looking at the stats, it is a real mixed bag despite the Rams’ form, with the Nuggets ahead on points (94.3 to 89.4) and Assists (19.8 to 15.7) and well ahead in steals (11.1 to 6.3). Their ball-handing skills are on point and hard to stop, but Canterbury’s big men could have a say, as the Rams are ahead in rebounds with 44.1 to the Nuggets’ 40.2. Their field goal percentage is neck-and-neck with the Rams marginally ahead (46.5 to 45.9 per cent), though Otago is the superior two-point shooting side with 56.8 per cent accuracy to the Rams’ 49.6 per cent, whilst outside the arc, Canterbury is the side to watch (36.3 to 33.2 per cent).

In the last match between the teams, the Nuggets set up a 10-point win with a fast start to lead by six and then 14 at the first two breaks. Canterbury hit back in a low-scoring third term – where just 21 points were put on the board combined – and then won the final term by a point, but it would not be enough, going down, 77-87. Despite the loss, Taylor Britt was still productive with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Thomas Webley (14 points, nine rebounds) and Sam Smith (12 points seven rebounds and three assists) supported him well. Alex Talma (11 points, eight rebounds) and Ben Carlile-Smith (11 rebounds) were also strong off the boards in a massive 50-rebounds team game.

For the winning Nuggets, Jordan Ngatai finished with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round game, leading the way with Kane Keil who dropped four of nine from outside the arc to finish with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Richie Rodger (10 points, three rebounds) was the other player to reach double-figure points, as Jarrod Kenny had a team-high five assists. Otago head into this match as strong favourites, but with Reuben Te Rangi now in the side, the Rams have a bit more firepower and will be desperate to turn their losing streak around.