Tag: toby gillooly

Title contenders claim big wins in one-sided night of action

TITLE contenders Southland Sharks and Wellington Saints have established their top two positions on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) ladder, with big wins in their respective matches overnight. The top placed Sharks won the first three quarters to take complete control over Franklin Bulls on their way to a 101-69 triumph, whilst the Saints bounced back from a loss to Hawke’s Bay Hawks last start, to win 89-63 in their home clash and retake the second spot Hawke’s Bay had snatched from them.

Southland Sharks did all the damage early, piling on 32 points to 15, leaving the visiting Bulls on the back foot from the start, then added 21-15 in the second term to lead by 23 points at the main break. Needing a spark in the second half, the Bulls could not find it until the final term – which they won by two points – as the Sharks added another 29 points to 18 in the third, leading to the eventual 32-point victory, 101-69.

The Sharks won every statistic in the book, from field goal shooting percentage (47 to 36 per cent), rebounds (52-41), assists (20-17) and steals (13-6). They had seven less turnovers (15-22) and therefore more points from turnovers (25-18), and also had more points in the paint (46-32), second chance points (22-7) and bench points (33-22).

Josh Cunningham piled on 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the win, as he grabbed the Most Valuable Player (MVP) from the match. Not far behind him was Courtney Belger (13 points, six assists and four steals) who also impressed, while Brayden Inger had the 18 points – four of eight from long-range – and six rebounds. Alonzo Burton (11 points, four rebounds) and Sione Helu (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also hit double-figure points, while Toby Gillooly came close to a double-double of nine points and nine rebounds.

For the Bulls, Manel Ayol was the star with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, with a couple of fellow recent additions since the completion of the ANBL season also holding their own. Isaac Davidson (11 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Kyrin Galloway (eight points, 12 rebounds and two steals) both tried hard, whilst the Bulls’ old firm – being there since the start of the season – in Denhym Brooke (nine points, five rebounds and three blocks) also worked well in tandem.

Wellington Saints had an equally comprehensive win over Taranaki Mountainairs in a top-against-bottom clash at TSB Bank Arena. The Saints won every quarter in the match, starting off strongly to race to a 47-28 lead at the main break, then won the second half by seven points to claim a 26-point victory, 89-63.

The Saints were the more accurate of the sides (45 to 40 per cent field goal accuracy), also knocking down 11 three-pointers to six. They had more rebounds (48-28), assists (15-10) and steals (12-6), with the Airs winning the blocks (4-1). Wellington finished with more points in the paint (44-28), second chance points (14-7), points from turnovers (24-15) and bench points (34-20) in a real dominant effort.

It was incredibly difficult for judges to select an MVP from the match with seven players earning between six and three votes. In the end, captain Dion Prewster got the nod in the Saints’ winning performance, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Tohi Smith-Milner (15 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists), Kerwin Roach Jr (13 points, five assists and three rebounds), Leon Henry (13 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) and Ezrah Vaigafa (11 points, six rebounds) all picked up votes in an even team performance. Ken Tuffin was another one who contributed strongly with 13 points and six rebounds.

Tai Wynyard tried his hardest for the Airs with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals, grabbing MVP votes in the heavy loss with Baxter Fenwick (10 points, two rebound) Marcel Jones had a quieter night, only shooting two of nine from the field on his way to 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Francis Mulvihill (seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) was the other player who did his best in the loss.

Both the losers will have to regroup themselves for matches today as Franklin Bulls and Taranaki Mountainairs both hit the road to take on Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams respectively. The Wellington Saints take on Nelson Giants next Friday night, with Southland Sharks hosting Auckland Huskies on the Saturday night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints and Sharks grab wins to extend stranglehold on top two spots

WELLINGTON Saints and Southland Sharks have grabbed wins in an action-packed night of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action, to extend their lead at the top of the table. The Sharks are running hot with a five-game winning streak, whilst the Saints bounced back from their first loss the night before – to the Sharks – and moved to a 7-1 record in the 2021 season. It was at the expense of the Canterbury Rams, as the Saints won by 25 points, while the Sharks held off a determined Otago Nuggets to win by seven.

In the Saints’ big win, they took control early to pile on 17 points to nine against the Rams and really control the game defensively. The home team hit back by winning the second term and cutting the deficit to just six points at the main break. As Wellington has so often done this season, the Saints found a way, piling on 51 points to 32 to run away with the contest, and the victory, 89-64.

Kerwin Roach Jr had 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, teaming up well with Dion Prewster who notched up 22 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists in the win. Also contributing strongly was Taane Samuel (16 points, seven rebounds and four assists), while Tohi Smith-Milner (nine points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals) and Romaro Gill (five points, four rebounds and five blocks) were impressive defensively.

For the Rams, they shared the load on the scoring front but it would not be enough. Quintin Bailey put up 19 points, nine rebounds and two assists to lead all-comers. Meanwhile Deshon Taylor (12 points, six assists, four steals and two rebounds), EJ Singler (12 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Alex Talma (11 points, six rebounds and two assists) all reached double-figure points. Ben Constable‘s shooting (one from nine) was off, but he still recorded the seven rebounds in the loss.

The game was much tighter between the Sharks and Nuggets, with the home team starting off strongly to lead by two points at the first break. It was the middle two quarters that broke the match open for the Sharks, as the visitors piled on 49 points to 28 in that time to blow open the game to lead by 19 points with a quarter to play. Otago stormed home thanks to a dominant 31-19 final term, but it was a case of too little, too late and the Sharks won, 85-78.

Dom Kelman-Poto had 24 points and six rebounds, teaming up well with Brayden Inger who starred with 22 points – four out of 10 from long-range – five rebounds and four steals. Toby Gillooly had 17 points and four rebounds in a superb effort off the bench, while Josh Cunningham did not have his usual accuracy (six points off two from 13 from the field) but managed 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Courtney Belger (seven points, three assists and three steals) also stepped up.

Isaiah Moss racked up a match-high 25 points for the Nuggets, draining four of 11 from long-range, and also have seven rebounds for his troubles. Sam Timmins had a huge double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds – seven offensive – as well as three assists and two steals. Richie Rodger (13 points) and Gerasimos McKay (11 points, four rebounds) also impressed, while Pafe Momoisea had eight points and three assists in 15 minutes off the bench.

All four teams have a break until next week, with the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets doing battle on Thursday night, before Southland Sharks host Manawatu Jets on Friday, while Wellington Saints wait until Sunday to host the Jets.

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Giants and Nuggets secure nail-biting wins as Sharks deflate Airs

TWO absolutely thrilling contests and one blowout were the summation of last night’s triple treat of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) contests. Both the Nelson Giants and Otago Nuggets claimed victories in tight battles over Hawkes Bay Hawks and Auckland Huskies respectively, whilst the Southland Sharks showed no mercy in a 42-point hiding of Taranaki Mountainairs.

In a tight see-sawing contest, Nelson Giants came up trumps despite a third term fightback from Hawkes Bay Hawks to win by three points, 112-109. After the teams were level at quarter time, Nelson piled on 32 points to 26 to take a six-point half-time lead, before the Hawks hit back with a 29-25 third stanza to cut the final break difference to two points. A tight final term saw the lead change nine times, before the Giants sunk 11 of the last 17 points to grab the win.

Hunter Hale made it rain with another ridiculous performance of 41 points – four of nine from long-range – as well as seven assists and three steals. Sam Dempster (19 points, five rebounds and three assists), Thomas Ingham (17 points, five rebounds and two assists), Donte Ingram (11 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Nic Trathen (12 points, five rebounds) were the other key scorers for the winners.

The Hawks’ starting five had plenty of say in the contest, lead once again by Hyrum Harris who had 25 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, sharing the load of scoring with long-range shooter Devondrick Walker (25 points, five assists and two rebounds). Ethan Rusbatch (23 points, six rebounds), Derone Raukawa (16 points, two rebounds) and Jonathan Janssen (13 points, six rebounds and five assists) were also busy.

The other thriller saw Otago Nuggets come from behind to defeat Auckland Huskies and hand their opponents a second consecutive loss for the round. The Nuggets trailed by two points at quarter time, hit the front by four points at the main break, then lead by six heading into the last quarter. Whilst the Huskies returned serve with 21 points to 17 in the final term, they fell two points short as the visitors saluted, 73-71.

Sam Timmins was again a difficult man to stop in the paint, knocking down 21 points and eight rebounds, whilst Gerasimos McKay (12 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) picked up a double-double. Isaiah Moss (14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, six rebounds) also stood tall in the victory.

For the Huskies, Chris Johnson top-scored on court with 22 points and 11 rebounds in a sensational double-double. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (11 points, three rebounds and three steals) and Chris McIntosh (10 points, three rebounds and three steals) both reached double-digit points, while Zach Riley (nine points, seven assists) tried hard all night.

The sole blowout of the night was Southland Sharks’ massive 42-point shellacking of Taranaki Mountainairs. The Sharks never looked like losing, winning every quarter by at least seven points, racing out to a 16-point advantage after one quarter. From there, the lead increased to 25, 35 and 42 at each break before the final buzzer proved a salvation for the disappointing Airs who were not match for the outstanding Sharks.

Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals) lead the way, sharing the scoring load with Toby Gillooly (22 points, four rebounds and two steals) and Brayden Inger (21 points, six rebounds and two steals). Courtney Belger (14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals) did a bit of everything on the night, while Josh Cunningham (eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals) was ultra-impressive.

Marcel Jones was again the standout talent for the Airs, notching up 17 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks, as he and Tai Wynyard (13 points, four rebounds and two assists) took the load for the majority of the scoring. Baxter Fenwick and Carlin Davison both finished with nine points, as Davison also notched up six rebounds, two assists and two steals having an impact off the bench in a losing team.

Hawkes Bay Hawks and Southland Sharks are the first teams to have the quick turnaround, playing tonight against Canterbury Rams and Manawatu Jets in away clashes. The Nelson Giants host the Jets on June 3, with the Taranaki Mountainairs and Auckland Huskies facing off on June 4. The Otago Nuggets have the longest break of the six sides, hosting the Sharks on June 5.

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Rams end Huskies run as Bulls hand Sharks third consecutive loss

TWO sides with early wins on the board in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) felt the pinch last night with the evenness of the 2021 competition. The Auckland Huskies suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Canterbury Rams, whilst the Southland Sharks sunk to their third consecutive loss after back-to-back wins to open the season, as Franklin Bulls grabbed another victory.

For the Rams, it was a case of striking gold with back-to-back wins, even though it took them a little while to get going. Trailing by six points at the first break, the Rams managed to cut it back to four, before the Huskies steadied in the third to lead by five at the final break. Then the final quarter happened. A stampede of scoring for the home team resulted in the Rams piling on 28 points to 13 to run away with the contest on the back of the three-point shooting of Deshon Taylor, and the paint work of Jack Salt to combine for 53 points and 22 rebounds in an outstanding dual effort.

The Rams had two less three-pointers for the night, but shot at a marginally higher field clip (45 to 44 per cent), and topped the rebounds (47-35) and steals (9-6), whilst the Huskies won the blocks (5-3) and broke even in the assists (21-21). Canterbury was cleaner with the ball however, having four less turnovers (12-16) and capitalising three times over on those turnovers (21 points to seven). The Rams also had more points in the paint (42-30) and second chance points (15-8) in an all-round impressive effort.

Taylor finished with 31 points – including five of nine from long-range and 61 per cent efficiency from the field – eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in a dominant shooting effort. Salt crushed 14 rebounds – eight offensive – with 22 points, three assists and two steals in providing the big body close to the basket. Similarly, EJ Singler aided the cause with six rebounds, eight assists and two steals alongside six points. Coming off the bench, Alex Talma was the only score with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals. Quintin Bailey was the other double-figure scorer, finishing with 14 points.

For the Huskies, Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa lead the way with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds, teaming up well with Chris Johnson (19 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and two steals) in a complete performance from the American. Off the bench, teenage start Dontae Nance racked up 19 points, five assists and three rebounds, while Takiula Fahrensohn had six rebounds to go with three points.

In the other match, Franklin Bulls finished the stronger of the sides to pile on more pain to the Southland Sharks, dominating the final quarter. The Bulls trailed by six points at quarter time, but had balanced the ledger at 43 points apiece by half-time. The Sharks gained the minor advantage heading into the final quarter with a three-point lead, before the Bulls slammed home 29 points to 17 to win 82-73.

The Bulls were far more accurate from the field, having 16 less shots from the field, but shooting at 43 to 37 per cent, including 34 to 17 per cent from three-point range. They also lead the assists (16-10), and had less turnovers (16-17) and personal fouls (12-20) in the win. The Sharks held their own throughout the contest, particularly with plus-18 in rebounds (53-35), more steals (8-6) and blocks (5-2), whilst also having more points in the paint (46-30), second chance points (21-7) and points from turnovers (23-21).

Zane Waterman was the key man on the night for the Bulls, shooting a deadly 10 of 13 from the field to finish with 31 points, as well as nine rebounds. Waterman’s partner-in-crime Josh Selby was not as accurate as in his first handful of games, only making one of eight from the field for seven points, but still managed the six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Joseph Nunag (17 points, three assists and two steals) and Jaylen Gerrand (12 points, three rebounds) were both clinical off the bench, while Denhym Brooke had his fair share of influence with six points and seven rebounds.

Dom Kelman-Poto knocked down 25 points and 15 rebounds in a losing side, teaming up well with Josh Cunningham (15 points, 12 rebounds) off the boards once again. Courtney Belger (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Toby Gillooly (11 points, five rebounds) also hit double-figure points in the loss, while Alonzo Burton could not manage to find his range with just six points (two of 14 from the field) but had the three rebounds and three steals for his troubles.

Auckland Huskies and Southland Sharks face off in a battle of last night’s losers tomorrow night, whilst the Canterbury Bulls take on the Nelson Giants next Thursday night, and the Franklin Bulls travel to TSB Bank Arena on the same night to face the Wellington Saints.

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Hawks, Nuggets and Giants secure wins in Saturday night triple treat

THERE was no shortage of available basketball around in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night, with three clashes taking pace across the country. Hawke’s Bay Hawks handed Southland Sharks their second consecutive loss, as the Otago Nuggets sent the Manawatu Jets to 0-4, and Nelson Giants grabbed their first win of the season with a victory on the road against the Franklin Bulls.

Starting off at the Pettigrew Arena, Hawke’s Bay Hawks kept in touch with the top of the table Wellington Saints by remaining undefeated this season thanks to a victory over Southland Sharks. The Hawks started strongly to lead by two points at the first break and then nine at half-time. By the final break the home team had blown the lead out to 16, and while the Sharks had cut the eventual deficit back to 12 with a spirited final term, it would not be enough.

Derone Raukawa was the star, earning Player of the Match honours thanks to 28 points, five assists and three rebounds, while Jonathan Janssen was enormous off the boards, racking up a massive double-double of 11 points, 15 rebounds and two assists. Devondrick Walker (16 points, two rebounds and two steals) and Everard Bartlett (14 points, three rebounds) also hit double-figure points, and Hyrum Harris (nine points, eight rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (seven points, four rebounds and two assists) also contributed on the scoreboard.

Josh Cunningham was the star for the Sharks once again, knocking down 21 points – including all three attempts from long-range – as well as 11 rebounds. Dom Kelman-Poto (14 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Alonzo Burton (14 points, two steals) both hit the scoreboard well, while Courtney Belger (seven points, two rebounds) and Toby Gilloolly (five points two rebounds and three steals) were also steadfast in defeat.

The Hawks next play the Nelson Giants next Sunday night, while the Sharks travel to Franklin to take on the Bulls on Friday night.

Otago Nuggets grabbed their second win of the season with the reigning premiers stringing back-to-back victories since an opening night loss to Wellington Saints, knocking off Manawatu Jets to sentence them to their fourth consecutive defeat. The Nuggets dominated the opening term to race out to a 25-12 lead at quarter time. An explosive high-scoring second quarter saw the Jets slam home 37 points to 29 to cut the deficit to five points, before the Nuggets again took control to win the third term 29-20 and hold a 14-point advantage with a quarter to play. Refusing to throw the towel in, the Jets kept fighting and scored 27-25, but would fall short to the Nuggets, 108-96.

Isaiah Moss was named Player of the Match, putting on a shooting clinic with seven of 13 long-range attempts dropping as he went on his merry way for 33 points in 33 minutes, as well as seven rebounds and three steals for the Nuggets. Sam Timmins crashed the boards and set up the offence on his way to a double-double and almost triple-double of 23 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks, while Gerasimos McKay (18 points, five rebounds) also stood strong. Josh Aitcheson (10 points) hit double-figure points starting, while Darcy Knox (11 points, six rebounds) came off the bench to have an impact in 19 minutes.

For the Jets, Daishon Knight scored 29 points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists, creating a damaging tag-team with Jayden Bezzant (23 points, four assists and three rebounds). Shane Temara (14 points, 15 rebounds) had enormous impact off the boards, while Jake McKinlay (13 points, eight rebounds and two steals) and Deandre Daniels (seven points, seven rebounds) also did well. The Jets will now have to tweak some things before a fixture quirk sees them taking on the Otago Nuggets again in their next game on Saturday night, but this time they return to their home court.

In the third game on the night up at Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre, Nelson Giants proved too strong for Franklin Bulls, getting up by 13 points in a four-quarter performance. The Giants won three of the four quarters, but most of the damage was done early, racing out to a nine-point lead after one quarter of play. They extended it to 12 by half-time, and whilst the teams were fairly even in the second half, the Bulls could not make inroads further and went down, 107-94.

Hunter Hale won Player of the Match honours with 26 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and five steals in an outstanding performance that almost netted him a triple-double. He was one of five Giants players to hit double-figure points as the starters all shared the load. Donte Ingram (19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists) picked up a double-double, Thomas Ingram (15 points, four rebounds and two assists) contributed across multiple facets, while Anzac Risetto (14 points, two rebounds) and Sam Dempster (13 points, four rebounds) were both busy.

For the Bulls, Josh Selby continued his remarkable start to the season playing every minute in the loss and put up 36 points – including six of 11 from three-point range – along with six rebounds and four assists. Zane Waterman had a double-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and two assists, while Jaylen Gerrand came off the bench for 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. Others contributed in small parts, but it was the duo of Selby and Waterman who really stepped up to the plate in the loss.

The Bulls next host the Southland Sharks on Friday night, with the Giants not having much time to recover, taking on Auckland Huskies tonight, before a clash with another undefeated side in the Wellington Saints next Saturday night.

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2021 NZNBL Round 2 preview: Top two sides do battle in Friday night blockbuster

THE top two sides will lock horns in a massive Friday night blockbuster clash in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), with a number of undefeated matches, as well as winless head-to-heads set to shake up the ladder at the conclusion of Round 2.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Thursday, May 6 @ 7:30pm
TSB Stadium

In their first home game of the season, Taranaki Mountainairs will be hoping to break their back-to-back losses from Round 1 against the 1-1 Franklin Bulls. After dropping their opening game, the Bulls bounced back to win their second encounter, and sit in sixth with an almost identical points for and points against column, and will be keen to win for Aaron Bailey-Nowell‘s 300th NZNBL game. Marcel Jones has started off as one would expect for the Airs, averaging 17.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, teaming up well with shooter Francis Mulvihill (10.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals). The pair are the only players to average double-figure points after two matches, with Franklin Bulls by comparison having five. Josh Selby has proven to be one of the most prolific shooters in the competition, dropping 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals, whilst in his only match in Round 1, Zan Waterman managed 25 points and 14 rebounds. Joseph Nunag (17.0 points, 2.5 assists) and Denhym Brooks (12 points, four rebounds) are the other key scorers for the Bulls, and they will be favourites to win this clash.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Friday, May 7 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

A top of the table clash between two undefeated sides is set to light up TSB Bank Arena on Friday night, with the Wellington Saints and Southland Sharks making the perfect starts to their 2021 campaigns after missing the 2020 season. The Saints are the most successful team in the competition’s history, and they have started off on fire, with a points differential of 43. The Sharks are the next best side with a lower scoring output, but also conceding less to be plus-21 from their Round 1 clashes. Dion Prewster has been the top player in the NZNBL to start the season, earning two Player of the Match awards for his 31 points, five rebounds, 4.5 assists and two steals per game. Kerwin Roach (18.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals) and Romaro Gill (11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) have also started the season in strong form. For the Sharks, they have a trio of dominant players off the boards who can also shoot, with Josh Cunningham (14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds), Dom Kelman-Poto (11.0 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds) likely to stretch the Saints close to the basket.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, May 7 @ 7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

A battle between two winless sides is the opposite Friday night clash, as the seventh placed Jets take on the last placed Rams. The Jets have come close and are only minus 10 for the points differential thus far, whilst the Rams have started off the season like they did last season – before charging up in finals – with a minus-35 points differential and sitting on the bottom. Quintin Bailey (16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists) has shared the top points-scorer nod with import Deshon Taylor (16.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals). The other two players to have impacted the scoreboard across both games are Ben Constable (11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) and EJ Singler (11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists). The Jets have had some prominent scorers, but not a lot from their depth, as Daishon Knight (26.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 rebounds) has been impressive, shooting at 69.7 per cent from the field. Jayden Bezzant has been a deadeye himself with 22.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists with a 66.7 per cent clip, while Shane Temara (17.0 points, 12.0 points) and DeAndre Daniels (13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds) are averaging double-doubles. The Jets have the top-end talent to be favourites in this encounter.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Coming back for their second game of the weekend, the Franklin Bulls could build some momentum in Round 2 if they can string back-to-back victories against winless sides. The Bulls’ second match comes on Saturday night at home up against Nelson Giants, with the Giants relying a lot on import Donte Ingram in game one. The Giants suffered a 19-point loss last week, and Ingram was the only scorer in double-digits with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sam Dempster (seven points, nine rebounds) helped off the boards, while Hunter Hale (eight points, six rebounds and three assists) did a bit of everything. It will be a tough ask for the Giants, but it was only one game, so they will be looking for a better effort here.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

Having clashed with the Rams on Friday night, the Jets then face reigning premiers Otago Nuggets on Saturday night. The 2020 NZNBL Grand Final rematch will see the sides come in with no more than two wins between them, though the Nuggets looked impressive in their second game out. As mentioned above, the Jets have some serious top-end talent, but the Nuggets can match them in that department. They have only has three players score more than three points per game in the opening two matches, as Isaiah Moss (10 points, three rebounds), Sam Timmins (nine points, 4.5 rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (seven points, 2.5 rebounds) the main focal points. They will need to share the load against a high-scoring Jets outfit.

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

It will be Southland Shark’s turn to do the double-up in what is a tough weekend for them against two other undefeated sides. With the premiership favourites Wellington Saints the Friday night clash, the Sharks then turn their attention to the fourth placed Hawke’s Bay Hawks on Saturday night. The Hawks have only played the one game, but their start power certainly fired, with Devondrick Walker having a night out with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Hyrum Harris marked his return to the Hawks in style with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Jonathan Janssen (12 points, nine rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (10 points, six rebounds) were also prolific off the boards, and the Hawks will really worry the Sharks in this Round 2 contest.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. NELSON GIANTS
Sunday, May 9 @ 5:00pm
Eventfinda Stadium

The last undefeated side in Auckland Huskies host the final game of the NZNBL Round 2 up against the Nelson Giants who will be coming off a clash against Franklin Bulls the night before. The standalone Sunday evening game will be favoured for the Huskies who have ticked off both challenges in Round 1, and will be looking to take down the Giants in this one. Jeremy Kendle has been running hot in the league, putting up 31 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds per game as one of the most dominant shooters thus far. Teenage star Dontae Nance made a statement in Round 1 with 22 points and four rebounds, while Brooke Ruscoe (15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Nick Barrow (11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists) also impressive in the opening round of action.

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Cunningham’s jumper saves Sharks in thriller with Airs

A TWO-point jump shot from Josh Cunningham in the dying seconds has saved Southland Sharks from surrendering a 13-point half-time lead, just getting past a determined Taranaki Mountainairs by that exact jump shot, 78-76. The Sharks dominated the opening term to race out to a 12-point lead, and held the 13-point advantage at the main break, before the Airs hit back. Over the next two quarters, the visitors piled on 42 points to 31 to race back into contention, even levelling the scores with 12 seconds on the clock, before Cunningham hit the winning shot with seven seconds to go.

The Sharks took control from the first tip-off, scoring the first five points through Dom Kelman-Poto (two) and Courtney Belger (three), while the Airs missed their first three long-range attempts before Tai Wynyard struck true from inside the arc. It was not long before Brayden Inger made his presence felt, worrying the Airs’ defence and getting to the line. His two successful free throws in the final few minutes put the lead out to 19-9, and whilst Marcel Jones did get a basket back, the Sharks secured the last four points for a 23-11 first term lead.

The game was much more even after quarter time, as the Sharks got out to a 15-point lead, but Jones continued to be a problem, and for each of the home team’s baskets, the Airs responded with five different players scoring midway through the term. Jones and Francis Mulvihill added five consecutive points to drag the deficit back to within 10, but Toby Gillooly and Kelman-Poto quickly stretched that out again, with only a Jones triple in the final seven seconds making it a 13-point half-time deficit.

Southland started the third like they had the first half, scoring the first seven points of the match to race out to a game-high 20-point lead. It looked like it might end up a blowout, but a timeout when the Airs were down by 18 points with five minutes on the clock changed things. Led by Haize Walker, and cameos from Wynyard and Nelson Kirksey, the Airs scored 13 consecutive points and with a 61-54 scoreline at the final break, it was well and truly game on.

The Airs got within five when Walker nailed back-to-back free throws, but a run of five consecutive points for the Sharks pushed the lead back out to 10. The largest margin of the final term was 12, when Alonzo Burton nailed a triple with 6:15 on the clock and the score read 71-59. Six straight points saw that lead halved until Cunningham stepped up. He delivered with the layup as well as the And-One chance, and the Sharks were out to a nine-point lead with 3:41 on the clock.

Then came the Airs. Wynyard quickly responded with a turnaround jump shot, and when Jones nailed a triple with 89 seconds on the clock, the deficit was just five points. Belger (twice) and Burton both missed chances in the final minute, and when Calin Davison successfully delivered off the alley-oop, it was three points the difference and all of a sudden, the tension in the building was sky high. Gillooly stretched it out to a two-play game with only one of two free throws with 17 seconds on the clock, and Jones returned to the action to hit a jump shot with 13 seconds left. He unluckily missed the And-One chance off the foul, but when Wynyard scooped up the offensive rebounds and hit the jumper, scores were level with 12 seconds on the clock.

In a change up, Jones was subbed out with Walker subbed back in, only for Cunningham to be the hero with seven seconds on the clock. His jumper handed the Sharks the lead, and whilst Jones was quickly brought back on for Kirksey and chosen as the man to try and win the game from long-range, his shot missed and the buzzer sounded with the Sharks victorious, 78-76.

In the end, the Sharks were not as accurate as they could have been – shooting at 34 to 43 per cent from the field, but their work in winning the ball back – 14 steals to two – was phenomenal, whilst the Airs wasted possession with 18 turnovers to eight. The Sharks also punished the Airs for their turnovers, delivering 24 points to 10, though the visitors won the rebounds (51-47) and had six more points in the paint (44-38).

Cunningham was named man of the match thanks to his game-winner and the highest points for the Sharks, picking up 18, as well as eight rebounds and two steals. He was well supported by Burton (15 points – three of seven from long-range – four rebounds, three assists and two steals), Gillooly (13 points, 11 rebounds and two assists) and Kelman-Poto (11 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks).

For the Airs, Jones lived up to his double-double ability with 23 points and 10 rebounds, as well as six assists and a block. Walker finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, hitting four of eight from three-point range, while Wynyard (11 points, nine rebounds and two assists) and Mulvihill (10 points, six rebounds and five assists). Kirksey was also prominent off the bench with seven points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes on court.

The Airs take on Otago Nuggets tomorrow night in a quick turnaround, while the Sharks will have a break until May 7 when they lock horns with the Wellington Saints.

Picture credit: NZNBL

Sharks bite hard for final quarter frenzy

SOUTHLAND Sharks returned to the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) in style, posting a 19-point win over last year’s wooden spooners, Nelson Giants. The teams were engaged in a tight battle throughout the first half, but eventually the visitors overwhelmed their opponents, smelling blood in the water in the final term to blow out an eight-point advantage at three quarter time to win, 84-65.

The first quarter was neck-and-neck as Giants’ Sam Dempster hit a three-pointer in the opening 13 seconds on the game, which was matched by Sharks’ Dom Kelman-Poto‘s long-range success not long after. There was not much between the teams all term, as a Brayden Inger triple late in the quarter put the lead out to five, before Nicholas Trathen picked up a board off his own floating jump shot to produced a clean layup and cut the Giants’ deficit to three at the first break.

Inger was quick out of the blocks with yet another triple as the long-range makes were hitting their mark, and the Sharks’ ability to counter any two-point response with a triple was building their lead ever so slightly. Five consecutive points from Donte Ingram reduced the deficit to just two points after two minutes in the quarter, but this time it would be back-to-back triples from Toby Gillooly off two assists from Tom Cowie, who punished the home side and the lead was out to a game-high eight points.

Each time the Giants would close in, the Sharks would find a way to keep them at arms-length. Neither team could seemingly score for the midpoint of the quarter, and at one point, there were six consecutive free throws between the sides, and the Giants drew to within two points at the 1:48 mark. The exciting Alonzo Burton quickly put a stop to that with a floating jump shot, but nonetheless the four-point margin at half-time had the teams delicately poised.

The scoring woes continued through the third term, which just 22 combined points scored – 13-9 in favour of the Giants – after there had been 39 points scored in the first and second terms. Similar to the first two quarters, the Giants drew to within three points with two minutes on the clock, but missed chances from the home team saw the Sharks score six of the last seven points to increase the lead out to eight the final change.

The last stanza was counter contrasting to the low-scoring scrap of the third, as the Sharks led loose from the get-go. Aside from a Hunter Hale response in the first 20 seconds, the Sharks piled on 10 of the first 12 points for a 16-point lead by the 8:14 minute mark. From there, they were never headed despite the best efforts of the Giants, as the lead stretched out to its final margin by midway through the term, and even ticked over to the 22 points in the final two minutes. To the Giants credit, they scored seven of the last 11 points, but it would be too little, too late as the damage was done in the first few minutes of the quarter.

In a real even team performance where six players hit double-figure points, Josh Cunningham earned Player of the Match honours with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Inger topped the scorers for the Sharks with 15 points, four assists and four rebounds, while Courtney Belger had 14 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals. Gillooly (12 points, three points), Kelman-Poto (11 points, seven rebounds) and Sione Helu (10 points, two assists) were the others to hit double-figure points.

For the Giants, Donte Ingram was the standout shooter, putting up 20 points for his side, as well as six rebounds and three assists, while Tom Ingram also managed the nine points and three rebounds. Dempster was lively off the boards and close to a double-double thanks to nine points, nine rebounds and two assists, while Hale had the eight points, six rebounds and three assists.

Southland Sharks play this Friday night against Canterbury Rams back at home at the TSB Bank Arena, while the Giants have an extended break until Round 2 when they lock horns with the Franklin Bulls on Saturday, May 8.

Picture credit: NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 1a preview: Trio of matches to tip off new season

A TRIO of highly-anticipated matches will tip-off the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, which has come around quickly after what was seemingly an eternal wait since last year’s successful NZNBL during a time where most of the world was in lockdown. The top New Zealand basketballers took centre stage across the globe due to the nation’s success with handing the COVID-19 pandemic, and the six teams from that competition – Taranaki Mountainairs, Franklin Bulls, Nelson Giants, Auckland Huskies, Manawatu Jets, Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams – are back. They are joined by successful franchises, Wellington Saints, Southland Sharks and Hawke’s Bay Hawks.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. WELLINGTON SAINTS
Saturday, April 24 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

It is absolutely fitting that the first match of the brand new season pits the reigning premiers up against the most successful team in history. In what was a challenging year for everyone, the Otago Nuggets took out the title in 2020, and will be hungry to go back-to-back with a full season, and complement of teams back in action for 2021. There might be a score to settle for Wellington Saints fans, who will no doubt want to remind the Nuggets of the superiority they have held over the competition in the past decade, winning six titles between 2010-19, and having another three runners-up efforts. In short, 2013 was an outlier as the Saints went to reach every deciding playoff final in that time.

The last time these teams played was way back in 2013 before the Nuggets disbanded, which saw the Saints win 97-72 in that encounter. Sam Timmins was a big driving force for the Nuggets in 2020, and whilst the reigning premiers will be missing some of their stars, the likes of Darcy Knox and Richie Rodger will be ones to watch this season. Tohi Smith-Milner, Taane Samuel and Ken Tuffin were unsurprisingly amongst the top players last year for their various sides, and they all team up for the Saints in this clash, making it a mouth-watering encounter.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Sunday, April 25 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Two of the newer sides in the competition, the Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies both showed some serious potential in 2020, and whilst they fell short of making the final, they could be proud of their efforts. The Huskies have had quite the journey in terms of relocation of the past couple of years, but they got the Auckland faithful behind them, and will be keen for another Battle of the North which is a fledgling rivalry between the sides.

Who could forget the long-range shooting and overall class of up-and-comer Isaac Davidson, as the Bulls have a number of players to keep an eye on in 2021, such as Dane Brooks and Denhym Brooke. Josh Selby is the big inclusion, with the ex-NBA guard set to light up the court for the home side. Tom Vodanovich was outstanding last year and he returns to the Huskies lineup in 2021, though he will be around some fresh faces. After a promising season in 2020, Nick Barrow and Reuben Fitzgerald will be among the names to keep an eye on, though another ex-NBA talent in Chris Johnson is a huge get for the club.

NELSON GIANTS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Monday, April 26 @ 2:00pm
Trafalgar Centre

Unfortunately 2020 did not go to plan for either of these sides, with Southland Sharks opting not to compete in the NZNBL, while the Nelson Giants copped injury after injury early in the season which derailed their season. They ended up losing in the first elimination final to Canterbury Rams after finishing fifth at the end of the regular season, so the Giants will be keen to improve on that effort in 2021. The Sharks have had plenty of time out at sea and will be ready to feast, having had success in 2013, 2015 and 2018 amongst the Saints’ golden era.

Donte Ingram is the name that everyone will be keen to see front up for the Giants, as the excitement machine has headed to the NZNBL after representing Loyola Ramblers to the NCAA Final 4. Otherwise predominantly local, the likes of Tom Ingham and Nic Trathen were some talents who really stood out in 2020. The Sharks are one of the teams to beat with Dom Kelman-Poto‘s emergence from impressive player to star in 2020 and then returning back to the Sharks for the 2021 season will be a storyline in itself. Toby Gillooly‘s finals campaign for the Rams wrote itself last year in a match-winning effort against Auckland Huskies, while veteran guard Courtney Belger and Alonzo Burton are other names to remember this season.

Picture credit: NZNBL

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.