Tag: Tohi Smith-Milner

2021 NZNBL team review: Wellington Saints

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series concludes with Wellington Saints.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 1st
Wins: 18
Losses: 2

KEY STATS:

Points: 96.2 (1st)
Rebounds: 36 (5th)
Assists: 17.8 (3rd)
Steals: 8.7 (1st)
Blocks: 3.7 (eq. 1st)
Field Goal %: 51.3 (1st)

KEY PLAYERS:

Dion Prewster

The captain led from the front all season and put up team-highs in points (18.2) and assists (5.0) to be crowned the NZNBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). His overall consistent effort – which also included 5.6 rebounds (third from the Saints) and 1.4 steals (second), showed he was able to accumulate stats across the board. He shot at 34.2 per cent from outside the arc, and 55.4 per cent from in it, doing most of his damage there and forcing his way to the foul line. He finished off at 82.9 per cent when shooting free throws to worry the opposition. Prewster only had single-digit points twice in the season, and both came with less than 20 minutes on court. In the overtime thriller against Hawkes Bay Hawks, Prewster put up 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, whilst earning himself a triple-double in the first semi-final. There, he managed 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a remarkable effort that capped off a year where he had four games of 30-plus points.

Taane Samuel

The other All-Star 5 member for the 2021 season was Samuel, who was able to impress out of the front court, averaging 16.5 points and 3.8 rebounds. He shot at 43.8 per cent from outside the arc in a deadly accurate display, and 54.8 per cent from the field, showcasing his overall shooting characteristics. He earned a spot on the All-Star side for his accuracy, but also averaged 1.5 steals per game. After a quiet couple of games to start the season, Samuel only had two more games in single-digits, with eight games recording 20-plus points, including the grand final (26). His season-high came against Hawkes Bay Hawks mid-season when he put up 33 points and four rebounds, showing he was the Hawks’ Achilles heal.

Kerwin Roach Jr

Seemingly underrated all season, Roach Jr was the only Saints player to score double-figure points in every single match. He had 20-plus points in six matches, of which four of those came in the last month of the season. He averaged the second most points (17.7), rebounds (5.9) and assists (4.3) in his side, as well as the most steals (1.7) to be a terrific asset for the premiers. He only shot at 33 per cent from long-range which hurt a little, but he had such a high-volume of shots, he was always able to put up big numbers. Roach Jr further put an exclamation mark on his season, with a 16-point, seven-rebound and three-assist game in the grand final to earn the match’s MVP honour.

Tohi Smith-Milner

Coming out of the five spot, Smith-Milner was a menace for opposition sides, leading the Saints for rebounds (6.8) but still putting up plenty of points (14.5) to be fourth overall on his side. He was the fourth player (with the three above) to play – and start – in all 20 games, which made him very difficult to contain. Shooting at 34,4 per cent from outside the arc, Smith-Milner was able to hit his free throws when he went to the line (75.4 per cent) and was at greater than half of his field goal attempts (52.9 per cent). He only dipped into single digits five times, including in the first two games, but unfortunately two of them were in the last three games, including a nine-point grand final. He stepped up in a big way against his former team Auckland Huskies in the first final however, putting up 30 points and nine rebounds in a season-high for him. His best game came against Taranaki Mountainairs on July 2, recording a massive 25 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two steals in that win over the bottom side.

OTHERS:

Two other big men who had the next most points traditionally coming off the bench were Leon Henry (9.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals) and Romaro Gill (8.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks), while Troy McLean took the court in every game starting on the bench, for 4.3 points and 1.4 rebounds from limited minutes.

SUMMARY:

There is not much to say for the Wellington Saints given their success of winning the 2021 NZNBL premiership tells the story. The minor premiers became the overall premiers, dropping just two games in total on their way to glory with four players starting every game, and consistency that was crucial throughout the year.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Dozen it feel good? Wellington Saints claim 12th NZNBL title

WELLINGTON Saints have claimed their twelfth New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) title in one of the most thrilling finishes to a decider. Leading by two points in the dying moments against Hawkes Bay Hawks, a turnover was stolen by the Hawks, raced up the other end, but unable to get a clean look and safely captured by the Saints to hold on as the buzzer sounded for a two-point win. 77-75.

The top of the table Saints looked like they were going to storm to a dominant win early, taking the lead from the get-go and racing to a 12-point advantage at the first break. That was not indicative of what the Te Rauparaha Arena crowd was about to witness however, as the second placed Hawks began to claw their way back into the contest. Getting it back to as little as a one possession game late in the second term, the Hawks headed into the ain break with a 25-19 quarter win, and a six-point deficit on the scoreboard.

That momentum swing continued into the second half as the Hawks completely stagnated the usually free-flowing Saints attack, keeping Wellington to just nine points in the third quarter and piled on 19 themselves to lead by a team-high lead of four points. That lead extended out to six early in the fourth and it looked like an upset might be brewing. As they had all year though, the Saints found a way and dug deep to quickly make up the difference. There were eight lead changes in the final term, with the nail-biting finish one to savour.

Tohi Smith-Milner handed the Saints the lead with three minutes remaining, and Taane Samuel – who beat a tribunal charge to play on the night – added a long-range bomb for a four-point lead. Rhys Vague returned serve with layups either side of another Smith-Milner fadeaway and the difference was just two points with 37 remaining on the clock. The experience of Leon Henry came into the game.

With possession the Saints just needed to hold onto it, as Samuel had a three-point attempt which was rebounded, but then a Kerwin Roach Jr pass under pressure almost proved costly as Devondrick Walker read it well and raced up the other end. To his credit, Roach Jr forced the body contact as Walker drove to the basket and the buzzer sounded with the ball missing.

The Saints were yet again the more efficient team on the night, putting up 50 per cent of their attempts, despite shooting at a lower 25 per cent from range for just seven of 27. It was still enough to be better than the Hawks (three of 18 at 16 per cent efficiency). They were beaten in the rebounds (42-31) but won the assists (14-13), steals (6-5) and blocks (8-5) all narrowly. To the Hawks’ credit they threw everything at the Saints, and had one less turnover (9-10) which resulted in more points from turnovers (17-13). They also had more second chance points (17-4) and bench points (10-6) in an overall strong performance.

Roach Jr won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the biggest stage, scoring 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal in the win. Captain Dion Prewster led from the front putting up 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks, and was the only player to fill the full 40 minutes on court. Samuel made the most of his chance being able to play, putting up a team-high 26 points, while Smith-Milner (nine points, four assists, four blocks and three rebounds) was also solid despite inaccuracy.

For the Hawks, Walker had a match-high 31 points and seven rebounds, being the only player to score from long-range with three of eight. Hyrum Harris (22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks) picked up a double-double for his troubles in what would be his second successive NZNBL Grand Final loss, whilst Vague (eight points, six rebounds) and Derone Raukawa (eight points, two rebounds) also picked up some important points.

It was a memorable decider and the best team for the regular season and on the night lifted the trophy, but not without a real challenge from the Hawks who came so close to glory.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Dominant second half sees Saints storm into 2021 NZNBL Grand Final

WELLINGTON Saints lived up to their minor premiership billing with an eye-catching semi-final win on night one of the Final Four in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). The top of the table Wellington Saints took care of the fourth placed Auckland Huskies for the second time in as many weeks, claiming a 26-point victory with a dominant second half. Despite some resistance in the second term from the Huskies, the depth of the Saints proved too great and the ladder leaders secured the big win, and their third over the Huskies to advanced through to the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final.

In the first semi-final of the night, Auckland Huskies stormed to an early eight-point lead at the first break. Looking to grab yet another huge win, they were shocked in the second term as Auckland Huskies produced their most dominant quarter performance against the title favourites, piling on 31-17 in the second term to not only hit back, but take the lead by six points at the main break. With an upset brewing, the Saints knew just what to do, hitting back early in the third term, they put the foot down and blew the Huskies away with a dominant 30-8 third term to all but secure the win. Not taking any chances, Wellington continued to press with another huge quarter in the fourth term, putting up 25 points to 15 to run away with the 99-73 win.

Wellington led all the key statistics, shooting at 55 per cent to the Huskies’ 45 per cent, also draining a whopping 17 triples to eight, and completely outclassing their lower ranked opponents in the rebounds (39-29) and assists (24-6) categories. The Saints also won the steals (5-4), blocks (4-0), points in the paint (42-38) and second chance points, whilst the Huskies had four more turnovers (15-11), but somehow managed to score more from turnovers (13-10).

Tohi Smith-Milner won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the match with a team-high 30 points, as well as nine rebounds, hitting four of nine from long-range. That effort was pretty impressive considering teammate and league MVP Dion Prewster recorded a triple-double in the final. The Saints captain notched up 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the victory, but the fact Smith-Milner only spent 27 minutes on court for his 30 and nine, was a remarkable effort. Kerwin Roach Jr (24 points, seven assists and five rebounds) and Leon Henry (11 points, seven rebounds) were other double-figure scorers.

For the Huskies, Tom Vodanovich hit a match-high 33 points in the loss, also collecting seven rebounds for his troubles. Rising star Zach Riley stepped up to assist with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, while fellow teenager Dontae Nance returned to the side for 10 points, three steals and two rebounds, but the supporting roles would not be enough for the Huskies to cause a monumental upset.

Wellington Saints will now take on the second placed Hawkes Bay Hawks in the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final tonight, in a bid to win yet another flag, having taken out the 2019 title, the last season the Saints competed in the competition.

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Semi-Finals preview: Final Four tips off tonight

TEN teams started in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), and just four remain after 13 weeks of top notch basketball action decided the final four which tips off tonight. Held at Te Rauparaha Arena over two consecutive nights, the four semi-finalists will face off in two do-or-die matches tonight, with the winner of each semi-final progressing through to tomorrow night’s grand final. The four teams in contention are Wellington Saints, Hawkes Bay Hawks, Southland Sharks and Auckland Huskies who remain in the hunt for premiership glory.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Thursday, July 22 @ 6pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Up first are the minor premiers, Wellington Saints taking on fourth placed Auckland Huskies for the opening spot in the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final. The Saints finished on top with 16 wins from 18 matches, clearly the benchmark team ranked first in overall points and first in least points conceded making them an easy favourite for the overall title. In nine matches at home, the Saints did not lose, and their 7-2 record on the road was pretty imposing as well. For the Huskies, they secured their final four spot in the penultimate round, winning 11 games from 18 matches, including a 5-4 record at home, and a 6-3 record on the road, making travelling no fear for the side.

Fans do not have to look too far back to see the last time these sides faced off, with the Round 12 match just five days earlier and the Saints coming away with a 24-point win, 85-61. Captain and League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Dion Prewster went to work putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in that game, well aided by Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds and two assists). For the Huskies, Justin Bibbs (18 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Tom Vodanovich (17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) were the two key players. In their only other encounter back on May 28, Wellington Saints easily accounted for the Huskies by 31 points in a 107-76 victory.

In terms of the key statistics, the Saints average almost 11 points more per game (97.1 to 86.2) and concede nine points less (76.7 to 85.4). Their shooting percentage is higher from inside and outside the arc, and from the free throw line, they have more rebounds and assists per match. In particular, the Saints are great at second chance opportunities, grabbing an average of 11 offensive rebounds per game. They can also win the ball back in transition, recording nine steals per game to the Huskies’ 7.2. In saying that, the Huskies are generally good with ball-in-hand, only committing the 11.8 turnovers per game, less than the Saints’ 12.9.

With Chris Johnson back in the United States and teenage talent Dontae Nance injured, the Huskies have looked to Bibbs and the returned Vodanovich as the key players. Vodanovich has averaged the 20.3 points and 78 rebounds per game, teaming up well with Bibbs (18.0 and 5.3) in that sense. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Zach Riley (10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists) are others who have stepped up in the absence of key players. Riley in particular has had a memorable season, winning the Youth Player of the Year.

The Saints on the other hand have no shortage of stars, with Prewster (18.7 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds) voted the best player in the NZNBL this season. Kerwin Roach Jr (17.4 points, 4.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds) has also been outstanding, whilst Samuel (16.6 points) is also an All-Star 5 this season, and Tohi Smith-Milner (13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists) has been outstanding throughout. When weighing up the two sides, it is hard to look past Wellington Saints who have been the best side all year, have very few flaws and an outstanding starting five that should get the job done yet again.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Thursday, July 22 @ 8pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Once the winner of the first semi-final is decided, it is straight onto the other match with a blockbuster second against third clash. Hawkes Bay Hawks and Southland Sharks both come in with 13-5 records from this season, and were as evenly poised as any to go head-to-head in this match. The Hawks did not lose a match at home in nine outings, including toppling both the Sharks and Wellington Saints, whilst their road record was a little more shaky with a 4-5 record. The Sharks were not as dominant at home but still recorded seven wins from nine matches, whilst also having six from nine away from home.

The most recent encounter between these sides was not so close, with the Hawks coming away with a comfortable 97-71 win on the road. In what was only the Sharks second loss on the road – after a one-point overtime defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies in the last match at ILT Stadium – the Hawks stormed to a 26-point victory. In an even team performance, five players had double-figure points for the Hawks, with Jordan Hunt (21 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Derone Raukawa (17 points, four assists and three rebounds) leading the way in the win. For the Sharks, Dom Kelman-Poto was a one-man wrecking ball with 27 points, four rebounds and two assists, whilst Joshua Cunningham put up 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists. In their earlier encounter back on May 8, the Hawks came away with a closer 12-point win at Pettigrew Green Arena, 85-73.

In terms of individuals, Kelman Poto is the sole member of the All-Star 5 in this match, with the Hawks having an overall balanced lineup. Looking at the key team stats, the Hawks are marginally ahead in points per game (93.2 to 91.3), and have conceded marginally less points to their opposition (83.4 to 84.3). The Sharks are a marginally better shooting team from inside the arc (56.1 to 55.7 per cent), though neither team could be split from outside it, with 36.9 per cent, and the Hawks hitting 1.3 additional three-pointers per game. Off the boards it is the Hawks who lead the way (37.7 to 36.9), whilst the Sharks are ahead in the assists (19.8 to 18.7) and steals (8.3 to 8.2), whilst also having less turnovers (12.0 to 13.1).

Having played every game for the Hawks, Hyrum Harris has been a rock across the court, able to impact in a multitude of ways on his way to an average of 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals. Leading the team for points, Devondrick Walker has put up 20.2 points. 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals in an impressive effort, whilst Ethan Rusbatch managed the 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. The depth of the Hawks is ultra-impressive, with Hunt (12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds), Raukawa (12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals) and Rhys Vague (12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) also averaging double-figure points.

Kelman-Poto’s All-Star 5 season came about from his 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, shooting an a high 57 per cent from the field. He worked well starting every game with Cunningham (14.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists), whilst three others reached double-figure point averages. Courtney Belger (12.3 points. 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals), Brayden Inger (14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Alonzo Burton (13.1 points. 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals) all played 17 or games this year showing great durability.

This game is hard to split, but with the Hawks having won both their previous encounters, the scale tips in their favour, but it could genuinely go either way given the stars on display in this contest.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints obliterate Bulls in 60-point thrashing

RECORDS were broken left, right and centre in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night as top of the table Wellington Saints showed no signs of slowing down with a 60-point shellacking of Franklin Bulls. The Saints surprisingly only one three of the four quarters, and one of those by three points, but the two ones they won at either end were by a combined 58 points on their way to a 125-65 win.

It was easily the biggest win of the season, and the last quarter differential of 35 the most as well, plus the 46 total points in the term. It all started with a dominant 38-15 opening term which set the tone for the night as the title favourites did as they pleased. Surprisingly, the Bulls managed to stem in the bleeding in the middle two terms as they actually won the second quarter, and only lost the third by three points for a total last break differential of 26.

In the past, the team on top has often taken the foot off the pedal in the final term with the game beyond doubt, but Wellington was no ordinary team. The Saints piled on a whopping 46 points to 11 in the most one-sided quarter of the year to run out 125-65 winners in ridiculous fashion. They dropped 29 triples – 87 points alone – as they almost exclusively destroyed the Bulls from long-range.

The stats were unsurprisingly all in the way of the Saints, as they 29 of 53 from beyond the arc a clear record, as they recorded a total field goal percentage of 53 per cent. They only hit 14 shots from inside the arc – three less than the Bulls, but Franklin could only drain six of 28 from beyond the arc at 21 per cent. The mounting pressure to hit long-range jumpers to try and chew into the deficit was evident.

Despite the rebounds being even at 41-apiece, the Saints dominated the assists (30-7), steals (13-6) and had far less turnovers (9-23). This aided them in having more points from turnovers (39-8), more second chance points (17-14) and bench points (50-19) in what was a heavily rotated side during the big win.

Kerwin Roach Jr won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award with 29 points – four of nine from long-range – seven assists and five rebounds. He had plenty of supporters though, as Leon Henry was ridiculous coming off the bench with seven triples – more than the entire Bulls side – for 24 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists. Ken Tuffin had 17 points – draining all five three-point attempts – and two rebound, while Tohi Smith-Milner finished with 15 points –  and also had a perfect four from four from beyond the arc – as well as five rebound and four assists.

Taane Samuel joined in the party with three of seven from long-range to go towards his 12 points, while Rangimarie Dougall-Mita had nine points – three of six from long-range – and two rebounds off the bench in 15 minutes. Ezrah Vaigafa (seven points, seven assists and six rebounds) and Troy McLean (six points, four assists) also picked up more than five points in the record-breaking victory.

For the Bulls, the box score was not as kind, with Isaac Davidson trying his hardest on the way to a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, hitting two of five from long-range, and picking up three of his team’s six steals. Jett Thompson (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Manel Ayol (10 points, five rebounds) also reached double-figure points, while Zach Easthope had six points and five rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench for Franklin

Unfortunately for the Bulls, they will need to stew on the result until next season, whilst for the Saints, not only do they have finals action coming up, but they also have another clash tonight, taking on Auckland Huskies on the road.

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints secure top spot with another big win

WELLINGTON Saints will head into the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Final Four as the team to beat, securing top spot on the ladder following a 17-point triumph over the Otago Nuggets. Whilst the Nuggets were not in finals contention after Auckland Huskies wrapped up the last spot in the post-season series last night, they have been largely competitive throughout the 2021 season. That was again the case for the most part, with a last quarter dominance from the home team seeing the eventual final margin out to 17, 102-85.

Wellington started strongly knowing the Saints needed just one more win to secure the minor premiership ahead of the post-season series which starts in just over a week. They lead by six points at quarter time after a 25-19 first term, before the Nuggets cut into the deficit by one with a high-scoring second term with a combined 61 points scored (31-30 in favour of the visitors). The Saints extended their lead out to seven by the final break with a 21-19 third quarter, then put the foot down as they so often have this season, piling on 26 points to 16 in the last to blow out the game and run out comfortable winners.

Wellington controlled the majority of the key statistics, shooting at an accurate 57 per cent compared to the Nuggets’ fairly impressive 53 per cent. Whilst Otago led a low rebound count (36-27) and had more second chance points (17-9) because of it, all the other key stats went the way of the home team. The Saints had more assists (17-11), dominated the steals (14-3) and blocks (7-2), as well as more points in the paint (54-40), points from turnovers (26-15) and bench points (19-13).

Kerwin Roach Jr won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honour for 27 points, four rebounds, four assists, five steals and three blocks in an all-round effort for the Saints. Combining well with Roach was Taane Samuel who managed the 23 points – five of nine from long-range – and five rebounds. Dion Prewster (13 points, five assists, three rebounds and two blocks) and Tohi Smith-Milner (12 points, three rebounds and three steals) held their own from the starters, whilst Troy McLean managed 10 points and four rebounds in 17 minutes coming off the bench.

For the Nuggets, Gerasimos McKay had a team-high 25 points – three of four from long-range – as well as six rebounds and two assists. Isaiah Moss (23 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Richie Rodger (11 points, seven rebounds and three assists) both contributed three triples. Sam Timmins (13 points, 11 rebounds) picked up a double-double in the loss, whilst Luke Aston had six points and two rebounds in the top performer off the bench in defeat.

Wellington Saints have two more games left despite securing top spot, able to manage players ahead of the Final Four with road trips to take on Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies. The Otago Nuggets have the one match left, hosting Canterbury Rams on Saturday night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints, Hawks Final Four preparation continues as Rams hold off Giants in overtime

WELLINGTON Saints and Hawkes Bay Hawks have continued their strong seasons to grab wins against the bottom two sides of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), whilst Canterbury Rams kept their Final Four aspirations alive with an overtime victory over Nelson Giants. Both the Saints and Hawks had no troubles over their respective opponents, with the former defeating Manawatu Jets by 23 points, and the latter triumphing by 26 points over Taranaki Mountainairs. By far the closest contest of the night, the Rams got up over the Giants, 95-90 in overtime.

The top of the table Saints won the first three quarters against the Jets to race out to a 26-point lead. The Saints won the first quarters by nine points, and lead by 15 points at the main break, before blowing the game open with a 25-14 third term. To their credit the Jets won the last term by three, but it was too little, too late in the 103-80 result. The Saints dominated the rebounds (46-29) and assists (21-6), as well as points in the paint (52-36) and second chance points (23-5) in a one-sided contest.

Taane Samuel won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours after putting up 23 points, three rebounds and two assists in the win. It was a shared team effort however, as Kerwin Roach Jr (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) and Tohi Smith-Milner (20 points, seven rebounds and four assists) both impacted the scoreboard heavily. Ken Tuffin (11 points, three rebounds, four steals and two assists) and Troy McLean (11 points, two rebounds) also managed double-figure points. For the Jets, Daishon Knight (30 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists) and Jayden Bezzant (25 points, two rebounds) made up more than half of the team’s points.

Hawkes Bay Hawks also had no troubles dismissing their opponents, winning the first three quarters against the Taranaki Mountainairs to set up the win. They dominated the opening term 32-16, then won the next two quarters by two and eight points respectively to lead 80-54 at the final break. Both teams managed the 20 points in the last term, but the Hawks had done all the work early to take home the points. The home team dominated the rebounds (50-33) and assists (20-13), and made more of their points in the paint (54-40), second chance points (14-2) and bench points (28-9).

Devondrick Walker was the standout player on the court, earning MVP for his 20 points – four of nine from long-range – seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Hyrum Harris (15 points, four rebounds and three assists), Jarrod Kenny (14 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals) and Ethan Rusbatch (14 points, four assists and three rebounds) all impressed from the starting side, while Jordan Hunt (14 points, eight rebounds) showed impact off the bench. Marcel Jones lead the Airs yet again with 24 points – four of nine from long-range – seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Tai Wynyard (17 points, five rebounds) and Haize Walker (12 points, three rebounds and three assists) also did well.

In the only tight game of the night, Canterbury Rams needed extra time to overcome Nelson Giants at Cowles Stadium. The Rams lead by four points at quarter time and five at the main break, before the Giants hit their straps. Piling on 26 points to 19 in the third quarter, Nelson snatched the lead by two heading into the final term. Canterbury backed up to win the final quarter by two, forcing overtime and then winning that 13-8, not conceding the lead at any stage during the extra five minutes. Canterbury had a whopping 59 rebounds to 41, as well as 58 points in the paint to 32, and 23-10 second chance points.

EJ Singler‘s work late in the game saw him earn MVP honours for 22 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. He was one of two Rams to hit double-doubles as Jack Salt (14 points, 10 rebounds and two steals) also achieved the feat. Deshon Taylor (21 points, eight assists and five rebounds) and Max Darling (20 points, nine rebounds and three assists) also had plenty of the points in the win. For the Giants, Hunter Hale was phenomenal with 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists, whilst Sam Dempster (16 points, six rebounds and three assists), Donte Ingram (15 points, nine rebounds and nine assist) and Thomas Ingram (13 points) did the bulk of the scoring.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 11 preview: Ladder defining clashes take centre stage

IT is going to be another action packed round in the New Zealand National Basketball League with a couple of sides getting to ply their trade out on court twice this round as the ladder continues to shape up heading towards the back end of the season. The Saints will be keen to retain top spot while the Mountainairs have two chances to notch up a win.

Nelson Giants vs. Franklin Bulls
Thursday, July 8 @7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

The contest between the Giants and Bulls is set to be an enthralling one as both sides have had a chequered run in their past few encounters. The Giants are coming in off a loss while the Airs will be riding a wave of success clinching a narrow win last round. Nelson Giants will be hoping to rekindle their form and steal the win to take the ledger to two wins apiece.

Hunter Hale has been one of the most consistent players to-date for the Giants, averaging 26.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 defensive rebounds each time he steps out on court. Teammate Donte Ingram is also one to watch in this clash given he averages 18.8 points making him a handy target. Ingram is also more than capable of dishing off dimes averaging 2.3 assists a game while he also leads the way with 5.6 defensive rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Samuel Dempster is a real eye catcher thanks to his 5.4 defensive rebounds and team-high average of 2.1 offensive rebounds. The Bulls will need the likes of Joshua Selby and Denhym Brooke to fire on all cylinders and create some real scoreboard presence if they are to defeat the Giants. Selby averages 24.4 points per game while Brooke boasts an average of 11.3 points along with four rebounds.

Southland Sharks vs. Otago Nuggets
Friday, July 9 @7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The Sharks and Nuggets will engage in their second clash of the year with the latter hoping to reverse the fortunes of their previous meeting. Both sides are coming in with similar form guides having won three of their past five games, the only difference being the Nuggets enter the clash fresh off a win.

The combination of Isaiah Moss and Samuel Timmins will be one to watch given the two are the most prolific shooters for the Nuggets. Moss averages 22.2 points per game while Timmins is not far off the pace with 20 points of his own. Timmins is also crafty with ball in hand registering 4.6 assists a game and a whopping 10.7 rebounds highlighting his overall dominance. Gerasimos McKay is another player for the Nuggets that is able to change the course of a game with his ability to contest for the rebound averaging 4.7 a game while he is also able to create attacking forays credit to his 2.5 assists. For the Sharks there is no denying that Dominique Kelman-Poto is the main man to watch. Kelman-Poto tops the table for points with an average of 16.5 per game but will need the likes of Brayden Inger and Joshua Cunningham to ply their trade to impose a commanding score. Inger averages just over 14 points per game while Cunningham can influence both on the scoreboard and off the boards with 6.4 rebounds.

Hawkes Bay Hawks vs. Taranaki Mountainair
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The first Saturday game of the round will see Hawkes Bay Hawks host Taranaki Mountainairs who have had less than a desirable season. The Hawkes will be hoping continue their winnings ways and really assert themselves on the lowly Mountainairs. Taranaki sit firmly at the bottom of the ladder while the Hawks are all the way up the ladder in second and will be eager to notch up a win to create some much needed ladder separation.

Unfortunately for the Airs it is a one man show with Marcel Jones proving to be that man. Jones can light up the court with his drive to the rim and is a force to be reckoned with credit to his average of 23.2 points, 3.8 assists and 8.9 rebounds falling just short of a double-double. If the Airs are any chance of causing a major upset they will need Tai Wynyard to be at his damaging best and apply the pressure on the scoreboard. Throw in the likes of Haize Walker and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who is renowned for his presence off the boards and the Airs have a strong core. But the Hawks are not short on star power with Devondrick Walker able to dominate as shown with his average of 19.1 points while Ethan Rusbatch can chime in with his average of 15.2 points. If those two are kept quiet then look to Jordan Hunt to step up to the plate while Hyrum Harris is also an option both on the scoreboard and with ball in hand credit to his 4.1 assists a game.

Manawatu Jets vs. Wellington Saints
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Ballroom B and M Centre

It could be a blowout game if the top of the table Wellington Saints are able to bring their A-game against the lowly Manawatu Jets. The Jets only have four wins to their name while up the other end of the table the Saints have 12 to their name. The last time these two sides met it was Wellington that got the chocolates by 23 points and will be hoping to repeat those efforts in this outing to solidify their standings.

The Saints are brimming with talent as Dion Prewster, Kerwin Roach Jr and Tohi Smith-Milner are real livewires. Prewster leads the way with 21.1 points to accompany his 4.9 assists while Roach Jr is another dominant scorer credit to his 16.2 points and 4.1 assists a game. When looking at the Jets it is Daishon Knight that tops the table with is 23.3 points and will have to expect plenty of attention from the Saints to shut down his scoring ability. DeAndre Daniels is another exciting option for the Jets averaging 16.9 points per game along with 6.1 defensive rebounds. Shane Temara will need to up the ante for the Jets if they are to cause a boil-over while Jayden Bezzant has also proven to be a livewire at times.

Canterbury Rams vs. Nelson Giants
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

A win here for either side will be monumental as the mid-table logjam continues to develop. The Rams will be hoping to capitalise on the Giants fatigue given they would have played only days earlier but Nelson need the victory to keep their finals hopes alive. The Giants pulled off the win the last time they played and will be keen to do it once again to generate some much needed momentum.

It will come down to the workload of Deshon Taylor and whether or not he can inspire the Rams to really get going. Taylor averages 22.1 points per game along with 4.9 assists and 3.9 defensive rebounds showcasing just how influential he is for the side. Another key cog for the Rams is Edward Singler who has proven to be handy on the scoreboard credit to his 18.5 points. It does not stop there for Singler as he also boasts 4.6 assists and 6.2 defensive rebounds. Keep an eye out for Samuel Smith to bob up every now and then for the Rams.

Auckland Huskies vs. Taranaki Mountainair
Sunday, July 11 @5:00pm
Eventafinda Stadium

The Mountainairs will be fronting up for their second game in as many days while the Huskies will be keen to take advantage of their fresh legs. Currently sitting in fourth spot on the ladder a win here could propel Auckland up the ladder and most importantly widen the gap between them and fifth place. Meanwhile for the Mountainairs, it will be a matter of pride as they look for their third win of the season.

Looking at the Huskies and they have a number of big contributors with Chris Johnson paving the way. He is the most prolific scorer for the Huskies averaging 20.1 points a game along with 2.9 assists and an impressive 8.4 rebounds. Meanwhile teammates Dontae Nance and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa are also right up there averaging 11.6 and 11.4 points respectively. Nance has also proven to be a handy contributor with ball in hand averaging 2.9 assists while Zach Riley has showcased his strength off the boards with 3.7 defensive rebounds. Throw in the services of American import Justin Bibbs and the Huskies have the makings for a big win if all of their structures fall into place. For the Mountainairs there is no denying that it is Jones that is the biggest threat. He is an imposing force across all aspects of the court and will need to have a mammoth performance if the last placed side are a chance to claim victory.

Wellington Saints vs. Otago Nuggets
Monday, July 12 @7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

The final game of the round plays host to the top of the table Wellington Saints and fifth placed Nuggets. Both sides will be entering their second game for the round meaning the level of bench-depth from sides is sure to be the game changer. The two teams have played their fair share of games this season meeting five times already with Wellington walking away with the chocolates each and every time meaning it will be a matter of pride and redemption for the Nuggets this time around.

The Nuggets have the upper hand when it comes to defensive rebounds and assists and will be eager to get that style of play up and running early to catch the Saints on the back foot. But Wellington are much cleaner with ball in hand only averaging 13.85 turnovers a game in comparison to the Nuggets’ 14.93 which means they are able to capitalise when it counts. When it comes to top performers it is hard to go past the likes of Timmins and Moss for the Nuggets while Prewster, Roach and Taane Samuel are livewires for the Saints.

Photo credit: Joe Allison/Getty images via NZNBL

NZNBL Round 10: Friday night

IT was an action packed Friday night of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) with three big games as Southland Sharks, Wellington Saints and Auckland Huskies took out the win in each of their respective matches.

Canterbury Rams (81) defeated by Southland Sharks (92)

The second placed Sharks imposed themselves against Canterbury Rams claiming an 11-point win. It was neck-and-neck to start the game with both sides taking a while to settle into a rhythm, going blow for blow in the opening term to sit at 21 points apiece. The battle continued into the second quarter with the Rams and Sharks unable to break away from one another as Canterbury proved they can match it with the best in the business. Skipping out to a handy lead midway through the third term, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Sharks were about to gain control and jump into the driver’s seat, but that was not the case as the Rams hit back. With the game hanging in the balance it was time for the Sharks to put the foot down and consolidate their standing on the ladder. A flurry of points midway through the quarter gifted the Sharks the lead and from there they steadily built on their buffer as a three point margin turned into a five point one, so on so forth.

Edward Singler worked in overdrive for the Rams racking up 26 points in his 40 minutes out on court while he also amassed four assists and 13 rebounds. Teammate Deshon Taylor was also influential with his 20 points at 39 per cent from the field. Taylor also collected four rebounds and three steals. Jack Salt showcased just how much damage he can do in 25 minutes pouring on 16 points and a whopping 15 rebounds. Courtney Belger was the topscorer for the Sharks registering 23 points at 64 per cent from the field while Joshua Cunningham also impressed with his 22 points and five rebounds. Alonzo Burton was amongst the thick of things dropping 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds while Dominique Kelman-Poto sunk 12 points at 38 per cent from the field.

Taranaki Mountainairs (81) defeated by Wellington Saints (89)

It was a one sided affair between the Taranaki Mountainairs and Wellington Saints as the latter recorded a handy eight-point win. It was a much closer match than many would have anticipated given it was a first verse last clash but in the end the Saints proved why they are top of the ladder, owning the court with their speed and cleanliness. The Mountainairs impressed in the opening term piling on 23 points to 17 to hold the lead and continued that hot form in the second to maintain a nine point buffer heading into the main break. The Saints ate into the deficit in the third going into the final break down by five points before shifting gears in the final quarter to steal the ascendancy and the lead piling on 27 points.

It was the Marcel Jones show the Airs with the bigman imposing himself thanks to his 29 points and ability to hit them from deep draining three of his six attempts. Jones also picked up six assists and six rebounds in the loss. There were three other players that hit double-digits as 11 proved to be the lucky number with Tai Wynyard, Haize Walker and Scott Telfer all managing 11 points each. Wynyard got busy off the boards with four rebounds as Walker registered three assists. For the winners it was the efforts of Tohi Smith-Milner and Dion Prewster that stood out. Smith-Milner topped the table credit to his 25 points in 31 minutes of action while he also proved to be a menace in defence picking up 15 rebounds, two steals and a block. Prewster was not far off the pace with 24 points, six rebounds and two steals. Taane Samuel found his groove walking away with 14 points to his name as both Kevin Roach Jr and Kenneth Tuffin slotted 10 points each in the win.

Nelson Giants (96) defeated by Auckland Huskies (104)

It was a game that could have gone either way given how evenly they match up but in the end it was the Huskies that got the chocolates with a hard-fought win. The Huskies got the first points of the game to kickstart their campaign but that only signalled what was going to be a seesawing affair. The Giants held the lead at quarter time credit to a flurry of points to close out the term and continued to monopolise the play in the second forcing Auckland to play catch-up basketball. The Huskies came out with a point to prove in the third levelling the scores with a tick under five minutes to play. They started to generate some real momentum but were still down at the final change. With it all to play for in the final 10 minutes of the match the Huskies unlocked another level to attack the rim and keep the Giants guessing. They tied the scores and from there put the foot down to reign supreme with a blockbuster final quarter of action.

Donte Ingram had a night to remember producing a whopping 38 points. He had a hot hand from beyond the arc draining five of his eight attempts to convert at 63 per cent. Ingram also reeled in 10 rebounds and two steals to cap off an all-round solid performance. Next best was teammate Hunter Hale who proved to be in fine form with his 30 points, eight assists and nine rebounds to just fall short of a triple double. Thomas Ingham was the only other player to make it out of single digits recording 12 points in his 33 minutes out on court. It was a more evenly shared load for the Huskies as four players hit double-digits. But it was Justin Bibbs that did the most damage draining 31 points, five assists and four rebounds. Zach Riley was also in dominant form for the Huskies producing 25 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his nine rebounds and two steals. Tom Vodanovich reminded everyone what he is capable draining 20 points in his 38 minutes out on court while Chris Johnson chimed in with a handy 13 points to get his side over the line.

Photo credit: NZNBL Twitter

2021 NZNBL Round 10 preview: Top four battles headline the round

ROUND 10 of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) commences tonight with some ladder defining clashes headlining the round. With the finals inching closer and closer now is the time for the sides to hit their stride and start to rally some much needed momentum.

Canterbury Rams vs. Southland Sharks
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

Both sides are coming in off a loss and will be eager to get back to their winning ways in this contest. Canterbury Rams have won three of their past five encounters while Southland Sharks have won four of their past five making for an enthralling battle. In terms of ladder positioning the Sharks well and truly have the upper hand currently locked in at second spot while the Rams are stuck in the mid-table logjam at sixth so a win here could be a huge upset for Canterbury. However, the Rams do have two dominant scorers in Deshon Taylor and Edward Singler. Taylor averages 22.3 points a game along with five assists while Singler is not too far behind with 18 points. The scoring load is a lot more shared for the Sharks with the likes of Dominique Kelman-Poto, Brayden Inger and Joshua Cunningham all viable options. Kelman-Poto leads the pack for the Sharks with his average of 16.1 points while Inger averages 15. Cunningham is pretty well rounded thanks to his 13.4 points, 2.1 assists and 6.7 rebound average making him a key cog in the Sharks outfit and one the Rams will need to stop if they are to topple the second placed side.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Wellington Saints
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
TSB Stadium

It is going to be a battle between first and last when the Mountainairs and Saints go head-to-head. The Saints are in blistering form up in top spot on the ladder with 11 wins to their name while Taranaki have struggled to find their mojo all season, glued to the bottom of the table. The last time these two sides met the Saints walked away with the chocolates in a one-sided affair and will be keen to replicate that output once again given they average a higher number of points, assists, rebounds and blocks than their opponents. Looking at key contributors, it is hard to go past the likes of Marcel Jones for the Airs with the bigman leading the way with his average of 21.5 points, 3.9 assists and nine rebounds to fall just short of a double-double. He will need a helping hand from the likes of Tai Wynyard and Haize Walker if the home side are any chance of upsetting the apple cart. For the Saints they have no shortage of scoring options with Dion Prewster, Kerwin Roach Jr and Taane Samuel all influential figures. Prewster averages 20.9 points along with 5.1 assists and 3.9 defensive rebounds. Roach Jr is also explosive thanks to his 16.7 points, 4.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds while Tohi Smith-Milner is also a force to be reckoned with off the boards.

Nelson Giants vs. Auckland Huskies
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

The Giants and Huskies are both looking for ways to weasel their way out of that mid-table logjam and this is the perfect opportunity. A win here for the Huskies could boost them into fourth spot while if the Giants get the win they will close the gap between them and sixth on the ladder. The Huskies have won two of their three encounters so far this season against the Giants and will be wanting to make it three from four by taking advantage of their winning momentum. Both teams are relatively well-matched up with the only main difference coming in the blocks category with Auckland impressing down in defence. Hunter Hale is the main facilitator for the Giants with his ability to attack the rim thanks to his 26.6 point average plus his 4.5 assists and 3.8 defensive rebounds. He will need the likes of Donte Ingram to step up to the plate if the Giants are to keep their hopes alive. Meanwhile the Huskies have a couple of key points scorers with Chris Johnson topping the table thanks to his 20.3 points. He is also handy on the assists front with an average of three to his name along with 7.3 defensive rebounds. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa and Dontae Nance are also known for their ability to chime in and hit the scoreboard which the visitors will need in this contest.

Otago Nuggets vs. Hawkes Bay Hawks
Saturday, July 3 @7:30pm
Edgar Centre

It is going to be an enthralling top four battle as Otago Nuggets host Hawkes Bay Hawks in hope to solidify their standings on the ladder. The Hawks currently sit two games ahead of the Nuggets but a win here could shift things and give the home side some real confidence heading into the backend of the season. But Otago will have to pull out the big guns having gone down to Hawkes Bay by 30 points last time the two sides met. Both teams are coming in off a loss and will be looking to put their foot down with a strong showing here. Isaiah Moss and Samuel Timmins have been the most dominant scorers for the Nuggets with the pair averaging 21.6 and 20.6 points respectively with the latter also racking up 4.9 assists and 11.1 rebounds. The Hawks have a number of players capable of causing some scoreboard trouble with Ethan Rusbatch boasting an average of 19.4 points, Devondrick Walker averaging 18.9 and Hyrum Harris with 13.3. Harris is no slouch when it comes to assists picking up 3.6 per game while also imposing himself off the boards with a team-high 5.4 rebounds making him one to watch.

Franklin Bulls vs. Taranaki Mountainairs
Saturday, July 3 @7:30pm
Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre

The Mountainairs will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while the Bulls will be hoping their added break will give them the legs to overrun the struggling side. Not much separates the two teams with the Bulls sitting second last on the ladder but two wins ahead while Taranaki will be yearning for a win and this is probably their best opportunity. It was a blowout the last time they met with the Bulls claiming a 16-point victory but when looking at form it is the Mountainairs that hold the upper hand registering a win last round while the Bulls are on a four-game losing streak. Keep an eye out for Joshua Selby given he averages 24.4 points, 3.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds for the Bulls and expect Jones to do the heavy-lifting for the Airs. Denhym Brooke is also a crucial cog for the Bulls recording an average of 10.9 points as Francis Mulvihill will hope to be crafty with ball in hand.

Manawatu Jets vs. Auckland Huskies
Sunday, July 4 @3:00pm
Ballroom B and M Centre

Manawatu Jets are set to take on the Huskies as they look to bounce back from a shock loss last week. The Huskies got over the line by nine points back in April when the two sides locked horns and will be hoping to repeat that feat once again to continue their way up the ladder. Manawatu have been guilty of turning ball over and will need to treasure possession in this clash if they are to roll the Huskies. The Jets will need big efforts from Shane Temara, DeAndre Daniels, Daishon Knight and Jayden Bezzant if they are to post a competitive total and generate some real momentum. Knight tops the table with an average of 23.4 points while Daniels is also prolific thanks to his 16.5 points. Temara and Bezzant average 15.7 and 15.6 points apiece with the former also able to dish off dimes with ease thanks to his average of 3.2 assists.

Southland Sharks vs. Hawkes Bay Hawks
Sunday, July 4 @5:00pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The final game of the round is between Southland Sharks and Hawkes Bay Hawks – another top four battle. Sitting on 10 wins apiece heading into the clash, this one could prove to be ladder defining so expect both sides to leave nothing to chance. The two sides have played off three times this year and the Hawks have come out on top each time giving them a wealth of confidence and belief heading into this clash. Expect a high quality game with the likes of Kelman-Poto and Rusbatch renowned for their ability to hit the scoreboard with ease for their respective sides.

Photo credit: Shane Wenzlick/Photosport via NZNBL