Tag: Tom Ingham

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the men’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There are just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Manawatu Jets
Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Mountainairs
Tasman Suns

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

A number of familiar teams are competing in the shortened competition, with this year’s Sal’s NBL premiers Otago Nuggets in Pool A alongside their grand final opponents Manawatu Jets. Taranaki Mountainairs are the other side to have competed earlier this year that falls into Pool A, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Tasman Suns also join the party.

In Pool B, a special NZ Select side will help even the numbers at 10 teams, whilst Southland Sharks also return to the competition after not competing in the shortened NZNBL format this year. The three other sides are Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls who will all be looking to add some silverware to their cabinets after missing out in the NZNBl season.

Southland Sharks would be one of the favourites for the title with some serious firepower including teaming up Hyrum Harris and the much-improved Dom Kelman-Poto. The pair will make it difficult for opposition teams given their size and range, whilst Alex Pledger showed he could impress in bursts during the NZNBL season, and Alonzo Burton rounds out the four.

Franklin Bulls are also a danger team with Mr Double Double himself, Marcel Jones returning to the club for the 3×3 tournament and is joined by a trio of Bulls’ teammates. Isaac Davison was the star of the competition in the early rounds of the NZNBL season, and can shoot from range with ease. Nikau McCullough is also a known three-point shooter, as Joel Vaigangina rounds out the list.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks cannot be discounted with Derone Raukawa leading the charge after a mammoth NZNBL season. He can just about do anything, and he teams up with veteran Everard Bartlett, as well as Ethan Rubatsch and Taane Te Kira Samuel. Otago Nuggets will be keen to do the double and back up their NZNBL win with a 3×3 Cup victory, and they had a strong four. Sam Timmins is the big body close to the basket, whilst Josh Aitcheson, Kane Keil and Richie Rodger are all underrated scorers with plenty of talent.

Looking across the board, the Manawatu Jets will have the talents of Jayden Bezzant and Haize Walker, while the Taranaki Airs have gone with experience thanks to Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Tai Wynyard. Jordan Hunt is a crucial cog for Auckland Huskies this tournament, with Canterbury Rams sticking to what they know with Ben Carlile-Smith, Jack Exeter and Mason Whittaker all named in the side. NZ Select will have players to watch such as Samuel Aruwa, whilst the Tasman Suns welcome the talented Tom Ingham who will prove hard to stop.

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

CANTERBURY Rams have remained in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series following a tight four-point win over Nelson Giants, eliminating their opponents in the process. In what was a battle between the bottom two sides and the first of four sudden-death finals should one of these sides have made it to the grand final, the Rams were able to build on their last round win and record a narrow 93-89 victory thanks to strong play through the middle two quarters.

NELSON GIANTS 30 | 17 | 19 | 23 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 26 | 23 | 27 | 17 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Despite their low finishes on the ladder, a salivating matchup always beckoned as arguably the best back court in the league of the Rams contested arguably the best front court in the league of the Giants, and that was where the game started. Mike Karena won the tip emphatically and set the tone for the Giants’ offence early as the ageless Mika Vukona drove straight to the cup for two. Up the other end, Taylor Britt opted to be the facilitator and dropped a dime to offensive leader for the first half in Quintin Bailey for two at the rim for the Rams. Britt then found Toby Gillooly on the perimeter for three who was looking to have an impact early after fouling out in their last outing. With both teams knowing it was a do-or-die match, the intensity was red hot and Giants captain Tom Ingham stepped up with the reply from deep. It was game on.

All the stars were involved early as Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi used his strength to score inside, and Dane Brooks split the Rams defenders to earn his way to the free-throw line for two. The Giants controlled the early stages of the game as seven individual scorers saw them get out to an 11-point lead. With Karena getting on the board with his trademark post-hook, Rams coach Mick Downer had seen enough and called a timeout. He was not happy with his team’s tempo offensively and some errant passes, a sign that there was a lack of cohesion and chemistry due to not having a full-strength side for much of the season, as well as their defensive effort labelling it as “garbage”.

Canterbury managed to find another gear to finish the quarter much like their game on Saturday as Sam Smith hit his first of three triples for the game, and Alex Talma got it done at both ends of the floor. The game was back to a one possession lead until the experienced front court of the Giants managed a couple of baskets late in the quarter as the scores read 30-26 at the first break.

High intensity and efficiency offensively for Nelson saw them shooting 66 per cent from the three-point line while it was Bailey, who got the starting nod for the game, and his 10 first quarter points keeping the Rams within arms-length.

Britt made his way to the free-throw line to score his first points of the game two minutes into the second quarter, but he still hadn’t made a shot from five attempts on the floor. Ingham also hit from the charity stripe to find his way to double-figure scoring, as five quick fire Te Rangi points tied the scores for the first time since the early part of the game. Britt eventually made his first shot from the floor, but it was Ingham again stealing the show with a corner three, before forcing Gillooly to roll his ankle with a vicious step-back jumper on their next possession.

Jack Exeter returned from concussion with a corner three of his own, and Talma’s tough defence on Karena led to him draining a triple from the wing up the other end. He managed to keep Karena to just six first half points as the Rams led 49-47 at the main break thanks to their resurgent defensive effort. Bailey (13 points) and Talma (7 points, five rebounds) led the way for Canterbury while Britt was restricted to just four points (1-8 shooting). Nelson’s 10 turnovers were a concern with five of them coming from Vukona, but his nine points and eight rebounds (three offensive) were also very valuable in keeping the contest tight.

Josh Bloxham tied the game again with a layup to start the second half until the Talma and Karena matchup started to fire up. Both fired shots at each other from both ends in an impressive showcase of skill and speed from the big men. Talma eventually went down with an ankle injury after landing on it awkwardly in a shot contest. He would ice up and not return for the rest of the game. Nelson tried to expose the defensive hole that was left as Karena bullied his way to two offensive rebounds and an and-one. With Vukona securing a double-double with a quarter and change left to play, a Canterbury big needed to step up, and they did. The 18-year-old Tom Webley kept the pressure on Karena at both ends and ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, playing a big role in many of their defensive plays. His involvement sparked another late-quarter run for the Rams as they dominated the final three minutes to take a 76-66 lead heading into the last break.

Turnovers were again a big reason the Giants found themselves down having recorded eight in the third quarter alone, something they needed to rectify if they had any chance of keeping their season alive. Despite Webley’s solid play, Karena continued to attack him with an and-one starting the Giants on the right path of a comeback. Nelson oozed full court defensive pressure and active offence as the Giants knew it was all or nothing. Despite this, they could not quite take a big enough dent out of the Canterbury lead.

With just under four minutes left, a Tysxun Aiolupotea runner sparked a seven to nothing run to be back within four points with just a minute and a half left. This was the finish the fiery first half promised fans. The Giants managed another stop and had a chance to dig into the lead again. The ball pinballed around the court as neither team could quite recover the ball cleanly, until it slipped into the hands of Britt and he wasn’t letting go. Looking to extend their lead, he took off but was stopped and fouled at half court with 37 seconds left. The referees deliberated on whether it was an unsportsmanlike foul, and with enough contact, that call was made. After making the two free throws and getting to the line on their retained possession, the lead was back to eight and it looked like game over. That was not the case.

Brooks hit a three on his second attempt in the possession and in his typical athletic fashion, he forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a huge dive. A quick Ingham three bounced off the rim and into the hands of Karena who is not known for his exploits from deep, yet he understood the situation of the game and Reggie Miller step-backed behind the line and drained it. The game was back to two points but unfortunately for Nelson, the lead only extended with the Smith free-throws the last scores of the game.

A valiant fightback fell short as the Rams won 93-89 and with them back at full strength, four wins in five days to win the championship isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Despite a quiet first half, Britt led a team-binding win with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Bailey’s 19 points and eight rebounds was important for their first half efforts. Te Rangi (11 points, five rebounds) was important, while fans wait on news on Talma’s (10 points, five rebounds) injury.

Karena (19 points, five rebounds) and Ingham (19 points) were the best for eliminated Nelson outfit, as Vukona did what Vukona does and put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. As the Giants head home from the competition, the Rams now take on Auckland Huskies for a spot in the semi-finals. If the Rams get up, they will face the red-hot Otago Nuggets in the semi-finals.

Sal’s NBL night preview July 25: Triple header to close out season

FOR the final day of the regular 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) season, we look at the overall ramifications over the day and what could come from the three remaining matches in the season. To tip off your Saturday afternoon of action is Canterbury Rams up against Franklin Bulls, followed by Nelson Giants up against Otago Nuggets and finally Auckland Huskies taking on Manawatu Jets.

THE MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams (7th) vs. Franklin Bulls (5th)
Nelson Giants (6th) vs. Otago Nuggets (1st)
Auckland Huskies (4th) vs. Manawatu Jets (2nd)

HOW CAN THE LADDER CHANGE?

As it stands the qualifying final and first elimination final is locked in. Otago Nuggets secured top spot on Thursday night with victory over Manawatu Jets, but a Taranaki Mountainairs loss on the same night ensured the Jets will hold onto second spot with winning records over both the Airs and Auckland Huskies. Whilst the Huskies can knock off the Jets in the final game on Saturday, the Jets hold a 2-0 record over them from their previous encounters.

The Huskies can slip down to fifth on the table if they lose and Franklin Bulls topple Canterbury Rams in the opening game of the night. The second game is largely academic with both Nelson Giants and Otago Nuggets locked into their matches next week. If Canterbury Rams upset the Franklin Bulls and break their 10-game losing streak, then it will lock the Bulls into sixth on the table.

HOW DID THE TEAMS FARE IN THEIR PREVIOUS MATCHES?
Canterbury Rams vs. Franklin Bulls

Canterbury Rams (75) def. Franklin Bulls (72)
Taylor Britt (Rams) 19 points, 10 rebounds
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 20 points, 10 rebounds

Franklin Bulls (102) def. Canterbury Rams (77)
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 22 points, 7 rebounds
Alex Talma (Rams) 25 points, 7 rebounds

Nelson Giants vs. Otago Nuggets

Otago Nuggets (107) def. Nelson Giants (82)
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 23 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals
Nic Trathen (Giants) 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals

Otago Nuggets (87) def. Nelson Giants (79)
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 26 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks
Tom Ingham (Giants) 15 points, 5 rebounds 3 assists

Auckland Huskies vs. Manawatu Jets

Manawatu Jets (95) def. Auckland Huskies (67)
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 38 points, 3 rebounds, 4 steals
Taine Murray (Huskies) 16 points, 3 rebounds

Manawatu Jets (105) def. Auckland Huskies (100)
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 26 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists
Taine Murray (Huskies) 35 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals

WHO ARE THE PLAYERS TO WATCH ON THE FINAL NIGHT?

  • Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams) 21.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists
  • Dom Kelman-Poto (Franklin Bulls) 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals
  • Mike Karena (Nelson Giants) 16.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists
  • Jordan Ngatai (Otago Nuggets) 19.8 points, 4.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals
  • Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Auckland Huskies) 18.6 points, 5.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 steals
  • Tom Vodanovich (23.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals

LIKELY FINALS:

Elimination Final 1: Nelson Giants vs. Canterbury Rams
Qualifying Final: Otago Nuggets vs. Manawatu Jets
Elimination Final 2: Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Giants/Rams
Elimination Final 3: Auckland Huskies vs. Franklin Bulls

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

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

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. NELSON GIANTS

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

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

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

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

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

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

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

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

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

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 15: Rams v Jets and Giants v Bulls

JUST when it looked like fans were getting adjusted to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) and the way the ladder was shaping up, one of the red-hot teams in Franklin Bulls suffered defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies last night. Now the Bulls take on the out-of-form Nelson Giants, whilst the even more out-of-form Canterbury Rams hope to turn their six-game losing streak around against the Manawatu Jets.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. MANAWATU JETS

If form is anything to go off, then the Manawatu Jets will start red-hot favourites in this clash. The Jets have won three of their past four games, notching up the 100 points in three of the games, and only slipping below the ton once (94) in that time. The Rams have not tasted success since week one, having gone on a two week losing streak which now has stretched over six games. Injuries have taken their toll over the journey with not only Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green out before the opening tip-off for the season, but with Toby Gillooly also missing substantial time after some great early form.

Looking at the match statistically, the Jets are unsurprisingly ahead in the main areas. They average 95.7 points to the Rams’ 88.4, while also being ahead in rebounds (45.1 to 43.6) and assists (18.3 to 15.1). They are not afraid to run the offence and score when they can, and most importantly, are right in that top four group. While the Taranaki Airs are now two wins clear on top, the Jets are in the log-jam of teams on five wins from nine games. A win here would see them leap up to second, at least temporarily. A Rams win, aside from gaining vital confidence, would move them to at least sixth on the table and give them enough time to try and move up the table.

In the earlier match between the teams, Manawatu Jets had control for the most part and won two quarters by a combined 17 points as they recorded a comfortable 108-93 victory overall. On that occasion, Jayden Bezzant scored 25 points, six rebounds and three steals, one of four players to put up big numbers. The top scorer was Taane Samuel with 27 points, as well as six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block, while it was Tom Vodanovich who stole the show with a double-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks. Hyrum Harris was also productive thanks to 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.

For the Rams, Taylor Britt tried all he could, recording numbers of 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Aiding him in the defeat were Sam Smith (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Thomas Webley (17 points) and Mason Whittaker (11 points, two rebounds). If the Rams are to upset the Jets here, they will want to get more support out of the depth players, and it will help with the inclusion of Reuben Te Rangi, as the Tall Blacks talent makes his debut with the Rams after his signing was announced yesterday.

NELSON GIANTS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

Even the best teams can slip up every now and again, and the red-hot Bulls happened to do that last night when they fell to Auckland Huskies. It was only their second loss in the past seven games after winning five of the past six coming into that night. They have turned their form around since the opening game and have been up there with the best sides in the competition. Nelson Giants have shown signs at times to be a threatening team, but after seemingly turning their early poor form around with a few consecutive wins, they have sunk to three consecutive losses and will be desperate to turn it around in this game.

Statistically the Giants actually rank fairly well, with 84.7 points to the Bulls’ 82.6. They also average more rebounds (40.6 to 39.6) and assists (14.2 to 13.4), but the way the Bulls play does not always lend friendly to statistics. They get the job done in a real team effort, no-fuss approach. They have not had to engage in high-scoring battles compared to other sides, and instead defensively wear down the opposition and win in tight scraps, while still being able to deliver long-range bombs. They will be disappointed about the loss last night, but keen to atone, whilst the Giants just need a win to turn their form around.

The last time these teams played, the Bulls got up in a six-point thriller on June 30. Racing out of the blocks, Franklin built a seven-point quarter time lead, only for Nelson to cut the deficit back to one by half-time. The Bulls extended the lead out to three by the final break, and while the Giants kept coming in the last term, could not quite finish off, and the Bulls held them off to record a memorable 75-69 win. Mike Karena was a lone hand for the Giants, putting up 26 of his side’s 69 points, as well as seven rebounds. Whilst Tom Ingham was the next highest scorer with eight points, he collected nine rebounds in the game. Zeb Lovell (six points, six rebounds) was also prominent off the boards.

Franklin dominated the assists category in the game with 15 to eight, and Everard Bartlett and Dom Kelman-Poto combining for seven themselves. They also combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the match, while Isaac Davidson was the top scorer with 15 points, four rebounds and two steal. Jackson Stubbins picked up a match-high 10 rebounds, while Nikau McCullough (11 points) and Sam Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double-figure points. The Bulls go in as favourites to bounce back from last night’s loss, but you can never discount the Giants.

NZNBL Team of Week 3: Huskies lead way in week three

AUCKLAND Huskies are one of three sides picking up multiple players in this week’s Draft Central Team of the Week for the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Huskies had some terrific performers across their three games, and had three players make the side, while Taranaki Mountainairs and Otago Nuggets both had two – and they all made the starting side. Franklin Bulls, Manawatu Jets and Canterbury Rams all had the one player make it into the side, with only Nelson Giants narrowly missing out this week.

This week’s Team of the Week focuses just on the week three action, and those performers who stood up across their respective games. Auckland had a trio of players with Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa starting following a big week of 56 points, 12 rebounds, 14 assists and 16 steals, with the 5.3 steals in particular a standout area of his game that made the Huskies’ top pick too difficult to ignore in the side. He is joined in the team by teammates, Leon Henry and Taine Murray. Henry averaged the 12 points and 13 rebounds per game in week three, and slots in as the guard backup, while young gun Taine Murray was the second highest scorer across the competition and was unlucky not to make the starting side, and also fits into the bench for a reserve forward.

Top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs finished the week with two starters in the side, and it was unsurprisingly their top two stars in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones. The latter was arguably the top performer across the entire week notching up the highest amount of points and rebounds with a 25 and 14 average in those stats. Jones also produced five blocks over the three games to be a defensive force. Raukawa had the third most points of any player and slots into the point guard spot after 24 points and eight assists per game in week three. He too had a defensive edge with two steals per match for the Airs.

Otago Nuggets were the other side to record multiple starters in the team, as forward Jordan Ngatai and center Jordan Hunt make it into the side. Hunt could have played as a power forward, but when comparing centers he was the clear standout thanks to 20 points and seven rebounds per game. Ngatai averaged 22 points, seven rebounds and more than two steals per game in his three games to deservingly make it into the team.

Rounding out the rest of the side on the bench are Canterbury Rams’ Taylor Britt, Manawatu Jets’ Tom Vodanovich and Franklin Bulls’ Sam Timmins. Britt had a quiet first game but lit up the court in the other two in week three, to finish with 21 points and five rebounds. Vodanovich was one who could have made the starting side but just missed out, putting up an impressive 21 points and 11 rebounds, as well as four assists per game. Finally, Timmins rounds out the side with Franklin Bulls having such an even squad this week, but Timmins was impressive from the two games, averaging the 15 points, four rebounds, two steals and one block per game.

The most unlucky players to miss out were definitely Dom Kelman-Poto, Isaac Davidson and Alex Talma who were all agonisingly close to squeezing in. They were the next in line, but hard to fit into the forward spots with so many impressive forwards during week three. Others who made the short list include Jets’ duo Jayden Bezzant and Nelson Kirksey, Giants’ Tom Ingham, Huskies’ Tohi Smith-Milner and Airs’ Tai Wynyard.

STARTING FIVE:

PG: Derone Raukawa (Taranaki Mountainairs)
SG: Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (Auckland Huskies)
SF: Jordan Ngatai (Otago Nuggets)
PF: Marcel Jones (Taranaki Mountainairs)
C: Jordan Hunt (Otago Nuggets)

BENCH:

G: Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams)
G: Leon Henry (Auckland Huskies)
F: Taine Murray (Auckland Huskies)
F: Tom Vodanovich (Manawatu Jets)
C: Sam Timmins (Franklin Bulls)

2020 Sal’s NBL July 11 night preview: Jets v Huskies and Nuggets v Giants

WEEK three comes to a close tonight with Manawatu Jets and Auckland Huskies battling for that top four spot, while Otago Nuggets hope to continue the brilliant form of last night against a Nelson Giants side desperate for some consistency.

MANAWATU JETS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

The opening game of tonight’s two big clashes sees a battle between fourth and fifth, with the Jets potentially jumping up to third and making up for their forgettable 36-point loss to Otago Nuggets last night. The Huskies on the other hand have been in good form of late with three wins from four games and starting to find their rhythm. A win here could see them leap into the top four and put themselves in a good position for the run home.

Both sides are strong rebounding teams with the Jets ranked second overall with an average of 45.4 rebounds per game, just ahead of the Huskies (44.6). They have both been solid in terms of assists with Manawatu recording a league third place of 17.9, compared to Auckland’s fourth place (16.1). In most other areas Manawatu ranks much higher as the second top scorer on average, putting up 94.5 points per game to Auckland’s competition-low 79.6 per game. It is the same story when it came to two-point percentage with the Jets sitting at a competition-high 57.1 per cent to the Huskies’ competition-low 43.5. It is closer from outside the arc with the Jets ranked third and Huskies sixth, whilst in overall field goal percentage, the Jets are third and Huskies seventh.

In the last match between the teams on June 27, the Jets easily accounted for the Huskies in a 28-point win. Dominating the first half, Manawatu raced away to a whopping 54-21 lead by half-time, including 31-8 in the second term. Auckland managed to get back some pride in the second half by scoring five more goals than its opposition, but still went down 67-95. In that match it was all about Tom Vodanovich who piled on a competition season-high of 38 points, as well as three rebounds ad four steals. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, four rebounds and five assists) and Haize Walker (11 points, two rebounds) both reached double figures, but it was Hyrum Harris‘ ridiculous game that was an impressive as Vodanovich’s shooting display, racking up 21 rebounds to accompany 13 points, six assists, four steals and one block.

For the Huskies, Taine Murray finished with a team-high 16 points – though shot at just 33.3 per cent from the field – as well as three rebounds, while Jaylen Gerrand (10 points) was the other Auckland player to reach double-figure points. Leon Henry (eight points, nine rebounds and two assists) and Tohi Smith-Milner (five points, seven rebounds) both contributed off the boards, while Marvin Williams-Dunn (eight points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) also tried hard.

The Jets will start favourites given how they performed against the Huskies last time, but will have to pick up the effort from last night. The Huskies have been in good form of late and are building nicely to take a big scalp here and move up the ladder further.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs NELSON GIANTS

After a huge 36-point win and record 130 points – including 73 in the second half – last night, Otago Nuggets are raring to go for their second consecutive match-day. They take on Nelson Giants who have had an up and down season thus far but technically only sit a win behind the Nuggets – albeit with one less game played. A Huskies loss in the earlier game and a win here could see the Giants move into the top four.

When looking at the game statistically, Otago has the advantage across most facets of the game so far. From a points perspective, the Nuggets average 93.9 points per game to rank third in the competition, ahead of the Giants’ 85.4 (fifth). In terms of accuracy Otago is ranked second and fourth respectively in two and three-point shooting, with Nelson fourth and seventh in those areas, though not much separates the teams when it comes to shooting percentages. Overall from the field, Otago is 44.9 per cent to Nelson’ 43.7 per cent for a fourth and fifth ranking respectively. One area where the Giants have the upper hand is in rebounds, with Nelson sitting fifth thanks to 41.5 per game compared to Otago’s 39.4, though the Nuggets are elite at passing the rock around with a competition-high 19.3 assists compared to the Giants’ 14.8 (sixth).

The last time these teams played way back in week one on night three, the Nuggets got the better of a Giants side still trying to find its feet with the loss of Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. After being competitive early but not able to really keep consistently close to the Nuggets, the Giants faded in the final term with Otago running away courtesy of a 107-82 victory. In the absence of the big three, it was Nic Trathen (21 points, seven rebounds and two steals) who tried hard for the Giants, while Tom Ingham shot at an elite 85.7 per cent from the field to end the game with 17 points and eight rebounds. Zeb Lovell also was productive with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.

For the Nuggets, Jordan Ngatai put up a game-high 23 points, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block, including nailing five of 11 from outside the arc. Jordan Hunt (19 points, two rebounds) and Kane Keil (11 points, four rebounds, two assists) and two steals) were also productive from the starting team, as Josh Aitcheson (13 points) and Richie Rodger (11) reached double-figure points off the bench. Jarrod Kenny did not put up a shot after 28 points the game before, but still had six assists and two rebounds, opening up chances for teammates.

This could be a thrilling contest, though Otago should head in as favourites The key is trying to stop Karena and what he is capable of doing on a regular basis, and after Otago’s big win last night, the Nuggets are in great form to keep the run going.

Nelson’s giant third quarter puts down Huskies

NELSON Giants’ big third term saw them accelerate away from Auckland Huskies and ensure they won back-to-back games thanks to an eight-point win last night. The Giants scored 28 points, but held their opponents to just 11, handing them a 23-point lead at the final break, enough to hold off a fast-finishing Auckland side that won the last term, 29-14. There were some big outs for either side with Mika Vukona still sidelined following appendix surgery and Leon Henry serving his one-game suspension he suffered in the Huskies’ solitary win against Taranaki. In the end, the Giants were a touch better for longer winning 91-83.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 20 | 23 | 11 | 29 (83)
NELSON GIANTS 20 | 29 | 28 | 14 (91)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Continuing his hot form since his return, Mike Karena won the tip for the Giants and found himself with the ball inside where Henry’s replacement starter Nathan Wilson met him at the cup with a big block, although Karena recovered it and scored the game’s first points with a baseline jumper. Building some momentum in his first start on the season, Wilson would make his away inside with a silky drive which drew the foul and his one for two makes at the line would be the first for Auckland.

Having shaken off his quarantine rust in his last game, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa would open his scoring account with a pretty floater which would ignite the spark on his incredible first half of play. Not so prettily, however, Karena would find himself with two fouls early as big man Tohi Smith-Milner would draw the charge on the next play, with some Karena displeasure with the official drawing a technical foul next to his name. After just two minutes of play, Nelson’s star player would find a spot on the pine.

Back-to-back triples from Mauriohooho Le’afa and young gun Taine Murray saw the Huskies gain an early lead, as a smaller and more athletic starting five inevitably resulted in faster transitions from Auckland. The Giants would slowly start to claw their way back into the game through Josh Leger – who came in for Karena – and his seven-point opening term. He kept his spot in the team despite Thane O’Leary returning from injury, with the decision paying off for Mike Fitchett and his Giants.

A Mauriohooho Le’afa steal would lead to a huge baseline cut and slam for Wilson on the back of a no-look pass from Marvin Williams-Dunn, a beautiful highlight play in what was otherwise a quiet night for him. Trading buckets for the remainder of the term, Smith-Milner made a tough finish inside which finished the quarter with the scores tied at 20. Poor shooting from Nelson allowed the early deficit, but some rigid defence kept them in the game as they forced six turnovers from Auckland early.

Dane Brooks would start the second quarter athletically with a big block, a steal and a layup setting the tone for the Giants’ next two quarters. With small ball paying off early offensively for the Huskies, the Giants knew they had to take advantage of the absence of Henry on Auckland’s defensive end. Zeb Lovell targeted a leaner Wilson in the post on multiple occasions, a clear indication of the Giants desire to attack the paint going forward.

Nelson come hard out of the gates despite another athletic defensive play from Wilson. Their scoring continued to come from inside the paint as the Huskies were playing too tight defensively on the perimeter despite Nelson’s inefficiency from deep, with the Giants blowing past the defenders. The start saw them get out to an eight-point lead, with the return of Karena leading you to believe it would get worse for the Huskies. Mauriohooho Le’afa did not care for that as he would steal the show, scoring on the Huskies’ next four possessions which included three triples and a long two. The game began to heat up physically alongside the scorching hot Mauriohooho Le’afa who would end the first half with a whopping 26 points, courtesy of six threes.

The two teams would continue to trade baskets down the last stretch of the first half, although some Brooks hustle with the Giants small ball would end the half and the second quarter the way he started with a big swat, a steal from the inbound and an assist to a Josh Bloxham layup taking us into half time. Despite Mauriohooho Le’afa, the Giants would lead 49-43 with 20 points from the bench no doubt a contributing factor, as well as attacking inside as they got to the line and earned 22 points in the paint for the half.

A one-man show for the first half, the Huskies needed more contributions in the absence of Henry, but contributions from anyone was scarce for the third quarter. Karena would start the quarter having just played three and a half minutes in the first half and his impact was on display immediately with a steal and assist leading to a Bloxham three. A nine-point scoring run would take the lead out to 15 before a Murray triple would settle things down. The settling was only momentary, however, as their next score would not come for another three minutes.

The Giants played deny ball defence on Mauriohooho Le’afa early as the performance of the two teams went in opposite directions. Nelson’s active ball movement was quick and efficient as Auckland’s one-on-one offense was not paying dividends.

Leger’s five points and a corner three from Johnson down the stretch would give Nelson a near insurmountable 23-point lead heading into the last break, ending an abysmal 28-11 quarter the Huskies would rather forget.

Mauriohooho Le’afa missed his only two shots for the quarter as Williams-Dunn remained scoreless on the game. The Huskies were beginning to wonder where their next points would come from as Karena would re-enter the game – an even more worrying sign for them.

Needing to throw whatever they had left at the Giants if they wanted to have any chance of coming close, the Huskies got the start they were after with Nicholas Brophy getting to the line, and a Wilson steal following that and resulting in a Mauriohooho Le’afa three. Their newfound momentum was quickly halted with Brooks being fouled on a three-point attempt, as the Huskies struggled to string together consecutive stops.

Trading baskets for most of the final quarter, the Huskies found a final gear as they managed a 10-0 run within a minute, but it was too little too late. Despite the single digit loss, it was a convincing win for the Giants as they now find themselves third on the ladder at the conclusion of week two having won 83-91.

Leger (14 points) and Tom Ingham (14 points, two steals) were among the best for the Giants as Karena (10 points) was kept quiet due to foul trouble.

Mauriohooho Le’afa was fantastic with 32 points at 50 per cent from the field, while Wilson (10 points, seven rebounds) and Murray (16 points) were also serviceable. The return of Henry will be welcomed for their match against the Nuggets on Tuesday as they will look for more performers to scrape them off the bottom of the ladder.

2020 Sal’s NBL June 25 night preview: Nuggets v Giants and Bulls v Rams

EVERY side in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown has played now with some form behind them. For the Otago Nuggets, tonight marks their final game of the week as the only side with the two matches, whilst the three other teams – Nelson Giants, Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams – arrive for the second of three matches, and the last games before a day off.

OTAGO NUGGETS VS. NELSON GIANTS

The first game of the night pits a game one winner against a game one loser to see if one side can continue its fortunes or if the other side can reverse its opening day result. The Otago Nuggets come into the match fresh off a tight win 24 hours earlier against the Manawatu Jets, whilst the Nelson Giants went down to Taranaki Mountainairs on night one.

The Nuggets put up the third highest score of any team – Taranaki Airs had the two higher ones – with 104 points, but also conceded 100 points in a high-scoring contest. They were strong off the defensive boards, ranking second overall thus far, but are ranked sixth of the seven teams off the offensive boards. It was a shock to no one that Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai had sensational games leading Otago’s offence.

Kenny racked up 28 points and six assists, dishing off dimes with ease, whilst Ngatai had a field day across the board, recording 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a huge performance himself. Kenny’s accuracy of 61.5 per cent from the field, including five of nine from outside the arc was particularly impressive. That is before you take into account the roles of Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) who showed they can step up alongside that damaging duo.

The Giants still managed to score 96 points in the 16-point loss to the Airs, and considering the names out of the side – Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks – most teams would struggle to get that close. With Vukona falling 90 minutes short of being available to join the group post-isolation, the veteran power forward will be a huge inclusion to the side, which struggled off the boards at both ends without their big men.

Without their top three draft picks, it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tysxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) who did the bulk of the damage in a losing side. If the big three can return for the Giants, then watch out because their depth was seriously impressive in the opening game of the season despite the loss. But the big question mark will be getting the rustiness out after an extended break without a game behind them like their opponents.

This game has the potential to be huge, with the Nuggets showing their abilities off the defensive boards, whilst the Giants have the potential to do the same when at full strength. It will come down to accuracy when taking shots that could decide this game.

FRANKLIN BULLS VS. CANTERBURY RAMS

The second match of the night sees the league’s most cohesive club up against a side that is still learning how to gel over four quarters. Watching the Bulls last night, their best is capable of matching it with the best in the competition, they just were not able to do it for long enough to get the win. The Rams had everything thrown at them leading into the season with the losses of Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, but found a way to win against Auckland Huskies on night one.

In the 12-point loss to the Airs, the Bulls had some huge moments, both in the first term and charging home in the fourth to draw within five points at one stage early. But the middle two terms – where they conceded an extra 18 points – is what cost them against the Airs in Taranaki’s second clash of the week. The Bulls recorded the lowest rebound average of any side, an area that Liam Simmons will no doubt look to improve on in game two. They still managed to score 95 points despite the loss, which is a positive to take out of the club’s inaugural game.

Isaac Davidson led the way with 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in a memorable match. Dom Kelman-Poto was strong off the boards with 10 points and four rebounds, sharing the load with Nick Barrow who finished with 11 points and five rebounds off the bench. Also coming off the pine to cause headaches on the scoring front was Nikau McCulloch (17 points, two rebounds), whilst Everard Bartlett was the key distributor with five assists to accompany 13 points.

The Rams could not have been much more impressive in their huge win over Auckland Huskies, dominating most of the key areas during the 102-70 victory. The Rams had 12 more defensive rebounds and seven more blocks, being incredibly in sync with each other throughout the match. They looked like a team that has played together for some time, and that is how they performed. If they bring that sam level of intensity on the defensive end into this match, they deserve to start favourites.

In game one, it was Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks) and Taylor Britt (22 points, eight rebounds) who led the way for the Rams, whilst Jack Exeter came off the bench for 13 points. What made Canterbury’s win so impressive was the shared load, with 10 players making their way on court, and nine of them scoring at least six points. With that kind of balance, it is hard to restrict the scoring and makes them a very damaging side.

Canterbury Rams head in favourites and deservingly so. The Bulls will look to make a few changes in this match to counter some of the impressive defensive efforts of the Rams, but Franklin will need to be at their best for longer in order for the Bulls to bounce back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NELSON GIANTS TRIPLE THREAT:

Mika Vukona

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

Mike Karena

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

Dane Brooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 SAL’S NBL NELSON GIANTS INFORMATION:

FULL LIST:

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

FIXTURE:

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