Basketball: Mariners take visiting side to the cleaners

By Ben Guild

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Matt Fullerton's athleticism on the wing placed Hawke's Bay Development's defence under a massive strain. Photo / Andrew Warner
Matt Fullerton's athleticism on the wing placed Hawke's Bay Development's defence under a massive strain. Photo / Andrew Warner

No Ashton McQueen, no Jayden Bezzant, no Ross Taurima, no problem.

That was the story at the QEYC on Saturday as a Tauranga City Mariners side sans three primary ball handlers blew Hawke's Bay Development away with a bevy of deep bombs.

The visitors arrived late, after mistakenly thinking the match was at ASB Arena, and began like they had barely warmed up.

A defensive scheme that seemed a hybrid of man-to-man marking and a soft zone gave open looks to Tauranga's host of willing outside shooters.

Captain Eru Wills, who drained eight threes on his way to 32 points, picked up much of the playmaking slack due to McQueen's presence at a Breakers under-22 rookie camp for promising young players that was also to be attended by the injured Bezzant.

He stroked three early triples to open up driving lanes for the Mariners that were then ruthlessly exploited.

Content with his work from the outside, Wills then camped down in the low post, patiently waiting for the defence to collapse before finding a succession of wide open shooters with pinpoint passes.

The oldest player for Hawke's Bay was just 21 years old and it showed, with the 27-11 first-quarter score blowing out to 56-22 at the half due to the hosts not being run off the three-point line.

The Mariners were sloppy in the third quarter, relying on a ridiculous fading Matt Fullerton leaner from behind the backboard as time expired to take the quarter.

Hawke's Bay were made to look like the Washington Generals in the fourth in giving up a breakaway dunk, a near 30-foot walk-up three-ball and a succession of no-look highlight reel passes for easy buckets.

Point guard Harris Solomon was a standout in the losing side. The 16-year-old pushed the ball well in transition and was not afraid to mix it physically or verbally with his older opposition.

Assistant coach Brett Bezzant said he expects McQueen, son Jayden and Taurima to be back on board for Tuesday night's clash with St John's at ASB Arena. The Mariners easily subdued St John's in their first meeting, but will likely provide a tougher test tomorrow due to the return of the highly rated Nikau McCullough from an adidas camp in Las Vegas.

"As much as this [venue] is sentimental and there have been a lot of games played here it will be good to go to ASB," Brett said.

He believed the team's offence, predicated on rotations filled with shooters in the style of recent small ball Miami Heat line-ups, was starting to click into gear: "Our weapons that we've got really came into fruition today. We've got nice inside players but across the board they can shoot the three - bar one - consistently.

"A lot of the things the boys have been working on are starting to show. They ran the plays perfectly and got three pointers out of them."

Tauranga City Mariners 104 (Eru Wills 32, Matt Fullerton 21, Adam Dunstan 18, Ethan Smith 14) Hawke's Bay Development 59 (Matt Wilson 10, Harris Solomon 9, Jaxson MacFarlane 9)

- Bay of Plenty Times

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