Basketball: Auckland claim NBL title

By Daniel Richardson

Jason Crowe of the Saints dribbles around Lindsay Tait of the Pirates during the NBL final between the Wellington Saints and the Auckland Pirates. Photo / Getty Images.
Jason Crowe of the Saints dribbles around Lindsay Tait of the Pirates during the NBL final between the Wellington Saints and the Auckland Pirates. Photo / Getty Images.

Auckland Pirates forward Dillon Boucher nearly needs every digit on his hands to count how many New Zealand Basketball League titles he owns after his side beat the Wellington Saints 89-83 in the capital tonight.

The long-time competitor in the NBL claimed seven titles with the now-defunct Auckland Stars and one with the Waikato Titans (who are also no longer in existence), before he added his ninth with the Pirates this evening.

The veteran has also won three titles in the Australian league - two with the Breakers and one with the Brisbane Bullets - and while he doesn't always show up with big numbers in the box score he was again a key part of his side's success.

His deft passing was exemplified when he threw up an assist for an Alex Pledger alley-oop with only a couple of minutes remaining as Pledger rammed home the visitors' advantage 84-77 with just over two minutes left.

From there the Pirates defence helped them close out the game as a Ron Dorsey steal on one of the final plays capped a strong game from the import who finished with 18 points and five rebounds.

For the Saints, Jason Crowe dished out eight assists in the first half alone, as the league's premier dime delivery man also added two rebounds, five points and a steal in the opening 20 minutes.

In the second spell, Crowe continued to etch marks in to his statistic line and he finished the game with 11 assists and 10 points.

Fellow Saints import Ernest Scott was busy on the offensive end of the court as he racked up a game-high 28 points and did his best to keep the Wellingtonians in the game who led the contest by two points at half-time.

Pledger, one of the tallest players in the game at 2.13m, found himself in foul trouble during the first half as he had three calls go against his name.

He took a seat on the bench during the latter stages of the second quarter but began the third well as he continued to carry on his rebounding and point-scoring ways as he finished with nine boards and 20 points.

The two-time Australian NBL champion with the New Zealand Breakers was a challenge to stop for the Saints who struggled with Pledger's size and he was named the Final Four's most valuable player.

Former Tall Black Jeremy Kench, who only played on and off for the Saints during the season due to his Police college commitments was useful off the bench as he collected four rebounds, three assists and eight points, although he fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

The Auckland Pirates, in their second year of existence, finished the regular season with the league's second-best record and managed to topple the Manawatu Jets in their semifinal 104-88 on Saturday night on the back of a dominant shooting display.

The Saints' path to the final was slightly more tricky after they had to overcome the Bay Hawks, who finished 13-3 during the year and Pero Cameron's Wellington side needed overtime to beat the Hawks 94-88 following 36 points from Crowe.

In the end, the Pirates just had too much quality across the court as their stars continued to make key shots at all the right moments and of course, Boucher was there to lend a hand.

Auckland Pirates 89 (Alex Pledger 20, Ron Dorsey 18, Ismail Muhammad 16) Wellington Saints 83 (Ernest Scott 28, Casey Frank 19) 1Q: 28-21 HT: 46-48 3Q: 71-64

- APNZ

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