Basketball: Saints go top with win over Southland

Tai Wesley of the Saints makes a break past Tipene Friday of the Rangers. Photo / Photosport
Tai Wesley of the Saints makes a break past Tipene Friday of the Rangers. Photo / Photosport

The Wellington Saints move to the top of the table with an 84-72 win over the Southland Sharks.

Dion Prewster scored 22 on 9/10 shooting, Tai Wesley (17 points and 11 rebounds) and Torrey Craig (16 points and 13 rebounds) grabbed double-doubles for the Saints who move 7-3 for the season.

Much like last year's Grand Final, it was a low scoring affair, but this time it was the Saints who were the victors, ending a three game losing streak to the Sharks.

It was always going to be a tough end to the Sharks three game road trip after wins in Nelson and Taranaki. The visitors struggled offensively in the first quarter, scoring only nine points to the Saints 19.

Wellington pushed to gap to 14, before a Sharks run got them to within five. Seven quick points including a breakaway dunk by Prewster put the Saints back up 10 at the break.

A couple of jumpers to start the third quarter by Sharks forward Nick Kay got the Sharks within five, but again a late run by Wellington gave them a healthy 12-point buffer going into the fourth.

Southland new import Demtrius Miller had his best stint since joining the side this week with a three then a driving lay up to put them only down seven with plenty of time left. An 18-4 run by Wellington gave them their largest lead of 21 for the win.

It was the lowest point total this season for the Sharks, Kay the top scorer with 15, Everard Bartlett had 13 and Alex Pledger had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

In Nelson, it was not the result the Mike Pero Nelson Giants would have liked on Phill Jones' 400th game, losing to the in-form Canterbury Rams 95-85.

Marcel Jones continued his great season with 33 points and 12 rebounds.

McKenzie Moore tallied 23 points, seven assists, five steals and five rebounds. Marques Whippy had a double-double off the bench with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rams who join the Sharks and Saints with seven wins.

After trailing by 12 at halftime, the Rams outscored the home side 31-10 in the third behind 18 points from Marcel Jones. A three from Bronson Beri and a two from Raymond Cowells got Nelson to within four to start the final quarter, but that would be the closest the home side would get within as they suffer their fourth straight loss and now sixth overall, slipping out of the top four.

Nelson came out firing in the first quarter leading 27-10, Cowells ending the half with 23 points and Finn Delany with 15 of his 19 in the half. But after scoring 52 in the half, the offense dropped poorly in the third quarter with ten points on 4/16 shooting.

Cowells would end the game with 34, and Jarrod Kenny was two assists shy of a triple double with 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists. Jones could only manage five on the record milestone.

In the Hawkes Bay, the James Blond Supercity Rangers have rebounded from their loss to the Rams to smash the Indigo Hawks 125-98. Rangers coach Jeff Green inserted Corey Webster into the starting five and he reciprocated with 31 points. Eric Devendorf had 22 on 7/10 shooting and Lindsay Tait had an efficient 20 points (8/10 FG), six assists and four steals for the Rangers who move into the top four with a six win five loss record.

It was always going to be a tough ask for the Hawks with the firepower that the Rangers have and today they felt the full brunt of their offensive force. The Rangers opening the first quarter up 24-7. At one stage the Rangers were up 88-54, allowing Green to rest key veterans for extended stretches after travelling all over the country this week.

The Hawks were led by centre Kareem Johnson who had 22 points and nine rebounds, Alonzo Burton scored 17 and Darryl Jones added 11. The loss now puts the Hawks at 0-11 and they will be hoping to avoid a winless season which their franchise has not done, their worst season being 1985 when they went 1-17.

- NZ Herald

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