The Southland Sharks have erased a 23-point deficit to defeat the Nelson Giants 91-85 in NZ NBL action.
The Sharks trailed 41-18 with 3:45 remaining in the second quarter, but they rallied with a 15-2 run to trail only by ten at half time. After scoring only 33 at halftime, the Sharks found their offensive groove, outscoring the Giants 58-42 in the second half.
You can never count out the Sharks, who have the uncanny ability to come back from large deficits and tonight it could arguably be the turning point of the season as the win solidifies their spot in the final four and more importantly they hold the tiebreak advantage over the Giants so if they finish with the same regular season record then Sharks will go through.
Nick Kay led the visitors with 23 points and 13 rebounds, off the bench Hayden Allen scored 21, and centre Alex Pledger recorded a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Both teams were coming into the contest without key players, Sharks without import Mitch Norton and Giants missing injured forward Finn Delany. Phill Jones stepped into the starting line up to score 14.
Ray Cowells was again the top scorer for the Giants with 21, but could convert on only 1/7 three pointers. Late flurry of threes from forward Sam Dempster gave him a season high 17 and Jarrod Kenny added 13 points and six assists.
The loss now puts the Giants at 8-8 and they will have to win their last two games which are at home to the Indigo Hawks and the Wellington Saints, and then hope other results go their way.
In New Plymouth, the Wellington Saints have started their road trip double with an 88-70 win over the Augusta Airs.
Taranaki were only trailing by three heading into the fourth quarter, but Wellington saved their best offensive quarter for last, outscoring the home side 30-15 to claim their tenth win of the season and third straight over the Airs.
Wellington's two leading scorers Tai Wesley and Torrey Craig were benched for the majority of the first half, each picking up two fouls. But the Saints were able to get great production from Dion Prewster who led all scorers with 27 points (9/13 FG), also adding four steals.
Shea Ili was the next best scorer for the visitors with 15 points to go along with eight assists and three blocks. Leon Henry added 13 points and in his first game of the season, Bryan Davis grabbed 12 rebounds.
Taranaki was led by Daniel Miller who was dominant inside the paint with 23 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Houston O'Riley scored 17 and Marcus Johnson was the next best 15, which included an emphatic dunk in traffic.
Three-point shooting was a clear issue for the Airs tonight, converting 2/12 (16%) compared to the Saints 11-21 (52%). Bench scoring another problem for the home side scoring only four to the Saints 33.
The loss is now the Airs fifth in a row, dropping down to 5-9, which at this point would put them out of the playoffs unless they can win the rest of their games and hope other results go their way.
Wellington are now one win away from clinching a playoff spot, and will have a chance to do this tomorrow when they travel up north to play the James Blond Supercity Rangers (9-5) in a top of the table clash.
Tomorrow's streamed game will be between the Canterbury Rams (9-5) and the Indigo Hawks (0-14).
NZ NBL Standings
Wellington Saints 20
Super City Rangers 18
Canterbury Rams 18
Southland Sharks 18
Nelson Giants 16
Taranaki Mountainairs 10
Bay Hawks 0