Basketball: Records tumble in NBL regular season finale

By Niall Anderson

Dion Prewster. Photo / Getty
Dion Prewster. Photo / Getty

An extremely even National Basketball League regular season has been capped off by one of the most crushing defeats in league history.

The Wellington Saints marched into the NBL playoffs in record-breaking form, thrashing the Bay Hawks 120-72 to set the largest win in franchise history.

The 48 point mauling could have been even greater, with the lead at 62 with eight minutes remaining - sparking thoughts that the seemingly unbreakable 147-77 victory by the 2003 Waikato Titans over the Taranaki Mountain Airs could finally be surpassed.

At the heart of the mauling was a performance for the ages from Saints guard Dion Prewster, who had 40 points off the bench in just 21 minutes of action.

Prewster set a career high and an NBL season high, channeling his inner Klay Thompson while hitting eight threes and going 13-18 from the field.

He reached the 40 point landmark with six minutes left in the game, but with the Saints all-time scoring record just two points away he was subbed out, much to the mercy of the hapless Hawks.

The hefty defeat was the biggest loss in Hawks history, and consigned them to a winless 0-18 season - the one severe outlier in a season which was one of the most competitive in years.

The Hawks aside, the six other squads in the league this season were closely matched all campaign, with the Airs - winless in 2015 - finishing sixth on the ladder with a highly credible 8-10 record.

Taranaki were joined by the Nelson Giants in missing out on the playoffs by a hair, with their 9-9 record being shared by the fourth-placed Supercity Rangers; but the Rangers advanced to the Final Four via their superior head-to-head record.

That tiebreaker was required after the playoff race came down to the final round. The Rangers blew three consecutive chances of clinching their playoff berth, losing their last three games to leave them requiring a Giants defeat on Saturday to sneak their way into the playoffs.

Fortunately for Jeff Green's talent-laden side, the Giants couldn't capitalise upon their opportunity, blowing a 24-9 buffer to succumb 96-83 to the resurrected Saints.

For the first time in several years, there isn't a solely dominant force heading into the playoffs either, with the Canterbury Rams joined by the Saints in holding a 13-5 record heading into the Final Four.

While both sides will be favoured for their semifinal clashes with the Rangers and Southland Sharks respectively, the lower seeds are packed with ANBL and international-level talent.

In a season full of competitive outings, it would be only apt for the Final Four to follow the same trend.

- NZ Herald

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