The Southland Sharks have laid down a marker in the opening game of the New Zealand NBL season, thrashing the Nelson Giants 96-58.
In the pre-season, the Sharks were tipped as title contenders and the Giants as wooden spooners, and it was quickly shown why at ILT Stadium in Invercargill.
The game was over by the first quarter, where the Giants scored just one field goal as they fell into a 27-9 hole. Finn Delany had all nine points, getting to the line as the Giants went 1-16 from the field.
Nelson couldn't deal with the Sharks massive frontline, with Alex Pledger (19/9), James Hunter (13/11, including eight offensive boards) and Nick Kay (8/6) all cleaning the glass in the first half.
The Sharks ended up winning the rebounding battle by 53-29, with Giants centre Curtis Washington unable to hold his own. He was better than the other Giants import though, with Joe Slocum - bizarrely signed from a Division II college in Alaska, where he averaged nine points per game - becoming a rare import to score 0 points in a game, shooting 0/7 in 25 minutes and providing nothing of value.
Washington has Guam residency so qualifies as a local, meaning the Giants can bring in another import, if money allows, and they will need one to have any hope of contending in 2017.
Delany battled hard but had little space to operate as he finished with 19 points on 5/17 shooting, with the Giants shooting one of their worst marks in franchise history at 26%.
Starters Dion Prewster (0/6 FG) and Sam Dempster (1/6) combined for just five points, with Ali Granger and Tom Ingham providing a touch of life off the bench with nine points apiece.
Derone Raukawa had 19 points off the bench for Southland, Reuben Te Rangi had 17, Mitch Norton had nine points and nine rebounds, while Luke Aston (six dimes) and Hayden Allen (five) provided some nice passing as the flung the ball around the perimeter.
Southland's shotchart vs Nelson. Nelson are going to want to get some rim protection, quick. pic.twitter.com/ekaQ9H5ofc— andrewbprice (@andrewbprice) March 16, 2017
Another elite contender for the NBL title get their season underway tomorrow, when the Wellington Saints host the Bay Hawks, with the game live streamed on nzherald.co.nz.