The Wellington Saints and Supercity Rangers remain unbeaten after both sides claimed thrilling last-gasp victories in the NBL tonight.
The Saints moved to 3-0 with an 88-86 victory over the Southland Sharks, while the Rangers are now 2-0 after grinding out an 85-81 win against the Taranaki Mountain Airs.
The clash between the Saints and the Sharks was a back-and-forth tussle which came down to the final seconds.
In a game with several lead changes, the Sharks had mounted a comeback, coming from nine points down with three minutes remaining to tie the game with 10 seconds left.
With possession, the Sharks had a shot to win the game, or at worst send it to overtime, but the Saints grabbed a steal and Luke Aston poorly decided to foul Leon Henry on the break, sending him to the line.
Fortunately for the hosts, Henry missed both free throws, giving the Sharks another chance to control their final possession. However, once more the Sharks turned the ball over, with Corey Webster stealing the ball from Aston, feeding Henry who had a clear lane for a breakaway dunk with 1.5 seconds to play.
Nick Kay had a chance to send the game to overtime, but missed a contested shot under pressure from Tai Wesley to move the Saints to 3-0 and drop the Sharks to 1-1.
It was an impressive effort from the Saints, who were on a tricky back-to-back after playing the Canterbury Rams last night and relied heavily on their core six-man rotation. Every member of their starting lineup played 32 minutes, with sixth man Jordan Ngatai getting 16, and Damian Ekenasio the only other man off the bench with four minutes of action.
Henry led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, Webster had 22 points, five rebounds and six assists on 7/20 shooting, and Wesley stuffed the stat-sheet with 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks.
Shea Ili contributed 13 points, five rebounds and nine assists, and Josh Duinker had 14 points and six rebounds.
For the Sharks, Reuben Te Rangi dropped 27 points on 12/18 shooting, Mitch Norton had 16 points, five rebounds and eight assists running the point, and Nick Kay put up 16 points, eight rebounds and four dimes.
In Taranaki, the Rangers held on down the stretch to see off a solid effort from the Mountain Airs.
The game came down to free throws, with the Rangers canning their foul shots as the Airs couldn't hit their looks from the field in the final moments, scoring just two points in the final three minutes.
That lack of offence was present throughout the whole final quarter, as the Airs scored just 15 fourth quarter points in a contest which was incredibly tight throughout - no team holding a lead bigger than six points.
The Rangers' imports were impressive performers, with swingman Mitch McCarron putting up 23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals and centre Nnanna Egwu posting a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Veteran point guard Lindsay Tait had another solid outing with 19 points and five assists.
Taranaki's imports matched the Rangers' production; Tylor Ongwae recording 20 points and nine rebounds, and defensive anchor Daniel Gomis notching 11 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
Alonzo Burton had 19 points, shooting 4/6 from three on a night where the Airs could only shoot 38% from the field and 33% from deep.
Tomorrow night's solitary game has the Nelson Giants hosting the Canterbury Rams, before the Taranaki Mountain Airs look to bounce back when they visit the Bay Hawks on Sunday, with that game being live streamed from 3.00pm on nzherald.co.nz.