Basketball: Wellington Saints extend NBL dominance by smothering Southland Sharks

Saints 111 Sharks 93
Wellington Saints' Shea Ili disrupts Nick Kay's roll to the rim. Photo / Photosport
Wellington Saints' Shea Ili disrupts Nick Kay's roll to the rim. Photo / Photosport

Skill has prevailed over size tonight in Wellington as the home-town Wellington Saints triumphed in the NBL's marquee matchup over the Southland Sharks.

Despite the Sharks pouring in 17 deep balls - a largely variable statistic - the Saints coaching staff will have been relatively happy with their defensive effort to keep the Sharks to 93 in a high-paced encounter.

Saints head coach Kevin Braswell has talked previously of the reigning champions' shot-making ability and it was on full display once more. The NBL's scoring king Corey Webster bombed in the hyper-efficient 29 points that we have grown accustomed to seeing, his array of step-backs, herky-jerky dribble-drives and transition play lighting up the normally-stout Sharks defence.

The league-leading Saints' fleet-footed big man duo of Tai Wesley (23 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Duinker (14 points, nine rebounds) were also able to punish the Southerners heftier but more lumbering front men. Alex Pledger in particular was found wanting as he bit on a multiple Wesley ball-fakes leading to easy buckets at the rim.

Though the Sharks hurt Saints early though smooth offensive execution and lackadaisical Saints defence, the home town side's crisp ensured that the opening advantage would not be extended to anything significant.

With the men from the Capital turning up their defensive effort, the Saints blew the game wide open with a 34-7 first quarter blitz. The run came on the back of six opening frame steals, with those touchdown turnovers fuelling the already-potent Saints offence.

After both Sharks imports picked up their third fouls with more than six minutes remaining in the second quarter, the visitors already-slim chances at a comeback win were well and truly quashed as the Saints romped their way to 7-0.

With the loss, the Sharks fall back into the 3-3 morass with the Mountainairs and Rams, who clash tomorrow night in Christchurch.

- NZ Herald

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