Basketball: Wellington Saints stay unbeaten, Supercity Rangers snare win in NBL

By Matt Twort

Jordan Ngatai of the Wellington Saints attacks past Alonzo Burton of the Taranaki Mountainairs. Photo / Photosport
Jordan Ngatai of the Wellington Saints attacks past Alonzo Burton of the Taranaki Mountainairs. Photo / Photosport

The Taranaki Mountain Airs were never supposed to pose a threat to the rampant Wellington Saints in Friday night's National Basketball League matchup.

The feeling in TSB Arena was a rather sombre one for much of the encounter as the Airs pressured the Saints into their worst half of basketball this season.

Still, though, an Airs lead on the scoreboard was a rarity on the night as a dominant second half propelled the Saints to a 94-76 win.

The Saints' first half difficulties could be put down to the fact that they were without Tai Wesley, who was away with Melbourne United.

With Wesley usually a key source of first-quarter Saints points, there was a noticeable absence for the Saints as the Airs worked their way to a 23-22 quarter-time lead - only the second time this season the Saints have trailed after the opening 10 minutes.

Josh Duinker (21 points, 12 rebounds) began to get plenty of touches as the Saints worked their way to a six point lead shortly after play resumed, though Alonzo Burton (14 points, eight rebounds) found his groove to spark an Airs mini-run and force a Saints timeout.

As the half progressed, the Airs maintained their interior scoring advantage, finishing the half down just 44-43.

Corey Webster (25 points, six rebounds) and Burton both finished the half with 14 points and it was Webster who got the Saints off to the better start in the third spell.

The Airs' fightback wasn't helped by the foul trouble import centre Daniel Gomis got into. After less than seven minutes on the floor, Gomis picked up four fouls, giving coach Trent Adam no option but to sit the big man.

With four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Saints picked up their first double-digit buffer of the night as the Airs struggled to find the bottom of the net thanks to a lot of questionable shot selection.

Another key difference came to be the Saints' ability to get to the free-throw line. Come the end of the third period the Saints had 26 free throw attempts in comparison to the Airs' six.

Before they knew it, the Airs were trailing 74-59 and Gomis had been fouled out of the game which was the signal for the fat lady to begin her song. With Gomis on the floor the Airs were a real chance against the Wesley-less Saints, though Gomis' departure made sure of a Saints win.

Now with a 12-0 record, the Saints have even more breathing room atop the NBL ladder, though their win leaves the Airs reeling at 3-10.

Elsewhere, the Supercity Rangers have held off the Nelson Giants, 76-71.

The Giants were without import point guard Kyle Adnam, and showed it in a first half where they scored just 28 points. However, a 33 point third period had them in a position to upset the Rangers, but they failed to capitalise down the stretch.

The hosts scored just 10 points in the final quarter, missing several opportunities as a shaky Rangers effort was enough to edge them over the line in the final seconds.

The Rangers move to 6-5, and can all-but-secure a NBL Final Four spot by beating the 3-7 Bay Hawks in Napier tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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