In what was meant to be their biggest hurdle remaining in their National Basketball League regular season, the Wellington Saints proved just how big the gap is between themselves and their NBL competitors.
For just over two quarters the Southland Sharks looked like they were capable of pulling of an upset at TSB Bank Arena, though the Saints ran riot in the third period to snuff any possibility of that out.
Corey Webster was yet again the Saints' backbone, posting 37 points and 10 assists, while his backcourt partner Shea Ili provided sound assistance with 30 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.
Again without Tai Wesley who is in Asia with Melbourne United, the Saints struggled down low early on, particularly on defence, conceding Southland's first 14 points either in the paint or at the free throw line. Nick Kay (24pts, eight rebounds) reaped the rewards from this, scoring 12 first quarter points.
A barrage of three-pointers through Duane Bailey and Luke Aston (22 points) earned the Sharks a 13 point buffer to begin the second period, though that breathing room would be short-lived. The Saints managed to organise their defence and thanks to a period of Ili aggression, found themselves with their first lead of the game with two minutes until half time.
Consecutive threes from Webster and Leon Henry gave the Saints a seven point buffer less than three minutes into the third spell after the Sharks, who were getting decent looks, couldn't get their shots to fall.
When Webster, Ili and Josh Duinker all picked up their third fouls midway through the third quarter, the Sharks had a brief window to regain the lead though they weren't able to do so as coach Kevin Braswell injected his starters back into the game, putting the Saints up 14.
Then, with just over a minute to go, Jordan Ngatai decided to leave his mark on the game with big plays on both ends of the floor as the home team found themselves up 20 points at the end of the third quarter.
Just as the result looked safe for the Saints, the Sharks composed a 17-6 run to make things interesting with four minutes to go. Upset with the officiating, Braswell was assessed a technical foul but wasn't made to pay as the Saints side closed out a resilient Sharks outfit.
Remaining unbeaten, the Saints' record sits at 13-0 while the Sharks still sit in second place at 9-4.
Giants 86 Hawks 74
The Nelson Giants managed their fourth win of the season, seeing off the Bay Hawks 86-74 at Trafalgar Centre.
Dion Prewster (23 points, five rebounds and five assists) and Tom Ingham (21 points, nine rebounds) were the two responsible for dealing the damage to the Hawks early on as the Giants strolled to a 25-15 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
These two, along with Finn Delany (24pts, eight rebounds), would continue to lead the home side as they held the Hawks to just 27 first half points with the Giants finding themselves up by 23 points at the break.
The tides turned in the second half, however. Hawke's Bay began proceedings in the second half by going on a 17-2 run of their own, led by Tony Tolovae and, somewhat unexpectedly, Dominic McGovan.
Two Everard Bartlett free throws ended the third quarter with the Hawks down just 57-51, before import Kareem Johnson made that deficit just four points with the first bucket of the final spell.
Delany and Ingham then took the game into their own hands, scoring the Giants' next eight points to pull off an unlikely win.
The win sees the Giants, now with a 4-10 record, leap-frog the Hawks on the ladder, with the Hawks now at 3-9.