The Canterbury Rams have eliminated the Augusta Airs from playoff contention with a 71-65 win.
Marcel Jones had 22 points and 15 rebounds, and McKenzie Moore tallied 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and six steals for the Rams who move to 11-5 for the season.
It was always going to be a long shot for the Airs to make the playoffs, needing to win the remainder of their games and hope results went their way. They put themselves in a good position only trailing by two after three quarters. But a quick little burst thanks to the import duo of Moore and Jamie Adams helped start a 11-2 run by the visitors to push their lead to 11.
Taranaki did close the deficit to six points, but tonight they were unable to pull off the comeback win, dropping 6-10 for the season. Tony Tolovae made his second consecutive start in the absence of injures American Marcus Johnson and was the top scorer for the Airs with 15 points. Houston O'Riley and Daniel Miller each added 12 for Taranaki but it was not a good offensive display as a whole for the home side who were never able to score 20 or more in a quarter and overall committed too many turnovers at 22.
The first quarter was similar to the week before for the Rams who were sloppy offensively managing to score only 12 points and after trailing by six at the end of the first, Taranaki pushed their lead to as many as 10. But behind Jones who ended the half with 4/6 threes for 16 points, the Rams took a two-point lead at halftime.
Despite shooting only 36% from the field overall, the Rams were able to do it on the defensive end, forcing the Airs to commit far too many turnovers and in the fourth they made sure that Moore had the ball in his hands to make crucial plays down the stretch.
Canterbury will now have a chance to move to the top of the table when they return home to host the Wellington Saints (11-3) on Saturday. The Airs will travel to Whangarei to play the James Blond Supercity Rangers (9-6) who have a chance to clinch a playoff spot tomorrow.
Wellington Saints 22
Canterbury Rams 22
Super City Rangers 18
Southland Sharks 18
Nelson Giants 16
Taranaki Mountainairs 12
Bay Hawks 0