Airs find second wind to blow Otago away

The Steelformers Taranaki Mountainairs handed the Otago Nuggets their first loss in the Sal's NBL Showdown at The Trusts Arena this evening, trouncing the southerners 107-81 off the back of a huge second-half effort. 

After falling behind by as many as nine in the opening spell, the Airs starting five kicked it into third gear to start the second stanza and progressively made their way to fifth as the ball kept finding the twine. Taranaki outscored their opponents 68-31 in the fixture's latter half, with Derone Raukawa topping the scoresheet with 23, to go along with six assists, four rebounds and three steals. 

Raukawa didn't actually get on the board until midway through the second but made up for his quiet play early on by registering eight points before quarter's end. Fellow starters Shane Temara (18pts & 11 rebounds), Francis Mulvihill (17pts & 4rbs) and Ken Tuffin (15pts & 5rbs) made sure they were always within striking distance, only their efforts were superseded by Nuggets forwards Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt who combined for 25 of the Nuggets' 46 after two periods. Otago led by seven before both sides headed to the locker rooms.

Prior to this, there were a barrage of triples rained home in the first quarter - 10 of the 21 in the contest - with Tall Black Jarrod Kenny leading the way by swishing his first three attempts. His shooting, along with contributions from Josh Aitcheson and Richie Rodger, gave Otago a 26-20 advantage going into the game's first break. 

Otago were the aggressors out of the sheds, which was exemplified with Ngatai throwing it down with a clear path to the basket only minutes in. However, this play seemed to set a fire under Taranaki, who went on a 15-5 run and edge themselves ahead by one. The aforementioned Nugget hit a trey to the applause of those dressed in blue, but six straight points from Raukawa and a slam from Carlin Davidson kept their momentum rolling and finished with the Airs up 76-65 going into the final quarter. 

Buckets from Jordan Hunt and Kenny gave Otago a smidgen of hope in clawing this one back, but that prospect was squashed when Taranaki rattled off a 9-0 run to balloon the lead 21 with just under six minutes on the clock. Elder statesmen Ngatai (22pts) and Kenny (18pts & 6rbs), along with youngster Jordan Hunt (16pts & 7rbs) finished with respectable stat lines, but the majority of those numbers came in the first half and neither of them got much going when their foes' tails picked up. 


Final score:

  • Airs 107 – Derone Raukawa (23pts, 6ast & 4rbs), Shane Temara (18pts & 11rbs), Marcel Jones (15pts & 18rbs).
  • Nuggets 81 – Jordan Ngatai (22pts), Jarrod Kenny (18pts & 6rbs), Jordan Junt (16pts & 7rbs). 


Talking Points

  1. Despite getting off to a slow start, Derone Raukawa flipped the switch in the second period and stuffed the stat sheet before the final buzzer. The Tall Black carried the bulk of the scoring load through the first week, but should his team support as they did tonight, we may see an even deadlier version of the guard with opponents having to pay more respect to those around which in effect will leave him with more room to work with.
  2. Otago came out of the gates with inferno hands and looked as if they were going to give the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams a good run for staying undefeated the longest in the Sal's NBL. However, it all crashed and burned midway through the third quarter as they were unable to repel what was happening near their basket or reply at the other end. They conceded more than twice as many points as they scored in the second stanza, which never bodes well in the pursuit of victory.
  3. Taranaki have been pegged as the Houston Rockets of the Sal's NBL Showdown - a team who can score the ball but don't quite show the same enthusiasm on the defence side. Their efforts in tonight's game will let coach Doug Courtney sleep a little easier, although he will also admit the Nuggets were partly responsible in the rock finding its way through the cylinder.

Sky City MVP Votes: 

Derone Raukawa (Airs-9), Shane Temara (Airs-9), Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets-6), Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets-3), Marcel Jones (Airs-2), Francis Mulvihill (Airs-1)


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