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& 4rbs) and Ken Tuffin (15pts & 5rbs) made sure they were always within striking distance, only their efforts were superseded by Nuggets forwards Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt who combined for 25 of the Nuggets' 46 after two periods.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.
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)