On a big night in front of a huge home crowd, the Steelformers Taranaki Mountainairs battled hard against an EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls outfit featuring an import due that delivered 61 points between them, but a 56-39 second half by the visitors was enough to take a 101-85 win.
The night in New Plymouth started with warm applause for local favourite Aaron Bailey-Nowell, followed by a moment's silence in memory of local legend 'Coach' Steve McKean, who lost a short battle to cancer just days earlier.
With the emotional pre-game formalities over, an electric first half featured plenty of basket-for-basket action, the vocal crowd cheering every time Bailey-Nowell touched the ball in his 300th Sal's NBL game.
Wowing the fans, Marcel Jones (33pts) did his bit, as did Tai Wynyard (18pts), but this game belonged to Bulls American pair Josh Selby (34pts) and Zane Waterman (27pts, 16rbs).
Selby started with some red-hot shooting, draining four triples in the opening quarter, before finishing with seven makes from downtown.
For Waterman, he just got better the longer the game went, getting on top of the Airs and showing his athleticism at both ends of the floor.
As the second half progressed the Bulls took their opportunities and eventually broke the game open, taking their second win for the season ahead of a trip back home to host the Mike Pero Nelson Giants on Saturday night.
For the Airs, a 0-3 start to the season has been filled with some highs and lows, but on this night, despite the final score, there were way more highs in front of a crowd topping 1,800 appreciative fans.
Taranaki Airs (85) lost to Franklin Bulls (101) - BOXSCORE
Airs: Marcel Jones 33pts & 10rbs, Tai Wynyard 18pts, Haize Walker 11pts & 5ast.
Bulls: Josh Selby 34pts & 7 treys, Zane Waterman 27pts & 16rbs, Joseph Nunag 14pts.
Stuff MVP Votes
Josh Selby (Bulls-10)
Zane Waterman (Bulls-7)
Marcel Jones (Airs-7)
Tai Wynyard (Airs-4)
Haize Walker (Airs-1)
Joseph Nunag (Bulls-1)