Photo credit: Render Creative NZ
In a night filled with highlight plays and superlative efforts, the Champion Wheeler Motor Company Rams electrified the crowd and etched their names in the annals of New Zealand basketball history.
With a gripping 93-82 victory over the Auckland Tuatara, the Rams broke a 31-year title drought and emerged as the undisputed champions of the 2023 Sal's NBL season.
The Rams' triumphant journey to the title was defined by exceptional performances from both seasoned veterans and rising stars. Led by the dynamic duo of Corey Webster and Finals MVP Tevin Brown, the Rams exhibited unmatched prowess on both ends of the court.
Corey Webster's outstanding 25-point display, complemented by seven assists and four rebounds, showcased his Tall Blacks’ seasoned skills as a creator and shooter.
Meanwhile, Tevin Brown was electric with his performance of 23 points and 12 rebounds, the highest total in the game, and five assists in a dominant second half performance.
The Rams' talented roster proved their depth once again, with impressive contributions from Walter Brown, who demonstrated his two-way versatility with 10 points and nine rebounds and pesky defence on the ball and at the rim.
American forward Troy Baxter Jr. added a 17 crucial, and often timely, points off the bench, further solidifying the Rams attack with his athleticism.
Coach Judd Flavell, who has now secured his third NBL title, spoke of the significance of this win.
"This one is special. For a club who’s been a great part of this league for a very long time, it's been a long time coming for them," Flavell said.
He highlighted the Rams' youthful lineup, with most players born after the team's last championship victory in 1992.
The Rams' exceptional season culminated in a remarkable comeback in the fourth quarter of the final, showcasing their resilience and ability to thrive under pressure.
For the Tuatara, this loss was undoubtedly disappointing, having come up short of the finish line in the title game for the second year in a row. Despite their benchmark season, finishing with a top of the table 13-5 record, they were unable to stop the Rams in their push down the stretch in the title-winning match.
Reuben Te Rangi’s offence was on full display for the Tuatara, with 16 points in the first half alone. Te Rangi's driving layups and 3-point shooting posed challenges for the Rams' defence ending the night with 27 points.
Regular season MVP Rob Loe hauled in 11 rebounds and dished seven assists.
With the 2023 Sal's NBL season coming to a close, the Canterbury region rejoices in the Rams' well-deserved victory as they bring the trophy back to Cowles Stadium.