Casey’s Corner: Round 4

Photo credit: GameFace NZ

The Week That Was

The week began with a resurgent Hawks team holding off a Jets squad that has been competitive on its home court, but unable to close out tight games. Isaiah Moore of the Hawks taking advantage of a depleted front court (as the Jets await the long anticipated arrival of James Moors still playing in Belgium) by continuously attacking the hoop with a fervor on his way to a 25pt haul.  The Hawks starting five doing just enough to hold off an explosive Troy Baxter Jr (35pts, 11rb) early and they would have been holding their breath as Mustapha Heron's (24pts, 8rb, 4ast) game tying 3 fell just short of the mark as time expired. 

Nelson hoped to better protect homecourt, as they too had struggled in tight ones on the home floor, but with the addition of Kobe Langley and season debut of Sam Dempster the G-Men had just enough talent to hold off the Tuatara at home. The forcing 18 turnovers put the all important possession game back in their favour. Forcing 13 steals hampered the Tuatara offense, who welcomed Tom Vodanovich back from wedding day bliss while losing Cam Gliddon to a family wedding of his own. Solid play from the Double Dan's (Fotu and Grida) pushed the Giants ahead, and a huge 16 points off the bench from Tom Ingham helped close the door on comeback attempts (but 25 makes off 37 attempts at the free throw stripe may have helped a little). In their first game of a South Island double header the Aucklanders unable to find top level consistency, despite having 4 starters in double figures led by Corey Websters 25, 7rb, 6ast most of which came in the second half as they tried to chase down a respectable score line. 

Nelson's win left only the Sharks of the deep South without a win, and they were unable to withstand the blows piled on from an occasionally explosive Saints offense as the Sharks went down by 25 to slump to 0-4. The Saints taking the last game of the week (or first of the next week as it was on a Monday) behind a solid offensive performance where all but 1 starter shot over 50% from the field with 5 players reaching double figures. Legerald Vick (32pts) was the lone double figure scorer for a Sharks offense that has proven toothless awaiting the return of Alonzo Burton (from injury), Brayden Inger (from overseas play) and an import to come (from anywhere, but please get here quickly).  

The Whai are another team looking for a spark on offense, but New Plymouth does not seem like a place to find it as a finally full strength Airs put the competition on notice with a dominant first half on both ends of the court. Despite never truly firing on offense as imports Elijah Minnie and Mitch Mccarron both went 1-6 from the floor, the defense was particularly impactful, allowing just 25 points at halftime and just 55 for the game. Sam Froling (24pts, 14rb) was again dominant while Flynn Cameron (18pts, 6rb) made things look easy as the Airs cruised to victory. The Whai struggled against the size and speed of the Airs, with only starter Kruz Perrott-Hunt able to reach 50% from the field, but even he was held to his lowest output of the season with 9pts. Of further concern going on is the condition of Jayden Bezzant (concussion) one of the lone early bright spots offensively. 

Otago and Franklin were able to continue dominance over their home court rising to the the top of the ladder with undefeated 3-0 records and a mouthwatering matchup on deck for top spot on the ladder in the upcoming round. Both teams have been getting it done on the defensive end first while keeping the scoreboard ticking over with equal opportunity offense.

The Nugs had their hands full with a hot shooting Saints squad, but knuckled down in the second half behind the best performance of the year for Zaccheus Darko-Kelly (27pts, 8rbs), Kimani Lawrence's (24pts, 5 rbs, 5ast) now standard paint dominance and a huge 12 point fourth quarter for Ben Henshall (29pts, 3 stls) which helped stave off a Saints side who had the lead late. The Saints weren't quite able to bounce back from an uneven offensive performance in their previous win against the Giants despite an offensive explosion that saw a hot first half (65pts) cool down considerably after the halftime break (33pts). 

Franklin enjoyed an arm wrestle hosting the Jets, but were always able to keep the visitors at arms length despite the 50 points combined from Baxter (30pts) and Heron (20pts).  The Bulls once again using the most efficient offense in the league to spread the wealth, with 4 of 5 starters scoring in double figures while each shot at least 50%. Luther Muhammad continues to impress, this time racking a 24pt 10ast double double, effortlessly switching between scoring and facilitating. Sam Timmins paint patrols offer invaluable rim protection for a team solidifying it's top of ladder position even as they await the return of 3 rotation players. 

But despite all the impressive games on the weekend, nothing topped the Tuatara v Rams finals rematch and the incandescent 2nd quarter that the Aucklanders put on display. Despite being down multiple imports the Rams kept pace in an entertaining first quarter, but then Auckland dropped 47 points in 10 minutes to effectively put the game away. Despite not having Cam Gliddon they were able to make 18 of 32 three's, with 11 made out of 12 attempts in the fireball of a second quarter when they made 17-19 shots overall. Their lack of consistency coming in has raised the levels of concern slightly, but with a peak level that few, if any offenses in the league can match the Tuatara have once again reminded teams why they have made two consecutive grand finals. If Rob Loe (33pts, 13rbs, 7ast), Corey Webster (25pts, 5rbs, 10ast), Tom Vodanovich (31pts, 11-12 fg's, 8reb) and Reuben Te Rangi (11pts, 7rbs, 9ast) can come anywhere close to this production moving forward they will always be tough to beat.

Worth a Mention

Auckland Tuatara's  Nuclear Quarter - Did I already mention their offense was good? Well let me speak on it again. in the second quarter 47 point explosion Corey Webster scored 17pts on 6-6 fg's while dropping 6 assists, Rob Loe dropped 15pt on 6-6 fg's with 5 rbs, Tommy V a solid 8pts on 3-3 fgs, Nick Barrow chipped in with 2 points on his only shot while Te Rangi offered the only misses by going 1-3 but his one make was a 32 foot bomb (distance care of so he could be forgiven. All up they went 17-19 from the field, 11-12 from 3 point land with 11 assists and 2 turnovers to go up a tidy 19 points. A quarter for the ages that they will sing about in Valhalla, or maybe the pub.. but either way it will be a great yarn. 

Tommy Vodanovich- A special mention on the return weekend of Tommy V who went 0-5 from deep against the Giants before his 11-12 performance against the Rams missing just his first shot, including 6-7 from three, highlighting that even a championship hangover and a honeymoon can't keep a good man down for long. 

Troy Baxter Jr - The wins didn't come the way of the Jets, but this was no fault of the Tallahassee Tomahawk who submitted multiple offerings into the highlight of the week sweepstakes as he dropped 35 pts, 11rbs, 3ast and 1 blk in a nail biting home loss before backing up with a 30 point effort to end the round. The Jets need some help to get over the line in close games but in the meantime at least the highlights have been plentiful.

Ben Henshall - The 19 year old continues to impress, as his 29 point effort came at an efficient 60%, with his skillset and decision making befitting a much more mature player. The mustache may say teenager, but the game says grown man!! Henshall is averaging 26pts, 6rbs, 3.3asts, 2stls while shooting 44% from three and 54% overall at a tidy 64% effective field goal percentage. The turnovers are acceptable considering his experience (19% turnover rate), but given the 27% usage rate not unexpected. Look for him, and Nugs, to continue to go from strength to strength. 

M.J Walker - The Rams lost the game, but Walker did drop a league season high 41 points on 46% shooting with 8 made threes. Yeah, that's worth a mention..

Round 4 Preview

NBS Nelson Giants V Property Brokers Manawatu Jets, Wednesday, 7:30pm Trafalgar Centre

The Giants will look to pick up some momentum following their 1st win of the season and will be thankful that Theo Akwuba has finally arrived. the 6'10" big will offer some positional stability for the Dan's as they slide to the small forward (Grida) and power forward (Fotu) spots. What was a thin team suddenly has depth with a full contingent of imports and veterans Dempster and Ingham off the bench. The Jets have not yet been able to call on the calvary, still awaiting James Moors to bolster the frontcourt and no closer to filling the shoes of the injured Jasper Rentoy. This will once again leave a gaping hole in the middle, and while they can depend on the production of Baxter and Heron the wider roster will have to do some heavy lifting around the paint to give any hope of the Jets flying out of Nelson with a win. 

Stats that Matter:

Nelson - 46% effective field goal (last in league), 16% turnover rate (last), 46% Free throw rate (1st) 

Manawatu - 6% steal rate (last), 113 Defensive rating (9th), 

Matchup to Watch- Dan Grida v Mustapha Heron

Franklin Bulls V Night n' Day Otago Nuggets, Thursday 7:30pm, Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre

The matchup of the round has lost a tiny bit of shine with the suspension of Tai Webster, but the top rung on the ladder will still be on the line in a game that will boast plenty of star power. Sam Timmins will take on his former protege Jack Andrew as the battle of the bigs will have plenty to say in the final score but it won't be the only battle that will decide who wins this game. Questions remain on the availability of the full Bulls roster, with Dom Kelman=Poto and Josh Scott both chances to lift the depth of a team that has heavily featured it's starting lineup up to this point. Darcy Knox will step into the starting lineup denting the strength of the Nugs reserves. Otago has been great on defense, especially when it has needed it most in fourth quarters and overtimes, but will they be able to keep the pressure up on the 2nd leading scorer and assist man in the league Muhammad (29.67ppg, 7apg) without one of the best defensive guards in the country?

Stats that Matter - 

Franklin - 14% block rate (1st), 12% steal rate (2nd), 

Otago - 101ppg (1st), 34% Free throw rate (2nd), 31% Offensive rebound percentage (2nd)

Matchup to Watch- Luther Muhammad v Ben Henshall bonus Jamaal Brantley v Kimani Lawrence 

Auckland Tuatara V Southland Sharks, Friday 7:30pm, Event Finda Stadium

The Tuatara come back to town after the best offensive quarter that I can recall, with the hope that the jump shots didn't get left in the overhead compartment on the flight back to Aucks. Cam Gliddon returns bringing the Tuatara their first full strength starting lineup of the year, just in time to welcome the Sharks. Southland will be less than full strength again with Braydon Inger (playing), Zo Burton (injured) and an import all unlikely. The speed of the Tuatara (3rd in pace)  will present a problem for the Sharks (3rd last in pace), both in transition and half-court but it will be the shooting of the Aucklanders that will truly stretch the defensive capabilities of the Southlanders.

Stats that Matter - 

Auckland - 55% Effective field goal percentage (2nd), 55% Assist percentage (2nd), 81% defensive rebound percentage (1st)

Southland -  46% Effective field goal percentage (2nd last), 22% Free throw rate (last), 22% Offensive rebound rate (8th)

Matchup to Watch- Reuben Te Rangi v Legerald Vick

Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks V Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams, Saturday 7:30pm, Rodney Greene Arenas 

The Hawks return to home court after a nail biting road victory in a game where they scored 58 of 92 points in the paint. That level of production will be tougher to come by against the Rams, who despite concerns for Max Darling are expected to welcome back Lachlan Olbrich and KJ Buffen to bolster the strength of the front line looking to contain the rebounding prowess of Josh Roberts. Neither team will be swimming in depth, but a growing contingent of the youth bench mob for the Rams will give them an advantage in this department. Taylor Britt (20.7ppg, 5apg) is off to the start of his career and will provide a good test for the quickness of Isaiah Moore (21ppg, 7apg) in one of the more anticipated guard matchups.  Following his 41 point performance slowing down M.J. Walker will be key, but will the Jordan Ngatai and Lucas Sutherland duo be able to do so without fouling? Keanu Rasmussen's 26.3 ppg have been key to the Hawks success so far but Walter Brown and co. have the frames to make his day difficult. 

Stats that Matter - 

Hawke's Bay - 9% turnover rate (1st), 40% assist rate (10th), 20% Offensive rebound rate (last)

Canterbury - 1% Block rate (last), 44% three point rate (2nd), 30% three point fg percentage (6th)

Matchup to Watch- Isaiah Moore v Taylor Britt

Whai V Southland Sharks, Sunday 3pm, Mercury Baypark Arena

The Whai host the Sharks in what could be an early season saving game for both clubs. The two worst scoring offenses in the league (Sharks 10th, Whai 11th)will meet in Tauranga to see if either team can find some strong footing moving forward. The out put isn't surprising given the lack of efficiency both teams feature, 10th (Whai) and 11th (Sharks) in field goal percentage. A win on the boards would also benefit both squads who currently languish at the bottom of rebounding margin as well (Sharks 9thj, Whai 11th). 

Stats that Matter - 

Tauranga - 11% Turnover percentage (2nd), 23% Free throw rate (10th)

Southland - 22% Free throw rate (last), 95 offensive rate (last)

Matchup to Watch- Kruz Perrot-Hunt v Legerald Vick

Mills Albert Wellington Saints v Taranaki Steelformers Airs, Sunday 6:30pm, TSB Arena

The week will finish on one of the most anticipated matchups of the round between two of the preseason favourites.  The Saints have yet to find the heights of their opening round win vs the Tuatara on either side of of the ball. but still find themselves within touching distance of the top of the table. Hyrum Harris (21.8ppg, 11.3rpg, 6.3apg, 1.5spg) has been a hub of activity on both sides of the court with his off the bounce attacks bending defenses towards him to create extra space for the perimeter to bomb away. Izayah Le'afa and Ben Ayre continue to produce strongly but they have yet to look completely comfortable on the offensive end. Tohi Smith-Milner's skillset shone bright as he dropped a career high 30pts on 8 made threes in Dunedin.  The ceiling defensively is still out of reach despite the efforts of Lat Mayen and Le'afa as they harass offenses in the halfcourt. 

Conversely, the Airs looked very comfortable in their first game with a full strength roster barely leaving first gear on offense as they cruised to 88 points. Mccarron and Minnie have oodles left to give, but were content to watch Froling , Flynn Cameron and Carlin Davison dominate.  With Derone Raukawa, Quintin Bailey and Tobias Cameron  coming off the pine along with some developing youngsters there is depth as well.  The Airs and Saints always seem to have a bit of fire when they meet and this matchup is sure to continue that tradition. 

Stats that Matter - 

Wellington - 118 Offensive Rating (1st), 12% steal percentage (1st), 80% defensive rebounding rate (2nd)

Taranaki - 11% steal percentage (3rd), 10% block rate (3rd), 71% defensive rebounding rate (10th)

Matchup to Watch- Tohi Smith-Milner v Sam

Advance stats courtesy of



Form is temporarily not available. Please visit our contact page.