On the back of a huge double-double from former NBA forward Chris Johnson, the Sky Tower Auckland Huskies have kept their Final 4 aspirations alive with a tough 9-point win over the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets.
It marked the second successive away double-header for the Huskies, which has yielded four straight wins away from home (Sharks, Nuggets, Giants, Jets).
The Huskies got the better of the start in this one, especially Chris Johnson who landed 10 points and grabbed 6 rebounds over the opening 10 minutes, helping lead his team to a narrow 18-12 lead.
The home team locked in defensively early in the second quarter and briefly took the lead as the Huskies went scoreless for almost four minutes, but after a revv-up from coach Aaron Young in a time-out the visitors promptly went on a 9-0 run with some quick offensive transition.
With Johnson and Tom Vodanovich getting the better of the Jets down low the margin threatened to balloon out, however as they have done in recent weeks Daishon Knight, DeAndre Daniels and Nikau McCullough started landing some long shots to drag it back to a 35-37 contest at the half.
The third quarter started with a steal and basket by Knight, the start of an 11-2 run by the Jets that brought the large crowd to life and quickly pushed the team in green to a 46-39 lead.
Needing a lift, Justin Bibbs and Johnson threw down a number of big dunks to spark some energy as the Huskies started to turn the tide with a 14-3 run of their own.
As the battle continued to see-saw, a pair of triples from Daniels helped the Jets to take flight again, tieing the game up at 55-55 when teh buzzer sounded to finish an entertaining third period.
The last quarter was a thriller. In a tough defensive battle every made and missed basket lifted and lowered the crowd as if a puppeteer was pulling strings.
A triple form Knight gave the Jets some hope of deflating the Huskies' push of the Final 4, but within the blink of an eye Bibbs, Vodanovich and Johnson all dropped tough baskets to give the visitors a 70-64 lead.
It proved to be the decisive run as the Jets just couldn't land an answer, missing their next seven shots, while Vodanovich added some more pain with a triple.
In a game where scoring was at a premium, only five players on each side scored. It was an arm-wrestle from start to finish.
As the final buzzer sounded it was the Huskies with their noses in front, taking a vital 75-66 win in a grind that will go a long way to helping them get to the Final 4 in Porirua later this month.
Johnson was the stand-out MVP with a huge 25-point and 20-rebound haul - the Jets sinply had no answer for him.
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Manawatu Jets (66) lost to Auckland Huskies (75) - BOXSCORE
Jets: DeAndre Daniels (23pts, 5 treys), Daishon Knight (21pts, 10rbs).
Huskies: Chris Johnson (25pts, 20rbs, 3blks), Tom Vodanovich (20pts), Justin Bibbs (14pts).
Stuff MVP Votes
Chris Johnson (Huskies) 9
Daishon Knight (Jets) 6
Justin Bibbs (Huskies) 6
Tom Vodanovich (Huskies) 5
DeAndre Daniels (Jets) 4
(Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ)