Double Dose Of Thursday Night Lights

Two very important games on the menu for Thursday Night Lights in R9 of the Sal's NBL. Here's 10 talking points.


  1. Tom Abercrombie - how the Wellington Saints fit Abercrombie into their rotations will be interesting. A player or players will be taking a haircut with respect to minutes, which will no doubt all play out over the coming few weeks. Abercrombie is there to play, not sit around, so who hands over the minutes to the Breakers skipper will be a talking point.
  2. Bad News Airs - we've all heard of the Bad News Bears, well now we have the Bad News Airs! As if playing against a stacked Saints roster wasn't a challenge enough, now the Airs have to front up at TSB Bank Arena and also contend with Tom Abercrombie!
  3. No Excuses - if the Saints don't go on and win the Sal's NBL championship from here will it be seen as a failure? The Hawks and Rams look set to feature at the Final 4, and either the Huskies or Sharks will be there too, but when you look across the Saints roster most outsiders are viewing anything less than a title as a wasted opportunity for the Saints. Do you agree?
  4. Sunday Dech - the back-up Saints guard has flown under the radar over the first half of the season. After a slower than expected start, Dech has become a key cog of Wellington's second unit and looks to be getting better every time he steps out. Surely Dech is starting to figure in 'sixth man of the year' discussions?
  5. Chris Early - unlike the other two imports at the Airs (Kevin Foster, Daniel Gomis) it was Chris Early who has stayed the course and right now his team needs him to lift. In his last four games the lone Airs import has averaged just 12pts per game. He needs to step it up and no better time to start than against the Saints.
  6. Biggest Home Games - yes, these two Huskies home games are the biggest of their fledgling season in the Sal's NBL. With a spot in the Final 4 now a realistic possibility, such an opportunity will only come if they can keep winning at home (in particular), while more away wins will obviously help. This round they play twice at home to the third-placed Rams. Tasmanian basketball fans need to turn up in numbers and help their team push for a win, or two.
  7. Emmett Naar - two games on the road in Tasmania loom as the perfect time for Naar to take his game to the next level. Capable of doing some very exciting things, the Rams now need Naar to grab his team by the neck and lift their offensive output. We already know the Rams are the league's best defensive team, but some consistency at the offensive end wouldn't go astray and that all starts with their court leader, Naar. 
  8. The Beast - Jalen Billups aptly carries the nickname, The Beast. The Huskies will need to see every bit of The Beast, plus more, this round when they hope to grab a couple of wins against the Rams. Billups will be under plenty of pressure though with the league's best defender Isaiah Wilkins likely to pay him some close attention.
  9. The Wild Card - don't be surprised if Tony Tolovae is the barometer for the Rams this weekend. Now settled into a starting role with the Rams, Tolovae has a supreme work ethic and does a lot off the ball for his team. When the game gets tight it could be Tolovae who comes up with the magic steal, deflection or drive to the basket.
  10. The Jones Factor - coming off Player of the Week accolades, Marcel Jones is in top form and no doubt ready to rumble when the Rams come to town. A proven game winner, Jones is scoring big points and dragging down boards in huge numbers. If the talented Kiwi can keep producing at the level he did in R8 then the Rams could be in for more than a few headaches this weekend. 



Wellington Saints vs Taranaki Airs - Thursday @ 7:35p at TSB Bank Arena

Broadcast: Live on SKY Sports and Prime TV from 7:30pm (NZ)

Game Preview
The Saints and the Airs match-up for Thursday Night Lights in a game that should produce an 11th straight win for the ladder-leading team from Wellington. Having said that, the Saints will need to be mindful that the Airs showed their ability to be competitive in the first half of last week’s game against the Hawks, however whether or not they can maintain that competitive pressure remains the big question. The Saints have thus far got through eight round unscathed, the team looks fit and healthy and there haven’t been any reported injuries. On top of the ladder and raging championship favourites, all is going well in the nation’s capital. An 11pt win against the Giants last round came on the back of strong defence as the Saints’ usually high energy offence delivered a below average shooting night when they hit just 3/21 shots from beyond the arc. This appears a big mountain to climb and most likely beyond the Airs, but they get a free swing here and can just step out and go hard without fear.



Starting 5
55. Shae Ili (guard)
11. Jordan Ngatai (guard/forward)
7. Reuben Te Rangi (forward)
2. Nick Kay (forward)
14. Rob Loe (centre)

15. Leon Henry (forward)
10. Tom Abercrombie (guard)
3. Sunday Dech (guard)
13. Anzac Rissetto (centre)
9. Theo Johnson (forward)
8. Aniwaniwa Tait-Jones (guard)
21. James Cawthorn (guard)

Coach: Paul Henare
Assistant: Kenny McFadden
Assistant: Troy McLean
Manager: Phil Hartley
Physio: Jamie Beleski

From The Coach – Paul Henare
We are really excited to play again at home this Thursday night, and adding a new spark into our group will be a great injection for our team. We hope to play a perfect game on Thursday night in an aim to please the NBL HQ writers.



Starting 5
14. Alonzo Burton (guard)
7. Houston O’Riley (guard)
5. Xavier Shaw (forward)
21. Chris Early (forward)
20. Thane O’Leary (forward)

3. Quintin Bailey (forward)
22. Aaron Bailey-Nowell (forward)
1. Mitch Dance (forward)
2. Oscar Roberston (guard)
10. Dane Brooks (guard)
6. Justin Cousin (guard)
8. Derone Raukawa (guard)

Coach: David Bublitz
Assistant: Andrew Green
Manager: Bevan Seddon

From The Coach – David Bublitz
This week sees us with another double header as we head to Wellington and Palmerston North. The boys should be very proud of the effort that they continue to put out on the floor and the key for this week will be too build on the very good periods of play that we put together last weekend, and turn those periods in to full 40 minute efforts. Staying locked in to our game plan while being aware of what is happening with the opposition but not letting it distract us is the key to a full 40 minute performance.


Southern Huskies vs Canterbury Rams - Thursday @ 7pm (9pm NZ) at DEC, Hobart

Broadcast: Live on SKY Sports (pop-up),, TribeSportsApp, from 9pm/NZ (7pm/AUS)

Game Preview
An intriguing two battles await with the Huskies and Rams set to meet twice in the space of three days, firstly in Hobart on Thursday night, followed by a return bout in Launceston on Saturday night. With both teams firmly locked into a battle for the Final 4, these two clashes will be vital to their respective chances of playing at Horncastle Arena on July20/21. The Huskies got out of NZ with two wins last round, their second coming on the back of a dramatic 29pt turnaround against the lowly Rangers. The Rams also counted their blessings after narrowly avoiding a massive upset against the Jets. There will be lots of key match-ups here and no doubt both coaches will tweak their plans for game 2 after seeing how game 1 unfolds. In particular look for the Mason Bragg vs Emmett Naar battle to be a key factor, while it will be interesting to see if Mike Karena has the mobility to go with Jalen Billups, especially if Isaiah Wilkins gets the job on Marcel Jones. Come Sunday morning we will know a lot more about where these two teams sit when it comes to talking the Final 4.



Starting 5
3. Tre Nichols (guard)
6. Mason Bragg (guard)
9. Craig Moller (forward)
22. Jalen Billups (forward)
62. Marcel Jones (forward)

14. Jordan Vandenburg (centre)
8. Bryan Michaels (guard)
12. Tiri Masunda (guard)
23. Lochlan Cummings (guard)

Coach: Anthony Stewart
Assistant: Corey Davie
Assistant: Dwain Davie
Manager: Andrew Downie
Physio: Revive Health

From The Coach – Anthony Stewart
Getting out of jail in that manner in the last game has really set us up for two huge games against the Rams this week. We had some special performances from our guys down the stretch and I want that momentum to continue.  I see this as the acid test, we’ve been planning for this and it should really tell us whether we are going to land in playoff contention. We’ll be fighting with the Rams for that top 4 spot so it should make for some exciting basketball. We’re really looking forward to hosting the Rams at both our venues.



Starting 5
4. Emmett Naar (guard)
3. Cam Gliddon (guard)
25. Tony Tolovae (guard)
17. Isaiah Wilkins (forward)
44. Mike Karena (forward)

1. Luke Aston (guard)
5. Taylor Britt (guard)
10. Sam Smith (guard)
30. Toby Gillooly (guard)
9. Jonathan Janssen (forward)
45. Brent Fisher (forward)
24. Alex Talma (forward)

Coach: Mick Downer
Assistant: Terry Brunel
Assistant: Piet Van Hasselt
Manager: Raewyn Britt
Physio: Lidia Belles

From The Coach – Mick Downer
With the news of an Australian team joining the Sal’s NBL this year it was definitely an exciting thing for not only our league but also the club. We are looking forward to taking our game to Tasmania and testing ourselves. Both teams are feeling confident after recent wins and there is a lot of talent on both sides. The possession game will be key and guarding the very talented Huskies roster will be our focus. With a short turnaround from the previous round’s games it will be a case of trusting the body of work that has been done to date.


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