The Mike Pero Nelson Giants missed a chance to regain top spot on the Sal's NBL Ladder on Saturday night, bumping into an impressive Taranaki Steelformers Airs team, and going down by 10 points, 85-75, in Nelson.
The home team started well, with Alex McNaught and Trey Mourning leading the way offensively, while the Airs did enough with ball in hand to stay within touching distance throughout the first half. It was a disjointed first two quarters, with both teams clearly well prepared by their coaching staffs, and an air of playoff-esque mentality was in the air on both teams' defensive ends.
The Giants had a three point lead at half time but that was quickly erased by a fast start to the third term from the visitors. Led by Shaun Willett's 18 points from the bench, the Airs athleticism and tenacity kept the Giants usual stars, Jarrod West and Sam Dempster quiet. Sam Thompson was admirable for the Giants, leading all scorers with 25, and Tyler Marsh played a bigger part than usual off the bench in the absence of Nic Trathen (shoulder), but the Airs took the lead early in the third and never looked back.
Willett combined brilliantly with the ever efficient Marcel Jones and the league's leading scorer Anthony Hilliard to keep any comeback at bay, as the Airs began their road trip with a well deserved W, before a trip to the capital city on Sunday.
SCORE: Giants 75, Airs 85
Giants: Sam Thompson 25pts 4reb | Trey Mourning 15pts 10reb | Jarrod West 13pts 6reb 8ast
Airs: Shaun Willett 18pts 10reb 5ast | Anthony Hilliard 20pts | Marcel Jones 9pts 10reb
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Shaun Willett (Airs) - 10 votes
Sam Thompson (Giants) - 7 votes
Anthony Hilliard (Airs) - 7 votes
Jarrod West (Giants) - 3 votes
Javonte Douglas (Airs) - 3 votes
Giants – July 9 vs. Southland Sharks
Airs – July 3 @ Wellington Saints
Round 10 Sal's NBL Schedule