The Wellington Saints have cruised past the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets 109-70 in Palmerston North on Saturday afternoon to move to 8-8 on the season.
The Saints lit it up to open the game, rattling off a 20-2 run over the first six minutes of the game and ultimately outscoring the Jets 32-4 in the first quarter. The Jets shot just 2-of-22 from the field and 0-of-10 from deep in what was an abysmal opening quarter. It wasn't one sole member of the Saints doing the damage, either, as six different players found the scoring column through the first 10 minutes of action.
Manawatu managed to settle things down in the second quarter but the Saints were still piling it on offensively. It was a 29-20 quarter in favour of the Saints, who drilled 14-of-22 3-point attempts in the first half fueled by Kenneth Tuffin's 4-of-5 from distance. Three Saints hit double figures in the scoring column, with the team dishing out a whopping 16 assists with just ONE turnover. They had a 61-24 lead at the half.
The Jets started to find their footing on offence in the second quarter but they had no answer for the Saints at the other end. Like we witnessed in their previous two games against the Hawks, the Saints have an incredible ability to light it up from deep with almost everyone showing a willingness to let it fly. It makes them a nightmare to guard, and the other Final 6 teams will be watching the Saints' performance's in recent weeks and hoping they don't have to see them in the finals.
The third quarter looked to be swinging the Jets way until a late run by the Saints to claim it by one point. The Saints had built themselves a dominant 87-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter, powered by 18 points from Tall Black Tom Vodanovich and the hot shooting Kenneth Tuffin with 16 off the bench. Jordan Ngatai was showing off his court vision, with 10 dimes through three quarters of work.
The large deficit enabled the Saints to rest some key players in the fourth quarter, as they prepare for what looks to be another run at the title. Whilst the Jets were essentially able to match them through the final three quarters of the game, the fatal blow came at the start of the game with the onslaught from beyond the arc from the Saints. Wellington shot 20-of-42 from three in the contest and turned the ball over just seven times. Their 20 makes from 3-point land are the most by a team this season.
The Jets weren't able to hit shots consistently and that makes life difficult against a team of the Saints caliber. They shot 33% from the field and 7-of-27 from three.
The Saints will look to stay hot with the table topping Nelson Giants in town next. After some doubt throughout the season, Wellington are right in the Final 6 hunt and a serious threat to win their 13th Sal's NBL title. They're starting to come together at the right time and are looking scary good.
The Jets will look to play spoiler against a Hawks team needing a win at home. Hawke's Bay cannot afford to drop that game with how right the Final 6 race is, and there's nothing the Jets would love more than to come into town and spoil the party.
Prior to tonight's game, the Manawatu Jets paid tribute to Jake McKinlay by retiring his No. 12 jersey. You can watch the jersey retirement ceremony on the Sal's NBL Instagram or Facebook page.
SCORE: Jets 70, Saints 109
Jets: Temara 12 PTS, 9 REB | Crawford 11 PTS | N. Salmon 13 PTS
Saints: Vodanovich 20 PTS, 10 REB, 4 3pm | Cooks 16 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST | Tuffin 20 PTS, 4-5 3PT | Dougall-Mita 18 PTS, 6-9 3PT
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 10 votes
Tom Vodanovich (Saints) - 8 votes
Nathaniel Salmon (Jets) - 4 votes
Rangimarie Dougall-Mita (Saints) - 3 votes
Jordan Ngatai (Saints) - 3 votes
Shane Temara (Jets) - 1 vote
Lukah Richards (Jets) - 1 vote
Jets - July 31 @ Hawke's Bay Hawks
Saints - Aug 2 vs. Nelson Giants
Round 13 Sal's NBL Schedule