Tasked with turning the Saints’ season around, interim head coach Troy McLean did just that as the Wellington Saints defeated EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls 101-73 at a packed TSB Arena on Sunday afternoon, in the penultimate game of Round 9 of the Sal’s NBL.
McLean, a former Saints player, took over from the departed Guy Molloy during the week and will have been delighted with his team’s performance, particularly the starters that all made double figure contributions.
Xavier Cooks led the way with a stats stuffing 22 points (6/7FG, 9/11FT), 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. The Aussie forward was well supported by American Mike Smith (21 points) and the Tall Blacks trio of Tom Vodanovich (18 points and 15 rebounds), Taane Samuel (14 points) and Jordan Ngatai (11 points).
In contrast the Bulls relied almost exclusively on their back court duo of Corey Webster (29 points) and Giddy Potts (24 points). Leon Henry managed 10 points but there were only a total of ten points produced from other quarters.
In Webster (27.7ppg), Cooks (20.2ppg) and Vodanovich (19.6ppg) the contest featured a trio of the top scorers in the league. All three posted first quarter points although it was Webster to the fore – the Tall Black guard raced to a dozen in the opening quarter that was tied 21 points apiece.
The Saints began the second period with a 10-2 run and when Cooks threw down a one-handed dunk the hosts were 42-33 ahead.
Chunky guard Potts, in his second game for the Bulls, began to flex his offensive muscle but a dozen points from opposite number Smith kept the Saints advantage in double figures.
The final play of the half resulted in a corner three from Kenneth Tuffin - the Saints ahead 52-37 at half-time.
Last week, in Pukekohe, the Saints built a 19-point lead against the same opponent only to see the rampant Bulls charge past them to the winning post. A similar scenario eventuated as the Saints moved ahead by 20 after a Vodanovich triple.
The Bulls managed just three points in the first seven minutes of the second half to fall behind 67-42. Webster and Potts made scores but the Saints were almost out of sight when Francis Mulvihill scored from deep – the home fans very content with their team 78-50 to the good at three-quarter time.
The Bulls re-found some scoring touch in the fourth frame but it made little impact on the outcome - the Saints season re-booted, their record improved to 4-7, and importantly a move off the base of the NBL ladder.
Both teams have home ties in Round 10. The Saints will host the Taranaki Airs while the Bulls (5-5) will entertain the Canterbury Rams.
Before that both sides will lose players to the Tall Blacks training camp ahead of the World Cup Asia Qualifying tie against the Philippines at Eventfinda Stadium on Thursday.
SCORE: Saints 101 Bulls 73
Saints: Cooks 22 PTS, 11 REBS, 7 ASSITS & 4 STEALS | SMITH 21 PTS & 7 ASSISTS | Vodanovich 18 PTS & 15 REBS | Samuel 14 PTS | Ngatai 11 PTS
Bulls: Webster 29 PTS | Potts 24 PTS | Henry 10 PTS | Rissetto 2 PTS & 9 REBS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 10 votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 8 votes
Tom Vodanovich (Saints) - 5 votes
Corey Webster (Bulls) - 5 votes
Giddy Potts (Bulls) - 2 votes
Saints - July 3 vs. Taranaki Airs
Bulls - July 2 vs. Canterbury Rams
Round 9 Sal's NBL Schedule