In an eagerly anticipated top of the table clash, the Mike Pero Nelson Giants have drawn first blood with a 90-87 overtime win over the Cigna Saints.
Damon Heuir led the way with 30 points which included six three pointers, Kyle Adnam added 17, and Tohi Smith-Milner had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Giants who move to 13-3, and are now only a half game behind the top of the table Saints.
Tonight was always going to be physical battle between the two teams which was evidenced with the high foul count with a combined 40 called. Both Head coaches, Kevin Braswell and Jamie Pearlman did their best to rotate their respective squads and in particular managed to keep point guards Shea Ili and Adam on the court as both would have four heading into overtime.
Nelson did lead by as many as nine in the third quarter, but a late run from the visitors which ended with a three on the buzzer by LJ Peak gave the Saints a one point lead at 3 quarter time.
The fourth quarter would be tight, in particular the last two minutes where both defences managed to make it tough to get a basket. Wellington in particular struggled not scoring a basket in the final two minutes.
Trailing by four, the Giants fought back after a tough driving shot by Sam Dempster, and then another driving layup by Adam with 22 seconds left would tie game 82 all.
On the last play in regulation, Ili would attempt a step back jumper which was stripped by Adman, Ili managed to recover it and made an up an under attempt which missed, Saints had a couple of tip attempts but would fall short as the game would head to overtime
In overtime, both sides would take turns with the lead, and with a little over a minute left the Saints held a slim one point advantage thanks to a postup by Majok Majok. But the Giants would show grit with back to back baskets, one from Heuir and then the other from Tohi-Smith Milner with six seconds left to hold a 90-87 lead.
After a time out, LJ Peak would have relatively good look from three but would miss, Saints were able to get a second chance which ended up with a attempt from Ili, but it would fall short has the Saints drop to 14-3.
Jordan Ngatai would lead all Saints with 19 points, Majok and Peak would each add 16. Nelson made it tough for the Saints leading scorer, Ili, who was held to 13 on 4/18 shooting, and had five turnovers.
It was the final home game for Nelson, who will take a lot of confidence with the win, considering they did it without key forward Finn Delany.
The Giants will play their next game in Wellington against the Saints this coming Thursday. They will then face the SIT Zerofees Sharks on the Sunday. Two wins will secure the regular season title for the first time since 1998, which was also ended up in a championship. Wellington can still clinch the regular season if they win on Thursday.
Tomorrow the Taylor Hawks (9-6) will try to build more momentum when they host the Go Media Jets (3-13).
Week 13: Saturday, July 21
At Trafalgar Cantre, Nelson
Mike Pero Nelson Giants 90 (Damon Heuir 30, Kyle Adamn 17, Tohi Smith-Milner 15)
Cigna Saints 87 (Jordan Ngatai 19, LJ Peak 16, Majok Majok 16)