The Fluid Recruitment Otago Nuggets remain in top spot on the Sal’s NBL ladder after a 97-85 win against Property Brokers, See Me Media Manawatu Jets in the late game on Thursday.
The Nuggets now boast a 9-4 record and even if they lose to the lowly Giants on Saturday they will still retain the number one berth.
The Nuggets had won the first two encounters between the two team and spurred on by the class of Jordan Ngatai (37 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists) and Jarrod Kenny (7 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals they completed a clean sweep against the Jets. They led by as many as 21 points and although the Jets reduced the deficit in the fourth quarter they were unable to seriously threaten the in-form Nuggets.
Tom Vodanovich paced the Jets with 28 points. Hyrum Harris (20 points and 12 rebounds), Jayden Bezzant (13 points) and Taane Samuel (9 points and 11 rebounds) gave their skipper good support but it was a night when the Nuggets looked the team to beat with the playoffs around the corner.
Vodanovich, in terrific shooting form, scored with his opening shot as the Jets raced to a 10-2 lead.
Another in prime form, Josh Aitcheson (14 points on the night), scored 8 points in the opening quarter and with Ngatai making 11 points, including a fade-away jumper on the buzzer, the southerners trailed by just three (26-23) at quarter time.
Vodanovich made it four from four from deep to open proceedings in the second frame and when Haize Walker landed from the same spot after sweet ball movement the Jets were 35-26 ahead.
A riposte from K2 - Kenny and Keil - was answered by Fee and Bezzant.
Keil, Aitcheson and Ngatai (22 points at the interval) ended the half in style with a 12-2 run to take the Nuggets to a 52-48 lead.
Harris and Samuel scored early in the second half but when Hunt went back-to-back the Nuggs were ten points ahead (66-56).
26 minutes into the game Akiva McBirney-Griffin became the first Otago bench player to score a point but the Nuggets weren’t concerned with a 73-60 lead.
Vodanovich moved his personal tally into the twenties but Ngatai was into the thirties and Otago was in control at three-quarter time with an 80-64 lead after a 28-16 period in their favour.
Jordan Hunt (15 points and 8 rebounds) scored 5 points for Otago, a pull-up jumper from Benoit Hayman eased the Nuggets to an 87-68 lead.
Harris and Vodanovich were doing their best to reduce the arrears but with six minutes remaining, they still trailed 90-72.
That became 90-79 with four to play and when Kirksey landed from deep the Jets were on the charge.
Keil (16 points) steadied the nerves of the Nuggets supporters with his third triple of the game - a neat drop step and score from Hunt sealing the deal.
Sal’s NBL has been a close competition throughout as the win-loss record of the top five teams shows:
Nuggets 9-4, Jets 8-5, Airs 8-6, Huskies 7-6, Bulls 7-6.
All but the Airs, who have completed their 14-game programme, have one regular season game to play on Saturday July 25 - still plenty of interest with the play-offs beginning in five days' time.
Sky City MVP Votes:
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets-10), Tom Vodanovich (Jets-6), Hyrum Harris (Jets-6), Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets-4), Jordan Hunt (Nuggets-2), Kane Keil (Nuggets-2).