The Ocean View Otago Nuggets made it three wins in the last four outings with a tense 75-74 victory against the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams in the late game on Thursday at Trusts Arena.
The win gives the Nuggets a 6-4 record and means they are now tied with the Franklin Bulls and Manawatu Jets at the second spot on the Sal’s NBL ladder, one win behind pacesetters Taranaki (7-4).
You have to feel for the Rams. They have suffered eight successive losses, the last four being by seven points to the Huskies, five versus the Airs, three against the Jets and now a single point against their southern rivals.
Sam Smith was terrific in a losing cause scoring 22 points (10/15FG). Alex Talma also had a strong game with 14 points and eight rebounds whilst Taylor Britt and Tom Webley made a dozen points each.
The Nuggets were indebted to their two Tall Blacks. Jordan Ngatai scored a game-high 25 points while Jarrod Kenny was all class as he controlled proceedings with an 11 points, five rebounds and two assists outing. Marksmen Josh Aitcheson (11 points) and Kane Keil (nine points) were also key contributors.
The Rams had marginally the best of the low scoring opening quarter taking it 14-13. Te Rangi, used sparingly in just his second game of the season, and Smith were the first two scorers in the second period before Ngatai replied for the Nuggets but it was a contest in which both teams were struggling offensively.
A neat hook shot from Quintin Bailey was answered by Kiel – a close first half ending with the scores tied at 27 points apiece. The two highest scorers in the game, Britt and Ngatai, had just six points each reflecting just how tight the contest was.
Tom Webley and Jordan Hunt were having a ding-dong battle in the paint, a nice finish from the Cantabrian put his team ahead 40-38 but Ngatia found the answer at the other end.
A thunderous one-handed dunk from the Tall Blacks swingman was followed by a good finish in traffic from Akiva McBirney-Griffin – Rams coach Mick Downer called a timeout with his team 45-42 down.
Talma immediately tied proceedings on the restart with his second three of the game but more points from Ngatai – he had 12 in the stanza – saw the Nuggets up 53-47 at the three-quarter mark.
Rams guard Smith had eight points of his own in the opening 4 minutes of the fourth, his team trailing 62-59 at that stage.
A Kenny drive was answered by that man Smith before Jordan Hunt scored his first points of the game – 68-65 with 3:30 to play.
Bailey made it a one-point game (70-69) with two minutes to play, Kiel provided an immediate reply before, with 1:11 to play Britt scored with a lovely finish off the glass.
Otago answered back with a triple from Aitcheson and the Rams were left with under a minute to reverse a 75-71 deficit.
Smith, the Rams MVP on the night, made a three on the buzzer but it was of little comfort to the Cantabrians who agonisingly lost a fourth straight game by single digits.
Sky City MVP Votes:
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets-10), Sam Smith (Rams-7), Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets-5), Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets-4), Alex Talma (Rams-4).