The Otago Nuggets have beaten the Franklin Bulls 104-99 in Dunedin this afternoon, in a rough-and-tumble game won in overtime courtesy of a series of clutch plays by Nuggets guard Tray Boyd III. This huge win – coming on the final game of the Sal’s NBL season - sets up Otago for a date with the Hawke’s Bay Hawks in Wednesday’s ‘Final 6’ playoff game.
Boyd led the Nuggets in this one with an epic stat-line; 30 points (including 6 triples), 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Equally as impressive was Otago’s big man Sam Timmons with 21 points, 19 rebounds (10 offensive) and a pair of blocks. Nikau McCullough had 18 points and 5 steals, while Jack Andrew had a solid double-double off the bench with 11 points and 12 rebounds; 10 of those offensive, with the Nuggets ripping down 28 offensive boards overall on the night.
Jayden Bezzant carried the Bulls with a massive 31 points, while Leon Henry had 14 & 11, Anzac Rissetto had 12 points & 5 rebounds, and Robinson scored 15 points off the bench.
The first quarter saw the lead changing hands several times early on, before the Bulls were able to build a 11-6 lead on the back of a Bezzant jumper. They’d maintain that lead – despite 7 straight points from Boyd at one stage – to take a slim 20-19 lead into the second.
The second period saw Bezzant catch fire, scoring 9 of his 16 first-half points to help build a solid 10-point Bulls lead. However, the Nuggets staged a thrilling comeback with less than two minutes remaining in the half - their 12-0 run led by 5 points by Boyd and 4 by Timmins to give Otago a 47-44 lead at the half. Despite the deficit, the Bulls were the more efficient team in the half - shooting 45% from the field compared to Otago’s 37% clip.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair; the Nuggets struggling with their shot at times, while the Bulls relied on a trio of threes from Henry and five points from Kael Robinson to give them a 75-70 lead at the end of three.
Undaunted, Otago stayed close to the Bulls, with a triple from McCullough with two minutes left bringing them to within 1. The final minute was chaotic; a free throw by Andrew tying things up before a smooth layup by Bezzant – his 30th point of the game - gave the Bulls a two-point lead with 53 seconds left. A fouled Timmins hit a clutch pair of free throws to tie the score at 93 all, before a late turnover by Henry robbed the Bulls of their chance to win in regulation.
In overtime – only the second overtime in the Sal’s NBL this season - both teams started off slowly before Boyd stepped up in his biggest game of the season; the guard scoring the final 7 points of the game, including an incredible sequence where he hit a jumper, then secured the steal and hit a corner triple to give the Nuggets a 102-99 lead.
They held onto the lead – and the huge victory – giving them third place in the standings and the right to face the Hawks in the first round of the Sal’s NBL playoffs a.k.a. the Final 6. Their only big concern now is the status of Todd Withers, who left this game in the second quarter due to an ankle injury.
With their season already over, the Bulls were playing for pride in their final game of the season. And despite the loss, they played well and took the Nuggets to overtime – showing plenty of heart in the process.
SCORE: Nuggets 104, Bulls 99
Nuggets: Boyd 30 PTS & 10 REB & 10 AST | Timmins 21 PTS & 19 REB & 2 BLK | McCullough 18 PTS & 6 AST & 5 STL | Andrew 11 PTS & 12 REB | Bardsley 8 PTS | Withers 7 PTS
Bulls: Bezzant 31 PTS & 5 REB | Robinson 15 PTS & 5 REB | Henry 14 PTS & 11 REB | Rissetto 12 PTS & 5 REB | Davidson 11 PTS | Brooke 7 PTS & 8 REB
Full box score HERE.
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