In a game that lived up to its Thursday Night Lights billing live on SKY Sports and Prime TV, the Canterbury Rams squeezed out a thrilling 69-67 win over the Nelson Giants.
Played in front of another vocal Rams crowd at Cowles Stadium, the top-4 battle lived up to expectations. It was a tough contest that went right down to the wire and had the fans hanging off every play.
The Giants started well with Rhys Vague dropping 7pts in the opening five minutes of the game, but the second half of the opening period belonged to the home team as they went on a 12-0 run to take momentum into the second term.
Canterbury’s running game was on in force as they dished out nine assists and punished the Giants with 7pts off turnovers in the first quarter.
The Rams run extended to 17-0 before the Giants finally found another basket, which proved to be the catalyst to sparking their own run win the first half ended in a 33-33 stalemate.
Though the third period belonged to the Rams (21-17) there was nothing in it and as both teams entered the court for the last quarter the 1500-plus crowd knew they were in for a cliffhanger finish.
Up 67-63 with just 90-seconds to play it appeared as though the visiting Giants may have done enough, however the Rams got to the foul-line eight times in the dying stages of the game and shakily made four, those shots punctuated with an Isaiah Wilkins lay-up.
At the other end the Giants couldn't land a shot, missing a couple of chances whilst committing five fouls.
The game proved to be a defensive clash with scoring hard to come by. The Rams finished with 36% shooting clip, while the Giants fared marginally better on 37%.
In a challenging round, the Giants now head immediately to Invercargill for a clash with the Southland Sharks tomorrow night.
Canterbury Rams 69 def Nelson Giants 67
Rams - Isaiah Wilkins 18pts, 10rbs & 3blks (pictured: Photosport.nz), Mike Karena 13pts, Emmett Naar 12pts.
Giants - Jordair Jett 18pts, Rhys Vague 17pts.