The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams inconceivable run from last to first in the Sal's NBL is still a possibility following tonight's 98-84 victory over the favoured Auckland Huskies.
A 39-point third period propelled the Cantabrians into the lead after being behind for the entirety of the game up until that point, and they did all that was required in the closing to seem them fight another day.
The catalyst to the Rams explosion out of the half came from youngster Thomas Webley. The former Cashmere High School standout added 14 to the five he had in the previous stanza, whilst also doing a nice job of bothering shots near the rim. Guard Taylor Britt also filled the stat after a slow start and finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double.
The Defensive Player of the Season and selection for the All-Star Five Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa was a one-man band for much of the contest, notching 39 points in his final appearance in the Showdown.
Mauriohooho-Le'afa had a hand in seven of his team's first nine points, but Reuben Te Rangi trumped his fellow Tall Black's efforts by doing the same plus an assist. Those two weren't the only senior national representatives to find their feet early though, as Leon Henry finished the spell with eight points and three blocks.
A pair of scores from Tohi Smith-Milner and Jaylen Gerrand pushed the Huskies advantage past two possessions, forcing Coach Mick Downer to call time. The short gathering seemed to do the trick as his men only went into the interval down 23-26.
Points were harder to come by in the second but thankfully Mauriohooho-Le'afa kept things entertaining with a 13-point quarter. After missing two free throws less than a minute in, the guard drained jumpers from within and beyond the arc, before then going back-to-back from distance.
The Rams spread their baskets amongst a handful of players and if not for the outburst from the Wellingtonian point, may have taken lead. However, the Huskies stood firm on their end of the floor and were up 42-36 at the half.
With no one managing more than eight points in the scoring column for the Cantabrians, the moment called for someone to make their move and it was answered by their 6'8" teenager.
Triples from Quintin Bailey and Sam Smith kept the Huskies honest from outside, but the bulk of the damage came at or near the cylinder. As for the Huskies, it was Mauriohooho-Le'afa keeping his team within striking distance. Another double-digit period meaning they only trailed 62-75 at three-quarter time.
A more concerted defensive effort from the Auckland-based outfit brought the Rams' offence back down to earth, but they needed to stop it all together to erase the deficit. The closest they got was within six with two minutes to go, only Te Rangi and Britt made sure they weren't leaving Auckland until Friday at the earliest.
The Rams will be back on the court tomorrow at 5:30pm to take on the Fluid Recruitment Otago Nuggets in the first semi-final.