Another stunning defensive show by the Canterbury Rams has led the Final 4-bound team to a convincing 89-67 win over the Taranaki Mountainairs.
Though the Airs stumbled into the game off the back of an interrupted day due to flight cancellations, they did come in with some reasonable form of late and also faced a Rams team without Isaiah Wilkins and Luke Aston, who were both missing with niggling injuries.
However, from the outset the result was only going to fall one way as the Rams raced to an 11-0 lead over the lethargic Airs, before finishing the opening quarter with a 31-11 lead. Mike Karena was the star with 13pts in the opening 10 minutes, paving the way for what ballooned to a massive victory.
The 54-22 half-time score signalled the lowest score by a team in an opening half this season, the Airs going to the long break wallowing with a 25% shooting clip. Against the league's most miserly defence the visitors just couldn't find an easy look at the basket.
The third period proved to be a little more competitive (23-20), though it must be said that Rams coach Mick Downer started to share the load across this roster with the second unit starting to see some deeper minutes.
In the end the Rams wound things back over the last 15 minutes of the game with all 12 players hitting the court, of which 10 played 11 minutes or more. No starter played more than 24 minutes.
It didn't take long for the Rams to have five players in double digits. As a team they also dominated the boards 61-45 and helped themselves to 42pts off the bench.
In a sombre night for the Airs, leading guard Derone Raukawa (6pts) could only manage 2/16 against Canterbury's tough defence.
Next up for the Rams - they head to Wellington to play the Saints on Sunday evening with both Wilkins and Aston a chance to return.
The Airs will lick their wounds quickly and head deeper south for a showdown with the Sharks on Saturday night.
Canterbury Rams 89 defeated Taranaki Mountainairs 67
Rams - Mike Karena 18pts, Jonathan Janssen 14pts & 13rbs, Alex Talma 13pts & 10rbs.
Airs - Mitch Dance 16pts, Chris Early 10pts.
Stats That Matter - the Rams led every facet of the game, but once again it was their defence that came to the fore with the Airs shooting under constant pressure at just 31%, while at the offensive end the home team racked up 25 assists.
TAB MVP Votes - Alex Talma (Rams) 8, Mike Karena (Rams) 5, Mitch Dance (Airs) 5, Jonathan Janssen (Rams) 5, Cam Gliddon (Rams) 5, Oscar Robertson (Airs) 1, Chris Early (Airs) 1.