After winning their opening three games of the Sal’s NBL Showdown, the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams could have picked a better time to add a fourth win.
After a long dry spell, the Rams snapped their 10-game losing streak on the eve of the Sal’s NBL Showdown playoffs with an impressive 85-64 win over the EnvrioNZ Franklin Bulls on Saturday afternoon.
The Rams got some much-needed confidence while denting the Bulls’ title aspirations. Both teams will join their five counterparts in Finals Week, starting next Tuesday when the Rams meet the Nelson Giants.
In a competitive opening quarter, Reuben Te Rangi hit two three-pointers for the Rams to give them a fast-start. Back from illness the talented Tall Black wasted little time in asserting his authority and helping his team find some confidence.
The Bulls were out for the win in an effort to finish as high as third heading into the playoffs, depending on other results but will now be resigned to play the fourth versus fifth encounter next Wednesday night.
Rams coach Mick Downer said his team was looking to build chemistry ahead of their elimination encounter with the Nelson Giants on Tuesday night.
The Bulls were given scope to play an up-tempo game early, with Dominique Kelman-Poto’s six points helping the Bulls to an 18-17 first-quarter advantage. The Rams did not help themselves with seven turnovers in the first 10 minutes.
Te Rangi was clearly in a mood to dominate as he was perfect from the field into the second quarter as the Rams jumped in front by five points.
The Rams made a concerted effort to shut-down Bulls captain Everard Bartlett but they did leave Kelman-Poto open in the paint which cost them a bigger lead. Kelman-Poto finished the game with 29pts.
Quintin Bailey provided great energy off the bench for the Rams, as well as 11 first-half points, while the Rams got big stops late in the second quarter to extend their lead to 41-30 at half time.
With the exception of Kelman-Poto, no other Bulls player had more than three points in the first half, something that coach Liam Simmons would have addressed at half time.
The Bulls scored the first eight points of the third quarter on sheer effort and hustle, sparking a rousing mood amongst the Bulls fans filling the stadium. Some sensed a comeback, especially with Kelman-Poto getting baskets at will, however once the Rams found their groove again things settled down quickly.
Despite the fightback, the Rams steadied and were all class to the final buzzer, delivering a good brand of team basketball in their warm-up for what lay ahead.
Canterbury Bulls 85 (Reuben Te Rangi 26 points and 4 rebounds, Taylor Britt 16 points, Alex Talma 13 points and 7 rebounds).
Franklin Bulls 64 (Dominique Kelman-Poto 29 points, 5 rebounds).
- Reuben Te-Rangi passes a Covid-19 test last week and looks at his aggressive best for the Rams. He scored 10 points in the first quarter. If he can form a combination with Taylor Britt, the Cantabrians could be a threat in finals week.
- The Bulls struggled to close-out the second and third quarters which allowed the Rams to kick-clear at crucial times.
- The Bulls now face a tougher playoff run with a loss they could least afford.
Box Score: https://www.fibalivestats.com/u/NZN/1659577/bs.html
SkyCity MVP Votes: Reuben Te Rangi (Rams-10), Quintin Bailey (Rams-8), Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls-5), Taylor Britt (Rams-5), Chris McIntosh (Bulls-1), Everard Bartlett (Bulls-1).