ROUND 6, SUNDAY 5 JUNE 2022 - TARANAKI AIRS vs WELLINGTON SAINTS
The Saints have earned their second win of the season tonight, pulling out a 103-92 road win over the Taranaki Airs to help boost their chances of a top six finish.
Mike Smith was dominant for the Saints with 30 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists & 4 steals - including 16 points in the second quarter to help Wellington stage a 31-15 comeback after falling behind by 11 after the first quarter. He was supported by Xavier Cooks with 20 and 11, with 16 points off the bench for Kenneth Tuffin and 12 & 6 for Tom Vodanovich ; six Saints players scoring in double figures overall on the evening.
Anthony Hilliard had a monster 36 points (6-13 from downtown) and 7 rebounds for the Airs in the loss; Javonte Douglas narrowly missing out on a triple double with 20/9/9 and Carlin Davison with 9 points and 6 assists.
The Airs dominated the first quarter 27-16, leading the entire period thanks to Hilliard’s 12 points (3-4 from behind the arc) with solid support from Tai Wynward (5 points) and Douglas – whose 6 points included a monster two-handed alley-oop on a fast break. The Saints were paced by Vodanovich and Smith with 4 apiece, but the visitors struggled from outside the arc, making just 1-9 attempts in this quarter.
The Saints came charging back in the second frame, taking advantage of a cooled-down Airs to outscore the home team 31-15 – led by a dialled-in Smith who owned the quarter with 16 points, and a pair of big-game triples by Tuffin.
With the Saints holding a 49-43 lead, the third quarter was a back-and-forth affair - both teams shooting strong from outside the arc with a combined 11 triples. The quarter ended on a Vodanovich three pointer to put the visitors firmly up 76-65.
The Airs chance of a comeback were dealt a blow in the fourth, with both Wynyard and Marcel Jones fouled out of the game. Despite this, the home team were able to come back to within 6 points late in the quarter, but the continued dominance of Smith and Tuffin sealed the Airs fate late in the fourth - the former setting up the latter with a nail-in-the-coffin triple with a minute left.
This win for the Saints keeps them firmly in the race for a top six finish - after going 0-5 to start the season – only two points behind sixth-placed Taranaki. They will hope that the continued strong play of Smith and Cooks, with vital contributions from Vodanovich, Samuel, Jordan Ngatai and Tuffin, will be enough for them to surge up the standings so they can defend their 2021 title.
Despite the loss, the Airs see hope in their dynamic import duo of Hilliard and Douglas – and will rely on the likes of Tall Blacks Wynyard and Rodger, as well as Jones and Davison, to retain their spot in the top six.
SCORE: Airs 92, Saints 103
Airs: Hilliard 36 PTS & 7 REB | Douglas 20 PTS & 9 REB & 9 ASS | Davison 9 PTS & 6 ASS | Rodger 8 PTS & 3 REB & 4 ASS | Telfer 8 PTS & 4 REB
Saints: Smith 30 PTS & 4 REB & 4 ASS & 4 STL | Cooks 20 PTS & 11 REB | Tuffin 16 PTS & 5 REB | Vodanovich 12 PTS & 6 REB & 4 ASS | Ngatai 12 PTS & 4 REB | Samuel 11 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 10 votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 7 votes
Anthony Hilliard (Airs) - 6 votes
Tom Vodanovich (Saints) - 3 votes
Javonte Douglas (Airs) - 3 votes
Jordan Ngatai (Saints) - 1 vote
Upcoming Opponents (Round 7)
Taranaki Airs – 10 June vs. Auckland Tuatara
Wellington Saints – 11 June vs. Southland Sharks