The Saints have come away with a spectacular 113-83 win at home against the Hawks, entertaining a packed Wellington crowd and keeping their Top 6 hopes alive in the process.
After a tight first half, the Saints broke the game open in the third with 35-point quarter to build a 30 point lead; Mike Smith impressing with his shooting ability and Wellington making seven of their 19 triples in the period.
Smith led all scorers with 23 points to go along with 8 assists, while Xavier Cooks had 21 points and 6 rebounds and Taane Samuel had 19. Wellington’s bench was solid in this one, with Reggie Upshaw Jr registering 17 points and 8 rebounds, and Kenneth Tuffin with 14 points, 5 rebound and 5 assists.
The Hawks were led by Ethan Rusbatch and his 24 points, with support from Hyrum Harris with 18 points and 7 rebounds, Tajuan Agee with a 12 point, 10 rebound double-double, 11 for Derone Raukawa and 10 from Jack Salt in his first start of the season.
The first quarter saw the teams exchanging the lead multiple times; the Saints down 8-11 early, despite Samuel scoring all 8 of the Saint’s first points of the quarter. With Tom Vodanovich headed to the bench early after picking up a pair of fouls in his first three minutes, Reggie Upshaw Jr saw extended minutes in the first – contributing a healthy 5 points and 4 rebounds.
The Saints took a 23-20 lead into the second quarter, on the strength of Samuel’s 11 points (3/3 shooting from outside) and the Saints shooting 5-12 overall from deep in the period; Harris keeping the Hawks in the game with a pair of triples and Rusbatch with 7 points of his own.
Tuffin would take over in the second, scoring 9 of the Saint’s 14 points on 4-4 shooting, helping build a 37-29 lead for Wellington mid-way through the period. The Saints with a 55-46 lead into the break, thanks to Tuffin’s 12 points off the bench on 5-5 shooting, 13 to Samuel and 12 to Cooks. For the Hawks, Harris was the game’s leading scorer at the half with 16 points and 6 rebounds; Rusbatch with 9 and Salt 8 – in his first start of the season.
The floodgates opened up in the third, led by a scorching Smith who hit four consecutive triples in a three minute span - part of a 20-4 run that ballooned Wellington’s lead to 25 points. They took a 90-60 lead into the final period, thanks to a season-high 35 points in the quarter and 7 made threes, while holding the Hawks to just 14.
The Saints maintained their lead throughout the fourth quarter, thanks to Vodanovich scoring all 8 of his points in the period and bench contributions from Francis Mulvihill and Rangimarie Dougall-Mita – the latter hitting Wellington’s nineteenth triple later in the quarter as the home team ran away with the 113-83 victory.
With four games left in the competition for the Saints – three of those at home, including a must-watch re-match with the Hawks next round – all eyes are on whether Wellington can break into the top six and a spot in the playoffs. Like the Saints, the Hawks also have three of their final four games at home, and their focus will be on solidifying their current fourth place standing – and potentially leap-frogging the streaking Taranaki Airs into third.
SCORE: Saints 113, Hawks 83
Saints: Smith 23 PTS & 8 ASS | Cooks 21 PTS & 6 REB | Samuel 19 PTS | Upshaw Jr. 17 PTS & 8 REB | Tuffin 14 PTS & 5 REB & 5 ASS | Vodanovich 8 PTS | Mulvihill 7 PTS
Hawks: Rusbatch 24 PTS & 6 REB | Harris 18 PTS & 7 REB| Agee 12 PTS & 10 REB | Raukawa 11 PTS | Salt 10 PTS | Bartlett 6 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 10 votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 8 votes
Taane Samuel (Saints) - 5 votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 5 votes
Hyrum Harris (Hawks) - 2 votes
Wellington Saints – 21 July at Hawkes Bay Hawks
Hawkes Bay Hawks – 16 July at Franklin Bulls