The Wellington Saints added title number 12 to their illustrious trophy cabinet this evening after hanging tough in a nail-biter and pipping the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks 77-75 in the Sal’s NBL grand final this evening.
All those in attendance at a packed out Te Rauparaha Arena were on the edge of their seats as the final few moments took place.
Only four points separated the League’s top-two seeds as the clocked entered the last minute and when Rhys Vague converted underneath it meant the game was going to come down to a stop or make.
The Hawks ended up getting the stop they needed thanks to great read by Devondrick Walker, but with less than a handful of seconds remaining the forward was in a hurry to drop what would have been a game-winning or game-tying basket.
Unfortunately, neither the Hawks or the crowd were treated to a clutch shot and it was the League’s most consistent team from this season who walked away with the spoils.
The victors set the tone early in the decider, kicking it off with a 9-0 run. Walker settled the Hawks’ nerves with a basket and trip to the stripe, but plays like a triple from Troy McLean and AND1 from Taane Samuel kept the men in blue out in front.
The typically reliable long-range shooting of the Hawks wasn’t there in the opening passages as they missed all four of their first-quarter attempts. Meanwhile, Leon Henry was banking in threes from the wing, making it 28-16 in the home team’s favour.
With jumpers not cutting the mustard, the bird gang looked to find their mojo in close. Hyrum Harris led the charge with a few strolls inside, yet he was more prominent chasing his teammates’ rim rattlers.
Walker continued to add to his personal tally, which included his side’s first trifecta of the game. Dion Prewster and Samuel replied in kind though, the prettiest of which was a crowd-raising two-handed slam off an inbounds play.
Scores from the pair negated what was a strong finish to the period for the Hawks, keeping them in the driver’s seat, 47-41, as they departed for their extended pep talks.
The third quarter was always going to be telling between the two power houses and surprisingly it was the Saints who were the step behind. In fact, they only managed three points as the first five minutes of the spell ticked over.
The Hawks capitalised on the cold streak by taking their first lead of the night just after the midway point. The driving force again being the combination of Harris and Waker. The latter dropped 11 to have his side up 60-56 going into the fourth.
A lacklustre third meant the Saints needed to come out with energy and that they did. Prewster got the ball rolling, but it was a Tuffin steal on the ensuing in bound that gave the hosts the jolt they needed. The rest was history.
Wellington Saints 77 defeated Hawke’s Bay Hawks 75 - BOXSCORE
Saints: Taane Samuel (26pts & 2ast), Kerwin Roach Jnr (16pts & 7rbs) Dion Prewster (15pts & 5rbs).
Hawks: Devondrick Walker (31pts & 7rbs), Hyrum Harris (22pts & 11rbs), Rhys Vague (8pts & 6rbs).