In front of an NZNBL record 6000 in attendance at Horncastle Arena, Christchurch, the defending champion Wellington Saints have defeated the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams 91-80.
After a sluggish first half which saw the visitors commit 15 turnovers, the Kevin Braswell coached side put together a strong 3rd quarter, outscoring the Rams 31-15. Wellington would push their lead up to 18 in the fourth quarter before a mini-run from the home side closed the gap nine. But behind LJ Peak (26 points) the Saints were able to hold off the Rams to claim their seventh straight win.
Canterbury will be disappointed with their second half after restricting the Saints to 38 points and leading by as many as 11 points. Point guard, Xavier Thames, scored 16 points in the first half and had his best performance in a Rams uniform with a game high 31 points and five steals.
Both teams put much of their defensive emphasis on restricting their respective leading scorers, Winston Shepard III (Rams) and Saints Shea Ili (Saints). Shepard was held to 12 points on 4-for-16, but did add nine rebounds and eight assists before eventually fouling out.
Ili had a season low nine points and committed four of his five turnovers in the first half. But the Talll Black point guard was able to adjust in the second half playing a more distributive role which saw Jordan Ngatai (19 points), Majok Majok (16 points) and Aaron Bruce (14 points) feature more on the offensive end.
Julian Williams-Washburn added 18 points, shooting 2/3 from three, but overall the Rams who usually play their home games at Cowles Stadium, struggled at Horncastle Arena shooting 5-for-19 overall.
The loss puts the Rams at 5-3, and they could potentially drop out of the top four should the Taylor Hawks win over the Saints on Sunday.
In Nelson, the Mike Pero Nelson Giants remain at the top of the table claiming their eighth win of the season beating the Go Media Jets 96-80.
Nelson got a combined 42 points from Tall Blacks duo, Tohi Smith-Milner (21), and Finn Delany (21) giving the franchise their fifth straight win.
The home side got off to a quick start leading 27-17, and were able to take advantage when the Jets leading scorer Kuran Iverson committed two early fouls.
Nelson would extend to 16 at half-time, but the Jets would fight back in the third quarter to close within eight going into the fourth thanks to Iverson and Daishon Knight who would score 23 of their 25 points.
The Giants quickly dashed any hope of a Jets comeback win, starting the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run to give them an 18 point lead to secure a relatively comfortable win.
Jets points guard, Knight, would end the game with a game high 33 points, and Iverson would add 26. Nelson were without American ,Jerry Evans Jr, but had a handy replacement in Mike Vukona who started tonight, slightly upping his minutes from the week before.
The loss now drops the Jets to 1-7, and it won’t get much easier for them tomorrow when they travel to Invercargill to play the red hot SIT Zerofees Sharks who are riding a four game home winning streak.
Week 7: Friday, June 8
At Horncastle Arena, Christchurch
The Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams 80 (Xavier Thames 31, Julian Williams-Washburn 18, Winston Shepard III 12)
Cigna Saints 91 (LJ Peak 26, Jordan Ngatai 19, Majok Majok 16)
At Trafalgar Centre, Nelson
Mike Pero Nelson Giants 96 (Finn Delany 21, Tohi Smith-Milner 21, Damon Heuir 14)
Go Media Jets 80 (Daishon Knight 33, Kuran Iverson 26, Brandon Lucas 13)