The 'Southern Stoush' is back after a seven-year hiatus and the first round has gone the way of the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks with an 85-78 win over a gallant Go Media Otago Nuggets.
The night was filled with drama from before tip-off when the game needed to shift to an adjacent court due to water leaking on the main court at the Edgar Centre.
Within minutes an army of helpers, including some of the 1,800 fans in attendance had helped shift seating, signage and corporate tables to ensure the show went ahead.
Once the game did get underway it was a see-sawing battle across the first period as the Nuggets looked to test a battle-weary Sharks unit, who had ventured two-hours north after securing a dramatic win at home against the Wellington Saints the previous night.
Though down by two points after the first quarter, the Sharks found their groove during the second, going on a 28-14 run with the likes of Brayden Inger, Dom Keman-Poto and Toby Gillooly hitting big shots.
By midway through the third period the Sharks had moved to a 25-point advantage, helped largely by wayward shooting from Sam Timmins and Isaiah Moss, while a run of turnovers by the home team didn't help their cause.
Looking set for a strong win, the game turned on its head late when the Sharks, who clearly looked fatigued, struggled to keep a handle on Richie Rodgers, Timmins and Moss as the Nuggets mounted a dramatic late run.
At one stage the margin dropped to just five-points as the stoush went up a level and the crowd rose to their feet. However, needing to settle, the Sharks looked to Kelman-Poto and Courtney Belger from the foul-line, the pair showing calmness under pressure.
In the end, another win for the Sharks, their sixth straight. For the Nuggets, a scrappy night where they nearly stole the chocolates.
For the Nuggets fans, a night they won't forget.
Otago Nuggets (78) lost to Southland Sharks (85) - BOXSCORE
Nuggets: Isaiah Moss (25pts, 4 treys), Richie Rodger (13pts), Sam Timmins 13pts, 16rbs), Geremy McKay (11pts).
Sharks: Dom Kelman-Poto (24pts), Brayden Inger (22pts, 4 treys), Toby Gillooly (17pts).
Stuff MVP Votes
Isaiah Moss (Nuggets) 8
Dom Kelman-Poto (Sharks) 7
Brayden Inger (Sharks) 7
Sam Timmins (Nuggets) 5
Toby Gillooly (Sharks) 2
Courtney Belger (Sharks) 1
(Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ)