The Taranaki Airs have picked up their second road win this weekend, with a high-scoring 111-105 win over the Saints in Wellington – in a chippy game that went right down to the wire for both teams.
Leading scorer Anthony Hilliard paced the Airs with 41 points & 7 rebounds, while Javonte Douglas had 21 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists and Shaun Willett registered 20 points and 8 boards.
Xavier Cooks kept the Saints in this one with 32 points and 9 rebounds, while Mike Smith had 27pts and 9 assists; 16 points also coming from Taane Samuel and Tom Vodanovich with 14.
The first quarter was an even affair for both teams, with Tom Vodanovich impressing early with 10 points - including a pair of threes - for the Saints, while the Airs relied on a trio of Jones and Willett (7pts apiece) along with 6 points from Hilliard.
With the scores locked 27-all, the fast-scoring, back-and-forth pace continued into the second quarter, with a trio of players stepping up to take charge of their respective teams; Xavier Cooks scoring 16 points on 8/11 shooting in the period with Mike Smith chipping in 10. Meanwhile Sal’s NBL leading scorer Hilliard went 7-11 for his 16 points; the latter at one point scoring 9 straight points to help his team build a 61-56 lead going into the half.
The third period saw the Airs extend their lead on the stirring play of fellow import Javonte Douglas, who scored the first 8 points of the quarter, and the continued dominance of Hilliard – the forward hitting back-to-back threes to bring the score to 75-63 mid-way through the quarter. Despite this, the Saints kept themselves in the game thanks to the hot hands of both Smith and Cooks; the Airs leading 88-79 heading into the fourth.
The Saints would narrow the gap in the fourth, thanks in part to a 6-0 Saints run capped off by a Smith triple to bring the home team to within four. Back-to-back threes by Taane Samuel with three minutes left, would give Wellington their first lead of the game since the start of the third quarter – before Hilliard restored the lead with a three of his own, quickly followed by another bucket.
The Airs would hold on for the 111-105 win, keeping them firmly in the top four position, while the Saint’s eighth loss of the season puts their own hopes of place in the top six in further jeopardy.
SCORE: Saints 67, Airs 88
Saints: Cooks 32 PTS & 9 REB | Smith 27 PTS & 9 ASS| Samuel 16 PTS & 4 REB | Vodanovich 14 PTS | Tuffin 8 PTS
Airs: Hilliard 41 PTS & 7 REB | Douglas 21 PTS & 8 REB & 7 ASS | Willett 20 PTS & 8 REB | Davison 11 PTS | Jones 9 PTS & 4 REB |
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Anthony Hilliard (Airs) - 10 votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 8 votes
Javonte Douglas (Airs) - 6 votes
Shaun Willett (Airs) - 4 votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 2 votes
Wellington Saints – 10 July vs. Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Airs – Wed 6 July vs. Franklin Bulls