What We Learned From Round 14

Photo credit: Cameron Walker

Who wants 6th spot?

The race for this year’s Final 6 has literally come down to position number six with the top five locked in (seeding still up for grabs), but who exactly wants that last finals placing is the big question? The Giants, Hawks, Whai and Nuggets continue to trip over themselves- with the Nuggets now out of the picture following their loss to the Saints, though to be fair the Whai are winning games unlike the Giants and Hawks. If the Whai beat the Saints this Wednesday, and the Hawks beat the Bulls on Thursday, it will be a very nervous Giants team hitting the floor at home against the ‘nothing-to-lose’ Nuggets on Friday. The bad news for the Giants is they have stunk it up at home this season, losing seven games at the Trafalgar Centre, including their last five. If they can’t reverse that form this week then it paves the way for a potential do-or-die clash in Taranaki the week after.

Bulls Hit The Skids

A memorable overtime win in Wellington back in R12 seems a distant memory for the Bulls, because since then they have lost three games on the bounce and almost certainly have blown their chance at hosting a home final. The drop in form is hard to explain. The latest losses came against the lowly Whai and a Tuatara team missing three starters. While the Whai game was a dagger, especially with a former Bull (Jayden Bezzant) dropping the game winner on the buzzer, the loss to the Tuatara came with lots of worrying signs. As good as Luther Muhammad was (41 points), he put up 31 of his team’s 71 shots and really couldn’t help get anyone else going. While Isaac Davidson scored 15 points, it was grim reading from there with Sam Timmins (2 points), Josh Scott (4 points) and Lee Skinner (8 points) all struggling. The Bulls need to find some better form in a hurry if they want to realise championship aspirations.

Big Performers Wow The Fans

No shortage of stellar individual performances in R14 with Luther Muhammad (41 points), Dan Grida (40 points), Cal McRae (22 points, 21 rebounds, 11 assists), Ben Ayre (26points, 10 assists) and Lachie Olbrich (30 points, 18 rebounds versus Jets) all putting on a show, amongst many others. Big crowds in Wellington, Nelson and New Plymouth enjoyed the back end of Fan Appreciation Round. Looks like we are just starting to get warmed up for home finals during this year’s Final 6 where sell-outs are expected across the country. 

The Rams Buzzsaw Is Razor Sharp

Mark it down - the Rams have now tallied 15 straight wins, including the last four by margins of 27 (Jets), 28 (Airs), 25 (Saints) and 41 (Jets). And they’ve done all of this while suffering a few injuries along the way. The rise of the Isaac brothers (Kaia and Tama), the reliability of Max Darling and Aidan Tonge, and the return of form to Taki Fahrensohn is aiding a dynamic starting unit that barely has a weakness. Lachie Olbrich must now be in the frame for League MVP, while Taylor Britt has certainly moved into contention for the All-Star 5 and Most Improved Player. As good as the championship-winning Rams were last year, this looks a better, more dynamic and deeper team. Bring on the Final 6 – Rams fans can’t wait.

Charlie And The Buckets Factory

What a luxury for the Tuatara. With Tom Vodanovich, Corey Webster and Reuben Te Rangi all away on national team duty you could forgive the Aucklanders for slipping up a little, but the increased roles and responsibilities for Charlie Dalton, Braydon Iuli and Tukaha Cooper have literally been seamless. No other team in the Sal’s NBL enjoys access to young talent and depth as the Tuatara do, it is a distinct advantage and (credit due) they are using it to maximum effect. Both Dalton and Iuli are amateurs as well, so they don’t make a scratch, let alone a dent, on the team’s salary cap. Once more the star duo got the job done in R14, this time combining for 45 of their team’s 89 points to grab a win at the Stockyard.

Rapid League Keeps Setting Records

The overwhelming success of the Sky Broadband Rapid League has been one of the big talking points in 2024 and it reached another new high in Nelson on Sunday night when the Giants (53) and Sharks (47) combined to deliver a record score of 100 points. That’s quite an achievement in just 16 minutes of basketball. Earlier in the day the Jets (45) and Rams (48) combined for 93 points. Rapid League is living up to its name – fast and furious, and packed with entertainment. Aston Inwood (Giants) was the latest player to break the 20-point scoring mark with his 22 (Scott Telfer from the Sharks also scored 20 in the same game), leading the Giants to another win, and also helping them to lock down the inaugural championship crown. Congrats Giants!

JB With The Buzzer Beater

A story for Jayden Bezzant to tell his family one day … I once played for this team called the Franklin Bulls and in my last year there I got shuffled down the bench and didn’t play as much I used to … then a new team called the Whai came along and I had a chance to move home to Tauranga … and they even made me captain … in the first season the Bulls came to town, they were having a good season and had a chance to grab a home final if they beat us … it was a tough game, the Whai against the Bulls, and scores were level with barely a second or two to play … the crowd was on the edge of their seats … we had the ball on the sideline, I started down near the basket, then ran up high and caught the pass … there was barely half a second left in the game … I turned and shot the ball from a long way out, from a really long way out … and it was nothing but net … a three-pointer on the buzzer to win the game … sweet … see you later Bulls.


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