Following the Waikato Pistons tense 69-64 victory over the HSB Hawks the NBL round 10 focus shifted to Napier. The Hawks had to quickly regroup for a home tie against the Taranaki Mountain Airs the following night. Captain Paora Winitana scored eight first quarter points to give the Hawks a 25-20 advantage. Kenny Gabriel showed great athleticism at both end of the court in the second period helping the Airs to even the contest 42-42 at half time. The Airs cause was not helped when Gabriel was forced to the bench after picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter – he would foul out later after playing just 23 minutes.
Jarrod Kenny scored seven consecutive points for the Hawks and Dion Prewster nailed a three on the buzzer to give the Hawks a 73-65 lead with ten minutes to play. The Hawks failed to score in the opening four minutes of the final period but still led 78-74 with 4:08 remaining and although it was scrappy at times they held on to win 86-79 for a much needed win, just their fourth of the season. Prewster (21pts) and Brian Greene (17pts/10rebounds) were the best for the Hawks, the Airs getting good value out of Aaron Bailey-Nowell and the improving Ethan Rusbatch who scored 16 points apiece.
The James Blond Super City Rangers had a disruptive build up to their game against Nelson Giants on Saturday night. The Rangers were due to play the Saints in Wellington on Friday night but their flight was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions in the capital. The disruption didn’t seem to affect the Rangers early on, as they trailed by just a single point at quarter time and were still in touch at half time, 42-56. Nelson’s imports Josh Pace and Erron Maxey dominated the home team’s offensive output scoring 40 points between them in the half. The Rangers shaded the third period 19-17 but ran out of steam in the final quarter losing 97-84. Pace with a season high 35 points and Maxey (23pts) were the only Nelson players to reach double figures but Mika Vukona did secure 14 rebounds to go with his 8 points. Once again the guard trio of Carl Buck, Houston O’Riley and Shea Ili led the Rangers scoring.An astounding half time score-line emerged from snowy Invercargill – Southland Sharks 60- Otago Nuggets 30, the home town on fire shooting 56% from the field (22/39), led by Reuben Te Rangi with 19 points. Te Rangi couldn’t buy a basket against the Rangers last week but he showed his true ability in this encounter. Matters didn’t improve for the league leaders in the second half as they found themselves 90-44 behind at three-quarter time, eventually defeated 114-67. The Nuggets premier scoring duo of BJ Anthony and Akeem Wright were held to a collective 19 points more than 50% down on their usual output. The Sharks, led by the consistent Brian Conklin (27pts) had six players in double figures as they took their winning sequence to five, sending their full house support home happy.
In Palmerston North the TBH Jets entertained the Waikato Pistons in the final game of the round needing to win their last three games to have any hope of making the play-offs. The Pistons established an early 11-4 advantage but the Jets had eradicated that by quarter time and tied the game at 21-21. Centres Zack Atkinson and Nick Horvath were having a battle royal, both recording 10 points but Atkinson shading the rebounding count 8-4 and the Pistons shading the half 46-42. Marco Alexander was also prominent for the Pistons with 9 points including two threes. Garrius Holloman, playing against the team that released him earlier in the season made an athletic baseline drive to keep the visitors ahead 55-50 but a 12-2 run from the Jets got the home crowd excited and their team in front. The momentum remained with the Jets as they established a 66-61 three quarter time lead. The advantage quickly ballooned to 79-68 early in the final period as the Pistons offence struggled to break down the 2-3 zone of the Jets. A Holloman triple followed by a free throw with two minutes remaining got the Pistons back within five points (84-79). However they gave up a transition basket to Jeremiah Trueman and despite a couple of free throws from Webster and a basket in traffic from Ana Haku the Jets held their nerve and recorded a much needed 87-83 win. Horvath (27pts) and Marcel Jones (16pts) were prominent for the Jets. Atkinson (21pts) and Webster (16pts) paced the Pistons and Holloman also scored 21 points for the Pistons but put up 22 shots in the process.
The Jets host the Southland Sharks next Friday, June 28 in a game that could well decide the final make up of the 2013NBL semi finalists.