SAINTS CRUISE PAST RANGERS

Lindsay Tait

The rearranged fixture between the Wellington Saints and the James Blond Super City Rangers kick started round 11 of the NBL. The game was cancelled four days earlier due to the extreme weather conditions in the capital that caused most flights into the city to be cancelled. Live streaming enabled many observers to get their first look at new Saints recruit Rick Rickert, playing in the NBL for the first time since 2010 when he turned out for the Harbour Heat. In that season Rickert averaged 18.2ppg and 9.1rpg, figures he looks likely to replicate in his second season in the league as he completed a double double of 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Second on the ladder versus last looked like a mismatch and so it proved as the Saints raced to an early 20-3 advantage, Lindsay Tait helping himself to 11first quarter points. A Houston O’Riley triple was the only scoring success for the Rangers in the opening seven minutes. Credit to the Rangers, they did stop the bleeding a little as the game progressed but with a 59-44 advantage the way of the home side at half time, the game was all but over as a contest. With Rickert and Bryant Markson dominating the glass, Corey Webster (23 points) and Tait (22 points/8 assists) picking holes in the Rangers defence, the Saints were in cruise mode. Guard Shea Ili (16pts/7 rebounds) was a shining light for the Aucklanders but their14 turnovers in the half didn’t help their cause.

Dillon Boucher missed the game due to suspension but it made little  difference to the Saints who eased their way to a healthy 81-64 lead at the end of the third period. An impressive Ili dunk following a steal got the Rangers under way in the final quarter but they were unable to put much of a dent in the hosts lead. With the Saints starters sitting on the bench the game became very loose in the final minutes enabling the Rangers to exercise some damage control courtesy of double digit contributions from Ili, O’Riley, Carl Buck, Chris Fahrensohn, Patrich Bolstad and Jack Salt. However, the Saints, playing the first of three games in six days would have been pleased to complete a comfortable 107-87 win and keep plenty of energy in the tank for the testing encounters against Nelson Giants and the Otago Nuggets later in the week.

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