Johnny Fesolai Powers Birdmen to Second Win

In something of an upset The Birdmen recorded just their second win in the Mexicali Fresh Summer Jam, overcoming Youthtown Clique 121-119.

The Clique powered by another strong performance from their captain Lindsay Tait were ahead 95-86 at threequarter time but a 9-2 run from The Birdmen breathed life into the contest. The outstanding Johnny Fesolai sparked the run with six straight points. Tait replied with a couple of triples to keep his team ahead but a Casey Frank ‘and one’ play, followed by a neat Derone Raukawa jump shot, meant the teams were level 112-112 with 2:45 to go.

Patrich Bolstad fouled out attempting to stop a Chris Fahrensohn score and although Shea Ili sunk a pair of freebies another neat finish from Raukawa kept The Birdmen flying – ahead 119-117 inside the last minute.

Duane Bailey missed an outside shot for Youthtown Clique but a poor box-out allowed Bailey to finish off his own rebound to tie the scores 119 apiece with 24 seconds left on the clock. Raukawa was fouled with 7 seconds remaining and coolly sank both free throws to put his team two points clear. The Clique advanced possesion courtesy of a time out and although The Birdmen gave up a foul on Ili he could not convert the resulting free throws, The Birdmen hanging on for a much needed victory.

Final score; The Birdmen 121 (Fesolai 32pts/10 rebounds/6 steals, Nash Oh 19, Fahrensohn 18, Frank 18 Youthtown Clique 119 (Tait 40, Ili 22, Jaylen Gerrand 16, Bolstad 16, Bailey 12)

Tohi Smith-Milner replaced Inga Solofuti (returned to Christchurch) in the Block City Brawlers team and Dillon Boucher was confirmed as a permanent signing for the Flava Flyers who may be without the injured Nick Barrow for the remainder of the competition.

Boucher was on the scoresheet from the opening tip and when Jarrod Kenny knocked down a pair of threes the Flyers had raced to a 8-0 lead. Things didn’t go to plan thereafter for the Flyers – Jack Salt piled in 12 first quarter points to give the Brawlers a 32-27 advantage, Jarrod Kenny rolled an ankle and hobbled out of the game and by half time the Brawlers were ahead 57-46.

The highlight of the third quarter was a Salt jam off a Paul Henare lob pass followed by an emphatic Smith-Milner dunk on the next offense. Hayden Allen scored 10 consecutive points for the Flyers midway through the period but the Brawlers appeared in complete control, 88-74 to the good at three quarter time.

They still held a healthy lead with six minutes to go but when Sam Everitt converted from beyond the three point arc on consecutive plays and Allen added another triple, the Flyers were closing in a rush. Henare steadied the Brawlers with a jumper followed by a free throw but when Allen scored with a trademark back door cut off a Boucher pass the lead to the Brawlers was just four points, 102-98 with 2:20 remaining. However, that was as close as it got. Houston O’Riley converted from the foul line and Salt capped a fine performance with a pair of baskets to seal the win for the Block City Brawlers. They join the Youthtown Clique at the top of the standings with two rounds remaining.

Final score; Flava Flyers 102 (Allen 31, Everitt 21, Anamata Haku 21) Block City Brawlers 112 (Salt 33, O’Riley 25, Alonzo Burton 23, Smith-Milner 18, Henare 10)

Standings after 10 rounds

7-3 Youthtown Clique

7-3 Block City Brawlers

4-6 Flava Flyers

2-8 The Birdmen

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