Mika Vukona is on his way back to New Zealand after his Lebanese club side Byblos was swept by rivals Al Riyadi in their semi final series. Trailing 2-0 in the best of five series Byblos came up just short losing game three 73-70 and were therefore eliminated from the play-offs.
Despite trailing 40-32 at half time and 53-48 entering the final period Byblos certainly didn’t surrender without a fight. In fact they led by two points inside the final three minutes but couldn’t execute down the stretch, losing by just three points. Vukona scored 14 points in the game, his fourth appearance for Byblos – he accumulated 49 points in the four games.
Vukona along with Byblos and Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic head back to New Zealand to prepare for the international campaign beginning in early July. It remains to be seen if Vukona will suit up again for the Nelson Giants again this season.
Mixed news for Puerto Rico based Gary Wilkinson this week. The power forward had a double double of 19 points/13 rebounds but his team Vaqueros de Bayamon lost 79-78 to Indios de Mayaguez the club he left last month. Bayamon (14-10) sit 5th on the ladder in the Puerto Rican league.
Former Breaker Phill Jones, played his 362nd NBL game last Friday against the Manawatu Jets. In so doing Jones set a new record for NBL games played, passing the mark set by Willie Burton. Breakers Development player Alonzo Burton (son of Willie) was in the the Jets line up but it was Jones who enjoyed the occasion the most, the Giants winning 91-82 to celebrate the milestone and move to second on the NBL ladder.
Reuben Te Rangi went from the penthouse to the outhouse in 48 hours last week. On Thursday night he starred as the Southland Sharks beat the Waikato Pistons 82-66 in Hamilton. He scored 28 points including 4 from 8 three points efforts and also did an outstanding defensive job on Pistons import Akeem Wright. 48 hours later in New Plymouth he shot just 1 from 11 field goals scoring just 4 points. The game featured the come back of the season. The Sharks were 65-35 down with 13 minutes to play but came back to win 83-81. Former Breakers Leon Henry (15pts) and Kevin Braswell (17pts) were key contributors for the Sharks who move to 4th on the ladder with a 7-3 record.
Jack Salt has departed for the University of Virginia and will be missing for the remainder of the Waikato Pistons games. He is attending summer school at the University before returning in July to attend the Tall Blacks trials. His former team mates went 1-1 for the week losing to the Sharks but rebounding with a 88-69 win against Nelson Giants on Sunday, Casey Frank 17 points and 8 rebounds.
The NBL’s leading scorer Corey Webster scored 31 points as the Wellington Saints were beaten 114-111 by the James Blond Super City Rangers.
The Rangers followed that up with another win on Sunday hammering the Canterbury Rams 106-81. Duane Bailey continued his good form with a double of 28 points and 19 points, Darryl Corletto averaged 20 points over the two games and Dillon Boucher averaged 9 assists and also pulled down his 2000th NBL career rebound.