The SAS National Basketball Championship for Men featured Waitakere Rangers and Porirua.
The Rangers boasted four former Tall Blacks, one of them Tohi Smith-Milner making the opening basket. Another, Hayden Allen, was forced to the bench in the opening couple of minutes with a leg injury. He was replaced by Carl Buck who immediately knocked down a triple.
Porirua, boosted by the inclusion of Jordan Ngatai back from the Breakers road trip to Invercargill, traded points with the hosts. The athletic Hyrum Hippolite edging Porirua ahead 18-17 at the end of the first quarter.
Allen returned for the second quarter and soon made a classy drive, adding the bonus free throw, to give Waitakere the lead 22-18. After a Porirua timeout Allen continued his good scoring form with a reverse layup and another and one play to stretch the lead to ten points. Porirua got their scoring moving again from the foul line following a Casey Frank technical foul.
Smith-Milner cancelled out a Randall Bishop score. A Ray Cameron steal and breakaway lay up drew Porirua within two points before Smith-Milner further increased the Waitakere advantage. The half ended with an emphatic Ngatai dunk followed at the other end of the court by a long two from Frank as the shot clock sounded.
Waitakere led a low scoring first half 35-30 – Smith Milner led all scorers with 13 points, Ngatai the best for Porirua with 10 points.
Hippolite made a steal immediately followed by a triple to tie the scores early in the second half. Dillon Boucher exited proceedings for a while after picking up his third foul.
Ray Cameron snaffled steals on consecutive defensive plays and his free throws at the offensive end edged Porirua ahead 39-38. Bishop made a nice inside move but a pair of free throws from Carl Buck and a triple from Daniel Green restored the Waitakere advantage.
A Hippolite break away basket prompted a Jeff Green timeout, his Rangers team 47-49 behind with a touch under three minutes remaining in the period. Casey Frank’s reverse lay up was countered by Jordan Ngatai but a Cameron triple brought a cheer from the crowd and extended the Porirua advantage to 56-49 with a quarter remaining.
Waitakere began the final period with a 6-0 run before Bishop scored a triple followed by free throws to keep Porirua ahead 61-57. Frank was rested after picking up a fourth foul enabling Ngatai and Cameron to boss the boards and extend their lead to 65-57. Coach Green reinstated Frank almost immediately and he assisted Buck make back-to-back baskets – 2:31 to play Porirua ahead 65-61 – timeout.
Ngatai extended the lead before a Frank hook shot brought it back to a four-point game. Inside the last 90 seconds Frank was sent sprawling before scoring the resulting free throws – 67-65.
Hippolite scored, Cameron grabbed a steal, but a turnover gifted possession back to Waitakere with 35 seconds left allowing coach Green to rally his troops via a timeout. The drawn up play failed, Cameron grabbed another important rebound. Hippolite missed a pair of free throws to ice the game but a Waitakere turnover eased their worries, Hippolite making no mistake with his next visit to the charity stripe to close out a 71-67 victory.
Porirua 71 – Ngatai 19p/14rebs, Hippolite 16p, Cameron 12p/9rebs, Bishop 11p
Waitakere 67 – Frank 18p/13r, Smith-Milner 18p/11r, Allen 13p