By Murray McKinnon
The Wellington Saints clinced an NBL play-off spot with a 108-91 win over the James Blond Supercity Rangers at AUT, North Shore on Saturday evening.
Wellington were able to set the tone at the beginning, winning the first quarter by nine after a run of eight unanswered points and then winning both the second and third periods increasing their lead to 17. The Saints continued to pound the Rangers and three quarters through the final 10 minutes were out to 102-80.
It was the third win for the Saints over the Rangers this season and they were led by their leading scorer Torrey Craig who had a game high 30 to go along with nine rebounds and seven assists. Benny Anthony Jr had a big game with a season high 26 points which included 4/5 three pointers. Point guard Shea Ili also got in on the action with 19 points and seven assists for the Saints who have won six in a row with an 11-3 record.
The Rangers were led by their league leading scorer Eric Devendorf who scored 25. Lindsay Tait tallied 18 points, five rebounds and five assists against his former side, and Mika Vukona added 12. It was a relatively quiet night for former Saint Corey Webster who had 15 points on 4/14 shooting.
The loss puts the Rangers at 9-6, but they will have a chance to inch closer to the final four with their next game being in Whangarei on Friday 20 May against the Taranaki Mountainairs (5-9).
Kevin Braswell, 2010 Breakers player, who is coach of the Saints said despite the win his team has yet to show its best.
“We still have things to work on. We haven’t played our best basketball yet but we’re getting there. We don’t want to be playing our best basketball till the last two weeks. So hopefully next week we’ll play a better game,” he said.
As well as having an excellent shooting percentage during the game Braswell said that defence was also important.
“What I’ve been focussing on with these guys, not just playing one end, we don’t just score we actually play defence and we defend well. My whole aim coming into this game as the one number one scoring team in the League they have some great players on their team so for me it was just making sure that we come in here with a defensive mind sense instead of offence and the guys did a hell of a job tonight,” he added.
“They’re a good team and what I have been watching and witnessing since Corey came they haven’t lost a game so for me it was just making sure we took away the strengths to their team and try and hold them into a half court and we did a good job.”
Jeff Green, coach of the Ranges, lamented the Saints impressive shooting percentage in the first half and the standard of the refereeing.
“They shot the ball 72 per cent in the first half, and that’s where we lost it. I didn’t think we played bad defence in that first half, but they shot the ball 72 per cent. The last time we got an arse kicking like this was when Canterbury (April 23, 112-102) shot the ball 70 per cent in the second half. You can’t give a team like the Saints that much of a head start,” said Green.