The opening round of the 2019 Mexicali Fresh Summer Jam, held at HoopQuarters in New Lynn, saw wins for Gauchos and Rail Splitters.
Gauchos, with Junior internationals Jaga Mete (21 points), Sam Mennenga (39 points) and Sean Murphy (19 points) to the fore, always headed an under-strength Birdmen eventually winning 106-95.
To their credit the Birdmen, despite being down 54-42 at half-time, stayed in the contest until the closing couple of minutes.
When Ryan Laumatia knocked down a three Birdmen were only seven points down (95-88) with five minutes to play.
Nate Wilson added further points but Tall Black alumnus Dillon Boucher orchestrated proceedings down the stretch as Gauchos continually went inside to the dominant Mennenga who scored 16 of his game high 39 points in the final period.
Birdmen guard Zach Riley lit up the opening frame draining four consecutive treys, with Jaylen Gerrand the aggressor in the second making a dozen points to keep his team’s score ticking over.
An even third quarter preceded Birdmen’s push for victory in the fourth which was stymied by Mennenga’s dominance.
Gauchos 106– S Mennenga 39, J Mete 21, S Murphy 19, O Hayward 9
Birdmen 95– J Gerrand 28, Z Riley 23, N Wilson 13, T Murray 11, F McClure 11
In the earlier game Rail Splitters earned a 90-87 win against Blue Chips.
That result appeared highly unlikely in the early stages as the perimeter shooting of Kevin Braswell and the inside presence of Dom Kelman-Poto and Zack Te Puni carried Blue Chips to a 33-14 opening quarter advantage.
The Chips lead was still 51-38 at half-time but with Nick Barrow and Shalom Broughton achieving parity on the boards and Tinashe Matambanadzo and Dru Leo Leusage-Ape getting some outside shots to drop the Rail Splitters led 66-61 at three-quarter time.
Kelman-Poto and Joel Vaiagina got busy at the beginning of the fourth to give Blue Chips an 80-79 lead with under four minutes to play.
An eye-catching reverse dunk from Broughton restored Rail Splitters lead and although Braswell and Vaiagina made threes Matambanadzo, and Leusage-Ape made critical plays in the closing two minutes to clinch a meritourious win for the Splitters.
Rail Splitters 90– T Matambanadzo 25, N Barrow 17, S Broughton 14, D Leusage-Ape 14, M Williams-Dunn 11
Blue Chips 87– D Kelman-Poto 26, K Braswell 26, Z Te Puni 11, J Vaiagina 11
The Mexicali Fresh Summer Jam is supported by HoopQuarters, SAS and ABSL.