IN a clash between the ladder’s bookends, Auckland Tuatara claimed a dominant win over the Manawatu Jets on Monday afternoon. The two sides locked horns at Eventfinda Stadium, in a match that was shaping up to be pretty one sided. Despite getting a win on Sunday, the Jets were not expected to get up here, especially given how strong the Tuatara have been to start the year with a record of five wins and just one loss.
The Tuatara ended up being far too strong, showcasing why they are a class above many of their peers and justifying their spot at the top of the standings. They were clinical in storming away to a scoreboard advantage in pretty fast fashion, and Manuwatu simply could not keep up on either end of the court. In the end, the home side ended up cruising home to a 28-point triumph as they firmed their position at the head of the table. On the other hand, the Jets remained at the bottom of the ladder as their record dropped to one win and five losses.
Auckland Tuatara (87) def. Manawatu Jets (59)
In a slow start to the game on the scoring front, it was a pretty close affair in the first few minutes of the opening term. Both sides were trading hard-fought buckets and at the conclusion of the first term, the Turatara led by two points after a late charge helped them retake the lead after the Jets went on a bit of a run. Quarter number two was a bit more one-sided, as Auckland broke away in the final few minutes behind a scoring blitz that contained buckets from inside and outside. Dontae Russo-Nance was a big spark, scoring seven points in a row and helping his side jump out to an 11-point lead at the main change of play.
The Jets tried to mount a charge to start the second half, but it was short-lived as the Tuatara began to slowly but surely extend their lead. Their ball movement and efficiency proved far too much for the opposition, who could not get their offensive rhythm going down the other end. The lead ballooned out to 20+ points in the final few minutes of the term, as Auckland truly began to flex its muscles and demonstrate its strength. In the fourth term, things began as a bit more of an arm-wrestle, with the Jets fighting back and matching the offensive output of the opposition. However, they could not maintain this, as the Tuatara began to wrestle back the offensive momentum they gathered in the previous two quarters. The result was sealed early in the term as Auckland managed to finish the game with a pretty nice percentage booster.
As has been the case with Auckland for much of the year, there were a number of contributors in the win. Russo-Nance led the way with a team-high 17 points, while Chris Johnson notched up a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds and Robert Loe did something similar with 12 points and 14 boards of his own. For the Jets, Robert Crawford fought hard with 19 points and was an offensive spark all day despite the loss.