Bulls topple Sharks in NZNBL nail-biter

IT was an unpredictable game from start to finish, with the momentum-swinging New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) contest eventually going the way of the Franklin Bulls, defeating Southland Sharks by four points. In a battle between two undefeated sides, the Bulls looked to be home early in the third term by building a 14-point lead, only for the Sharks to storm home. Though Southland was in front even late in the last term, the final few minutes belonged to the Bulls who capitalised with the 79-75 victory in front of home fans.

FRANKLIN BULLS 17 | 25 | 16 | 21 (79)
SOUTHLAND SHARKS 22 | 10 | 25 | 18 (75)

Statistically the Bulls and Sharks were fairly even, with the turnovers being a crucial aspect of the game. The visitors committed 26 turnovers to the Bulls’ 16 throughout the game, and it hurt their chances given generally their work off the boards and accuracy from the field was far superior. It came down to the Sharks bigs against the Bulls playmakers, with the latter winning out. By the final buzzer, the Bulls had comfortably won the assist count 15-12, as well as the steals (12-7) and unsurprisingly delivered more points from turnovers (24-10).

The Sharks on the other hand shot more accurately from the field (50 to 47 per cent) and had an impressive 64 per cent success rate from two-point range. Due to the turnovers, the Sharks had far fewer opportunities, with eight less overall shots, including seven less from the two-point region. They also pulled 42 rebounds to 28 in the match, with that result showing in both the points in the paint (44-40) and the second chance points (10-9), though it was not enough to get it done. With 13 lead changes throughout the contest, it was fair to say either of these sides could have taken home the points, but it was the Bulls’ defensive work across the court that got it done.

Earning a full 10 Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes, Bulls guard Jayden Bezzant had himself a day out, firing off a match-high 28 points (10 of 18 from the field including three of five from long-range), eight assists, three rebounds and four steals in an all-round performance. Forward Leon Henry (13 points, nine rebounds and two steals) did most of his best work from beyond the arc with three makes from five attempts as well, whilst being the dominant Bulls’ rebounder. Anzac Rissetto aided in that way, picking up five rebounds to go with his 11 points, recorded two steals and one block, but also five turnovers.

Mojave King again starred coming off the bench, totalling up 25 points – nine of 14 from the field and two from five from three-point range – as well as six rebounds and two assists. Dom Kelman-Poto (13 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks) did it all, but like Risetto, Kelman-Poto also committed plenty of turnover (game-high six). Brayden Inger (11 points, nine rebounds) stood tall off the boards in the loss.

Southland Sharks have the quick turnaround against Manawatu Jets today in a bid to bounce back, whilst Franklin Bulls have a week’s break until tackling the Nelson Giants on Saturday, May 14.

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