THE Nelson Giants have produced a terrific come-from-behind victory in Friday’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action, taking down the Wellington Saints to the tune of three points.
In what proved to be a thrilling finish, the Giants overcame an eight-point deficit in the early stages of the last quarter, to storm home in the closing minutes of the match and emerge victorious in what proved to be a thrilling encounter.
Nelson’s Jarrod West was a man on a mission for the winning side, pouring in a game-high 35 points (12/20 FG) to go with five rebounds, to finish as the most damaging player on the court. Samuel Dempster was also a handy contributor for the Giants, recording a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Alonzo Mourning III had 18 points of his own.
For the Saints, it was an NBL duo that almost conjured a magnificent upset, but fell just short of the mark. Tom Vodanovich led the way with 30 points and nine rebounds, while NBL Finals MVP Xavier Cooks was not too far behind with 23 points of his own as the duo led all day for Wellington in a valiant effort on the road.
Not much separated the two teams in the opening 10 minutes of play, with the lead changing hands on a number of occasions. It was a high-scoring term, with both sides surpassing 20 points in no time at all. A late charge from the Giants saw them take a five-point lead into the first change of play.
Quarter number two saw the home side look to extend the lead even further, but found themselves overwhelmed by a strong run from the opposition. Wellington seemed to find the bottom of the net whenever it pleased, and completely erased the deficit in no time at all. It was a run sparked by the efforts of Vodanovich and Cooks, who formed a damaging one-two punch and gave the Saints an eight-point lead at the main break.
The Saints picked up where the left off in the first half, kicking off the third term with some more lights-out shooting. Their lead shot out to as much as 13 points, and momentum was swinging one way. West helped get his side back in the contest to close out the period, and they trailed by just six points with 10 minutes to play.
Wellington registered the first basket of the final term, and it looked like it was going to close the game out with no issues. However, as their opponents did in the first half, the Giants caught fire from downtown, nailing a number of crucial threes and dragging themselves back into the game. West gave the home side the lead with two minutes to play, and when Vodanovich missed a crucial free throw to tie things up, Nelson was able to hold off its opponents and prevent a major upset.