Giants defeat depleted Rams to earn top two spot

IT might have been a tighter contest than many envisioned coming into last night, but Nelson Giants came away with the 11-point victory over Canterbury Rams to secure a top two spot in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) finals. The gallant Rams came in without four of their best players, but managed to keep in touch with the Giants, and even lead at stages early before the Giants pulled away in the second half to win, 85-74 at Christchurch Arena.

CANTERBURY RAMS 20 | 18 | 17 | 19 (74)
NELSON GAINTS 19 | 22 | 23 | 21 (85)

As the season winds down, the ladder-leading Nelson Giants have set the pace, hardly faulting throughout the year and now hold a 12-4 record and to guarantee a bye in the first round of finals. The latest victim of the Giants season was the Canterbury Rams who battled hard but ultimately lost which sent them down to eighth and needing some luck in the last couple of games to make the Final 6. The challenge of taking on the competition’s best side was made all the more challenging for the Rams given they were missing Taylor Britt, Max Darling, Sam Smith and Sunday Dech who were all absent for various reasons.

Despite the key omissions, the Rams started the game strongly to race out to a 9-2 lead courtesy of Matthew Moyer and Joe Cook-Green. It took a special first term from Samuel Thompson – who nailed his side’s first 10 points and a total of 15 for the quarter – to keep the top side in touch at the break, trailing only by a point. That was all they needed to weather the Rams storm and start on the counter attack themselves, winning the second term 22-18 to take a three-point lead into half-time. Trey Mourning and Nic Trathen were busy, as Larry Austin teamed up well with Moyer to ensure the Rams did not go away.

It took until the second half for the Giants to finally shake off the Rams, and actually blew the lead right out to double-digits late in the third term. The Rams never threw in the towel to cut it to just two points with six minutes to play in the last quarter, as Walter Brown nailed a handy hookshot. The top-end talent of Mourning and Jarrod West – and the cameo of Sam Dempster – ensured the favourites got home by 11 points, 85-74 in a hard-fought contest.

Thompson amassed 27 points for the game, including four of 10 from beyond the arc, also pulling in eight rebounds and having five assists and two steals. Mourning (22 points, 12 rebounds) managed a huge double-double, while West (14 points including three of eight from long-range) contributed late. Austin (21 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two steals) was enormous in the loss, with Moyer (11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks) also managing a double-double. Brown (19 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Cook-Green (12 points, seven assists and two rebounds) drained seven of 18 from beyond the arc.

Canterbury Rams have a chance to bounce back against Southland Sharks on July 30, while Nelson Giants lock horns with Wellington Saints in a massive clash on August 2.

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