Imports give Taranaki Air to defeat Sharks

A COUPLE of key inclusions for the struggling Taranaki Mountainairs helped the side win its second game of the year, defeating Southland Sharks by 11 points in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night. The Airs welcomed in Anthony Hilliard and Javonte Douglas as imports for a much-needed win, as the pair put up a combined 41 points in the Airs’ 97-86 triumph over the highly fancied Sharks.

TARANAKI AIRS 22 | 24 | 25 | 26 (97)
SOUTHLAND SHARKS 18 | 20 | 29 | 19 (86)

Taranaki Mountainairs largely controlled play throughout the match, but did have a bit of early resistance from the Sharks, who lead by as much as four points midway through the first term. In the final five minutes of the opening term, the Airs scored 11 points to three and came away with the four-point lead at the first break. At that point the imports had combined for just the eight points, but they were about to get busy.

The Airs just kept answering any challenge thrown at them by the Sharks, not allowing Southland to get any momentum as Tai Wynyard and Carlin Davison were also contributing. For the Sharks, Brayden Inger and Mojave King were doing their best, but they still lost the quarter by four yet again to trail by eight at the main break. At one point in the third term it looked as though the Sharks were about to run over the Airs as King and Dom Kelman-Poto drew them within a point with 2:44 on the clock. The next seven points went the way of the Airs, and though the Sharks did win the quarter by four, the Airs were still on top by four points at the final break.

Yet again the Sharks drew within a point early in the fourth, as Romaro Gill only shot one of two from the charity stripe which would have levelled the scores in the opening minute. Instead, the Airs through Wynyard and Richie Rodger scored the next 10 points of the match and were soon out to a double-digit buffer yet again. The Sharks could not close the gap to below nine throughout the match, and despite some spirited scoring at times from Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape, the Airs triumphed by 11 points, 97-86.

Taranaki Airs controlled most of the statistics with a stronger hold over rebounds (48-36), steals (10-4) and second chance points (15-7), while also making the most of 18 turnovers apiece to score 24 points to 12, the ultimate difference between the sides. The Sharks were more efficient from the field though, scoring at a 46 per cent clip, and 56 per cent from inside the arc, but the sheer volume of shots from the Airs (84-62) was always going to cause issues for the visitors.

Hilliard racked up 28 points in 32 minutes, draining five of 11 from long-range, and recording six assists and three rebounds for his trouble coming off the bench. Douglas (14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists) stepped up to the plate alongside Wynyard (19 points, 13 rebounds) as the pair collected double-doubles. King (28 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Inger (20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks) were the best of the Sharks.

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