Rams bounce back to stun Saints

AFTER suffering defeat the night before, Canterbury Rams bounced back to defeat Wellington Saints by six points in Round 4 of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). The mid-afternoon clash at TSB Arena saw the Rams take the early advantage, and then fend off a huge third quarter comeback from the Saints to steady and run out 95-89 victors on the road.

WELLINGTON SAINTS 18 | 26 | 25 | 20 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 25 | 23 | 24 | 23 (95)

Canterbury Rams flew out of the blocks in the first quarter to take a seven-point lead, 25-18. The Saints had kept in touch for the most part, even drawing with two points when Jordan Ngatai made both his free throws, but then the last five points went the way of the Rams with Sunday Dech (two) and Sam Smith (three) closing out the quarter for the visitors.

The Rams started the second term strong, piling on eight consecutive points after Tom Vodanovich – playing in his first game for the Saints – nailed a three-pointer. Along with Dech and Smith, the likes of Joe Cook-Green and Makur Maker were heating up. After the lead ballooned out to as much as 12 points at one stage, the Saints were able to chew into the deficit, with the likes of Michael Smith and Ken Tuffin nailing three-pointers and level the scores with 1:14 left in the half. A dunk from Maker and then jumper from Taylor Britt ensured the Rams head into the main break with a four-point lead.

Up for the fight, the Saints continued to come, as Taane Samuel and Smith put the Saints in front early in the third term, scoring 14 of the first 18 points. The lead had extended out to six and looked like the home side would runaway with it, but Ryan Taylor had other ideas, sinking a triple which caught on with Maker also nailing a long-range jump shot to tie it up again. The teams traded baskets – and the lead – with it see-sawing one way and then the other. Though the Saints looked like heading into the first break with the upper hand, the Rams scored eight of the last 10 points to lead 72-69 at the last change.

It was the visitors who started the stronger of the sides in the final term, scoring 13 of the first 17 points to effectively put the icing on the cake. Maker continued his remarkable shooting run, with Max Darling getting in on the act. Samuel and Ngatai tried their best to lift the team, but it was an uphill battle as the Rams kept them at arms length. The last five points of the match – off the back of some Rams turnovers – meant the Saints cut the final deficit to six after it looked like being a double-digit game, but it meant kittle in the end with the Rams triumphing by six points, 95-89.

Maker was sensational stepping up, shooting at 100 per cent from six shots, making up 16 points and 13 rebounds. He was one of with seven Rams who reached double-figures, as Darling (18 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) and Mike Karena (13 points, seven rebounds) also influenced off the boards. Dech (13 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals) was impressive, as was Cook-Green (10 points, six assists and two rebounds). Samuel racked up with points for the Saints, managing 30, along with seven rebounds. Vodanovich achieved a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Ngatai (16 points, five rebounds and four assists) was also big.

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