A MASSIVE 29 points to 11 in the second term of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) has resulted in Canterbury Rams moving up to second on the table after seeing off the challenge of Taranaki Mountainairs by 12 points at TSB Stadium. The Airs held a five-point lead the first change, but an incredible 29-11 second quarter turned the tables on the result. Though it was even in the second half, the damage was done and the Airs secured the 87-75 victory.
TARANANKI AIRS 21 | 11 | 21 | 22 (75)
CANTERBURY RAMS 16 | 29 | 20 | 22 (87)
Taranaki Airs started off the game well in front of home fans, leading for the entirety of the last term, and by as much as seven points midway through the quarter. They held that equal game-high lead as late as the second term, before the Rams came to play. When Tai Wynyard competed a hookshot a minute into the term, the Airs led 23-16. An immediate response from Mike Karena was followed by baskets to Joe Cook-Green and Sunday Dech, and all of a sudden the rams had hit the front just two minutes later. They ended up scoring 13 consecutive points to lead by six before the Airs responded, but despite the returning efforts of Marcel Jones, the Rams extended it out to a a double-digit lead. By half-time the Rams were 45-32 in front and in control.
That Ram raid continued into the third term, as after the Airs drew within nine points thanks to great work from Haize Walker and Wynyard, the Rams piled on 14 consecutive points at one stage to go from a nine-point lead to a massive 23-point advantage with just over four minutes left in the quarter. A rally from the Airs late in the third saw them cut the deficit to 12 by the final break, still a big job, but had stemmed the flow. Then they made their move. Four consecutive baskets from four different players – Jones, Walker, Wynyard and Richie Rodger reduced the deficit to just four points with two minutes down in the final quarter. Luckily for the visiting fans, Ryan Taylor took centre stage with a ridiculous eight-point purple patch including two long-range bombs. From that point on, the Airs could only get within nine points, and a late triple from Cook-Green helped the Rams to a 12-point victory, 87-75.
Canterbury Rams had 12 more shots from the field than their opponents, but struggled from inside the arc (44 to 60 per cent), though luckily their high volume of changes gave them more opportunities and they nailed 12 triples to Taranaki’s six. They also led the assists (26-17), blocks (3-2), and the key difference was in the steals with a whopping 17-2. That resulted in Taranaki committing 23 turnovers to the Rams’ seven, and the Rams punishing them by putting up 31 points to eight from turnovers. It was not all bad news for the Airs though, controlling the rebounds (42-38) with the return of Jones, whilst also recording more points in the paint (40-26) and second chance points (16-8).
There were plenty of even contributors across the board, with the Rams’ Cook-Green picking up the highest Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes thanks to his 21 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals. Also catching the eye were Dech (10 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and six steals) who stuffed the stat sheet, Taylor (15 points, three of seven from long-range) and Max Darling (15 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks). Wynyard (15 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks) was the pick of the Airs, though no doubt he was the most relieved to have his partner-in-crime, Jones (14 points, 13 rebounds and two assists) back on court. Walker (15 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Rodger (12 points – three of four from beyond the arc – five assists and three rebounds) also managed double-figure points tallies.
Both these sides face off next on May 21, with Canterbury Rams taking on Nelson Giants, whilst the Taranaki Airs lock horns with Southland Sharks.