Sharks upset Airs to leapfrog Jets

THOUGH their Final 6 aspirations may be done and dusted, Southland Sharks were able to leapfrog Manawatu Jets to get off the bottom of the ladder after defeating Taranaki Mountainairs by seven points last night. The Round 13 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) clash at ILT Stadium resulted in the Airs getting off to a fantastic start, before the Sharks circled in the second half to run out 81-74 victors in front of home fans.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS 13 | 15 | 28 | 25 (81)
TARANAKI AIRS 19 | 21 | 19 | 15 (74)

It was a tale of two halves for the Sharks and Airs who engaged in a fierce battle at ILT Stadium with Southland on the bottom of the ladder coming into the match, while Taranaki was third and hoping to get past second placed Auckland Tuatara. It looked like all was going to plan early as the Airs scored 19 points to 13 in the opening term and took a six point lead at quarter time. Though the Sharks lead in the opening few minutes, they struggled to contain the visitors as the advantage blew out to as much as 15 points late in the first half, before the Airs eventually lead by 12 points at half-time.

After the main break everything changed. Slowly but surely the Sharks worked their way back into the contest to pile on the same amount of points in the third term as they had in the first half to double their score from 28 to 56, while the the Airs nervously held a three-point lead. The Sharks had even been able to regain the lead during the third term, but they would not have to wait long in the first before achieving that again.

A strong start in the fourth term from Alonzo Burton and Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape saw the Sharks quickly regain the advantage, cancelling out the work of Anthony Hilliard and Javonte Douglas for the Airs. The teams traded blows throughout the first half of the quarter, and when Shaun Willett made a jump shot with 2:41 on the clock, the Airs had regained the lead, 74-72. From that point on, they could not score, as the Sharks put up the final nine points of the game with Daishon Knight, Brayden Inger and Burton all scoring and leading the Sharks to a memorable seven-point win.

Inger finished with a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds, while it was the long-range shooting of Burton (five of eight from beyond the arc) that helped the Sharks shooter to 17 points, three assists and two rebounds. Knight (21 points, five rebounds and two assists) topped the coring, while Romaro Gill dragged in a mammoth 17 rebounds and produced four blocks, just falling short of a double-double with nine points. Mojave King also contributed 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.

The Airs arguably had the more impressive players as Hillard scored more points than anyone else on the court with 23, including six of 14 from long-range, seven rebounds and three assists. Douglas had a huge double-double, matching Gill’s 17 rebounds, but also producing a statline of 19 points, eight assists, three steals and two blocks in a best on court performance. Willett (10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) also managed a double-double, while Mr Double-Double himself, Marcel Jones did not quite get there with 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists for the Airs in the loss.

Taranaki Mountainairs have a quick turnaround facing the Otago Nuggets tomorrow, while the Southland Sharks also take on the Nuggets, with that clash happening on Wednesday.

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