The Steelformers Taranaki Mountainairs have secured their first win of the Sal's NBL season, and did they do in style! In front of another vocal home audience, the Airs built an early lead over the Go Media Otago Nuggets and never looked back, winning comfortably 91-62.
Backing up from an overtime victory in Palemerston North the previous night, coupled with resting Sam Timmins due to a bruising fall in the game against the Jets, the visitors just couldn't get going against a hungry Airs outfit.
Backed by a 29-13 opening period, the Airs led by as much as 35 points, enjoyed 30 points off the bench, helped themselves to 33 points from Nuggets' turnovers, and dominated the paint where they landed 50 points.
Airs Coach Trent Adam would have been rightfully impressed with the depth of contributors, led capably by Marcel Jones (25pts, 10rbs) and Tai Wynyard (18pts).
Playing his first game in new colours, Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape formed a lethal back-court pairing with Haize Walker, the pair combining for 18 points and 15 assists.
For the Nuggets, who just couldn't work their way past a smothering defence, Akiva McBirney-Griffin did shine brightly with 23 points in a starting gig due to the absence of Timmins.
The win helps the Airs off the lower rung of the ladder, leaving just the Jets winless, while the Nuggets return home with a split and a 3-2 overall record.
Taranaki Airs (91) defeated Otago Nuggets (62) - BOXSCORE
Airs: Marcel Jones (25pts & 10rbs), Tai Wynyard (18pts), Haize Walker (10pts & 7ast).
Nuggets: Akiva McBirney-Griffin (23pts), Isaiah Moss (12pts), Robert Coman (7pts & 11rbs).
1. The Airs came in with a defensive plan to smother the Nuggets, especially Isaiah Moss - and it worked. The prolific scorer was held to just 12pts on 25% shooting, going 1/10 from deep. Overall the Nuggets constantly looked under pressure as the Airs successfully turned defence into offence.
2. The recruitment of Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape immediatley paid dividends for the Airs, especially his pairing with Haize Walker. The pair looked a dangerous guard combination every time they were on the court together.
3. With Sam Timmins nursing some bangs after a brutal 29pts & 25rbs performance against the Jets, young Akiva McBirney-Griffin filled the void with a breakout game. He cosntantly looked a threat and seemingly grew with confidence every time an opportunity came his way.
Stuff MVP Votes
Marcel Jones (Airs) 10
Tai Wynyard (Airs) 7
Akiva McBirney-Griffin (Nuggets) 6
Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (Airs) 3
Isaiah Moss (Nuggets) 3
Haize Walker (Airs) 1