The two time defending champion Cigna Saints are heading to the Grand Final for the fifth straight year after defeating the Taylor Hawks 99-73.
Saints guard, LJ Peak, had his best game of the season scoring from all parts of the court with a game high 31 points. The Hawks were unable to contain Peak who had two highlight plays, one a put back dunk in the first quarter and a breakaway 360 degree two handed slam in the second half.
Former Finals MVP, Leon Henry, again proved to be invaluable with 20 points which included 4/6 from three, and although he didn’t have a strong shooting night, Shea Ili, tallied 18 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four assists.
The Hawks did make a good start to the game when they got seven quick points from Dion Prewster to help them go up 10-7 halfway through the quarter. But four points from Peak, a three from Henry and a dunk by Majok Majok would put the Saints up 22-14 by quarter time.
Unfortunately, things did not go well for the Hawks in the second quarter when Angus Brandt picked up his second foul, and then back to back fouls from Jarrod Kenny which put him on three. Head Coach, Zico Coronel, was forced to sub both.
Coronel would put Brandt back into the game and was gaining ascendancy down in the block, but after multiple scuffles from veteran forward Damien Ekenasio, Brandt would suffer his third foul. Wellington was not quite able to take advantage of this as the Hawks did stay within eight at halftime.
After the break the troubles would continue for Brandt who would get caught up under the basket with Henry and would get called for his fourth foul. The Hawks did close within five thanks to a corner three from Ethan Rusbatch, but a 9-2 run from Wellington would give them a 12 point lead.
The floodgates would open up in the fourth quarter as the Saints would put up 37 points turning an 11 point lead to 26.
Brandt would end the game with 16 points, Dion Prewster would have 14, and Kenny added 13 for the Hawks who have come a long way since a couple of seasons ago when they went 0-18.
Wellington will now move on to the final in the hopes of getting the three-peat which the 10 time winning champions have never achieved. Saints Head coach, Kevin Braswell, has been at the helm for last two seasons and has already gone down as one of the greats the NZNBL with a winning percentage of 86.6%.
Sal's NBL Semi-Final 1: Saturday, 4th August
At TSB Bank Arena, Wellington
Cigna Saints 99 (LJ Peak 31 points, Leon Henry 20, Shea Ili 18)
Taylor Hawks 73 (Angus Brandt 16, Dion Prewster 14, Jarrod Kenny 13)