The Auckland Huskies are marking their run into the Sal’s NBL Showdown playoffs nicely, with a 93-82 win over the Manawatu Jets providing perfectly timed momentum heading into the post-season.
The Huskies were again paced by point guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa, his 26 points led all scorers with Tohi Smith-Milner (19), Leon Henry (13) and Aaron Bailey-Nowell (12) all in double figures for the winners.
This was billed as a possible dress rehearsal come finals time, whether that is in a Grand Final in seven days at Trust Arena will play out over the next seven days of play-off action, but both teams delivered in a high quality contest that saw multiple lead changes in a topsy-turvy first half of action.
Smith-Milner picked up his third personal late in the second quarter but coach Kevin Braswell showed faith in his big man as he played out the second half without adding to that tally, staying out of trouble while contributing big time at both ends of the floor to end with a now customary double-double.
For the Jets, the effort was evenly spread in the first half, with Bezzant (11), Harris (11) and Samuel (10) leading the way as captain Tom Vodanovich was kept quiet with four points on just two shots. His contribution was limited further as he sat out the second half with a bruised hip, the outcome of that medical check will likely keep Jets coach Tim McTamney up tonight, Vodanovich is a crucial cog in the Jets offence.
The game was very much in the balance until late in the final quarter though, with Smith-Milner and Henry draining back to back triples to finally break the Jets resolve and extend the lead to 8 points.
Hyrum Harris was a machine at both ends of the floor as he exhausted himself in the absence of Vodanovich, the power forward ended the night with 16 points, 13 rebounds, 7 rebounds and an astounding 9 steals as he at times tried to halt the Huskies on his own.
The result leaves the Jets, Airs and Huskies all on 8 wins, with the Jets staying in second place on the regular season ladder on differential. Their reward is face-off with the Otago Nuggets in the qualifying final on Tuesday night, with both teams assured of a place in Thursday night’s semi-finals.
For the Huskies, they move above the Airs on differential into third and will on Wednesday face the winner of the sudden-death game between the Giants and the Rams (Tuesday night). The Airs face off against the Bulls on Wednesday night.
All games are building towards the Grand Final on Saturday August 1st, with a double-header of action from 5pm when the SKY Sport Tall Ferns Showcase tips off ahead of the Sal’s NBL Grand Final at 7:30pm, tickets are selling fast for what promises to be an exciting conclusion to this one-off post-COVID NBL competition.
Final Score: Huskies 93 Jets 82
SkyCity MVP Votes:
Izayah Maurihooho-Le'afa (Huskies-9), Hyrum Harris (Jets-5), Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies-5), Taane Samuel (Jets-4), Leon Henry (Huskies-4), Jayden Bezzant (Jets-3).