The Auckland Huskies eased past the injury and illness depleted Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams 90-81 in the Sal’s NBL Showdown tonight.
The Rams, already struggling for form, were missing Sam Smith, Mac Stoddart and Jack Exeter through injury and Reuben Te Rangi through illness.
Both teams were ice-cold early before Huskies captain Leon Henry (13pts/12rbs) hit back-to-back three-pointers. It was a scrappy opening quarter, with the Rams doing their best work inside.
Rams' teenager Tom Webley produced a massive dunk and then a block down the other end, which showed his versatility, but it was the Huskies who managed an 18-15 quarter-time advantage.
In the absence of the injured Taine Murray, guard Jaylen Gerrand put together his best performance of the Showdown so far (a game-high 26 points), nine of those coming from a hat-trick of threes in the second to give his side some breathing room.
As for the men in red, guard Taylor Britt was admirable in his efforts (19pts/5rbs/4ast) having played with a heavily strapped right elbow. He appeared to have injured it midway through the period but carried on valiantly.
Each time the Huskies opened up a double-digit lead, the Rams reeled them back in. Tohi Smith-Milner (22pts/12rbs) hit from deep late to help the Huskies to a 49-40 halftime advantage.
The Rams scored the first 11points of the third quarter to retake the lead, but another triple from Gerrand made sure that was short-lived. He went on to score another seven in the spell, helping his team hold a 64-57 advantage at the final break.
Threes from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (17pts/9ast), Reuben Fitzgerald and Gerrand dashed any chance of a Rams fight back and saw the Huskies claim their seventh win.
Auckland Huskies 90 - (Jaylen Gerrand 26 points, Tohi Smith-Milner 22 points 12 rebounds, Leon Henry 13 points 12 rebounds).
Canterbury Rams 81 - (Taylor Britt 19 points, Toby Gillooly 16 points 8 rebounds, Alex Talma 15 points 11 rebounds).
Sky City MVP Votes:
Jaylen Gerrand (Huskies-10), Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies-8), Alex Talma (Rams-6), Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (Huskies-3), Toby Gillooly (Rams-2), Taylor Britt (Rams-1).