The third ‘Battle of the North’ lived up to its billing at Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre this evening, with the Sky Tower Auckland Huskies pipping the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls 99-96 on a last-minute three.
The Huskies trailed by two with 60 seconds on the clock and had a chance to retake the lead when sixteen-year-old Dontae Russo-Nance found himself open on the wing. He missed the jump shot, but fellow youngster, Kiani Saxon, was on hand for the putback to tie it.
The hero status for the forward lasted as long as there was time left in the game though after fouling Bulls star Josh Selby on the inbound. The import made both the freebies and the visitors called time.
There was only one man who was going to take the final shot for the Huskies and deliver he did. With 29 points and six rebounds to his name, Jeremy Kendle collected a handoff and shook free from the defence to drain a straight-on three.
Selby had the opportunity to answer back with three seconds on the clock, but his attempt would go awry, and the Huskies left the building smiling.
The three-point party was on from the get go, but it was only made up of Bulls players for the first quarter. Jaylen Gerrand and Denhym Brooke making good on their looks from beyond the arc.
The Huskies were reluctant early on to let it fly like their opposition and instead opted for easier scores in close. The difference in the types of makes would start to add up though, the Bulls 24-17 to the good at the first break.
Kendle was a whopping 1/5 after the opening spell and if his side had any hope of cutting the deficit they’d need him to shake the shooting slump. Thankfully for Head Coach Aaron Young and co, the American started to heat up after a quick rest.
Two triples in as many minutes got him into a rhythm and with the help of Ruscoe he guided the visitors on an 8-0 run. The Bulls called time and drew up a play for Josh Nunag, the guard finding the bottom of the net from the corner.
Russo-Nance cancelled out the shot with a step-back trey on the ensuing possession and added five more to his tally before the oranges. The Huskies outscored the hosts 35-24 in the quarter to lead 52-48.
Play resumed with Nick Fee hitting what felt like the hundredth three of the contest, but Kendle and Nick Barrow combined to keep the Huskies points ticking over. The rivals continued to trade buckets leading into the final stanza, with neither side quite able to pull away after a decent run of scores and stops.
Auckland Huskies 99 (Jeremy Kendle 32pts & 6rbs, Dontae Russo-Nance 18pts & 4rbs, Nich Barrow 17pts, 9rbs, 4ast) defeated Franklin Bulls 96 (Josh Selby 26pts & 6rbs, Jaylen Gerrand 18pts, Denhym Brooke 16pts & 6rbs).
1. After struggling early on, Jeremy Kendle found his touch and was a force on the offensive side of the ball. The lead guard went 7-13 from deep and stood up when his team needed him most.
2. Franklin took 75 shots in this game and 41 of those were from long range. The way they were stroking it early on made it look like it could be one of those nights, but they cooled down as the game wore on yet continued to live by the long ball. In saying that, it nearly saw them home.
3. It’s one thing to be training and running alongside grown men, but it’s a completely different kettle of fish to be standing out among them. Dontae Russo-Nance isn’t an unknown name in New Zealand basketball, however, Aaron Young can’t of his expected his youngest player (and the League’s) to tally 18 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Stuff MVP Votes
Jeremy Kendle (Huskies-10), Josh Selby (Bulls-6), Nick Barrow (Huskies-4), Dontae Russo-Nance (Huskies-4), Jaylen Gerrand (Bulls-3), Brook Ruscoe (Huskies-2), Denhym Brooke (Bulls-1).
Giants - Sharks (away), Monday April 26 at 2pm.
(Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ)