The Otago Nuggets made a clear statement to the Sal’s NBL Showdown with a brilliantly paced victory over a gallant Franklin Bulls at The Trusts Arena tonight, defeating the Bulls 89-83 to move to 7 and 4 on the league ladder while the Bulls drop to 6 and 5.
This was a brilliant clash as the Nuggets turned around a 6-point defeat to the Bulls earlier in the season and did so on the back of a hugely impressive contribution from their starters, with just 4 bench point on a night when Jordan Ngatai (18 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists) and Jarrod Kenny (13, 12 &7) had the fans on triple-double alert, while Jordan Hunt returned to form big time with a game-leading 31 points on 12 of 20 shooting.
The Bulls shot out of the gate to a 7-0 lead with Isaac Davidson and Everard Bartlett draining their opening triples, with Tall Black Bartlett converting a rare 4-point play after being sent to the hardwood as he released. The response from the Nuggets was impressive though as they went on a run to lead 10-9, with Joshua Aitcheson hitting two deep triples that saw Bulls Coach Liam Simmons call time out.
Hunt took until the final quarter to open his account last time out and finished with just 2 points in the win over the Rams, the Nuggets centre had 6 in the first quarter tonight in a return to form. Both teams enjoyed strong scoring runs, with the Nuggets ending the quarter best on a Jordan Ngatai drive to the rim to lead 20-19.
The second quarter saw a slow in the scoring as defence took priority in what was developing as one of the great arm wrestles of the Sal’s NBL Showdown, with the Nuggets extending that lead to 35-31 at the main break. The Bulls were not helped as they went cold from beyond the arc, making 2 of 9 after dropping 4 of 10 long-range bombs in the first quarter.
That pattern took a sudden reversal for the better in the third though as both teams went on a three-point shooting spree, making a combined 10 of 17 from deep that had the great support from both teams out of their seats and voicing their approval with each triple made. The Nuggets kept clear though and led by 9 heading into the final quarter, with Kenny pacing his side superbly at the point.
The final quarter looked all Nuggets as they extended seemingly at will, leading by a game-high 14 with 2:33 left to play. But these Bulls are made of stern stuff and Liam Simmons elicited a strong response on the head coach’s birthday, with Dom Kelman-Poto and then Everard Bartlett inspiring a late push that saw the Bulls close to within 4 points, before Kenny put the game to bed with a couple of freebies at the line.
In truth neither coach will be unhappy with this one, both sides showed they are timing their run nicely into the final two weeks of the competition, albeit the Nuggets might be concerned at the lack of output from their bench and a heavy reliance on their starters – who equally it must be said responded superbly.
Best for the Bulls on a losing night were Bartlett (19 points including 6 of 10 three-pointers), Kelman-Poto (16 & 8), and Sam Timmins who finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Final Score: Nuggets 89 Bulls 83
SkyCity MVP Votes: -
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets-10), Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets-8), Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls-5), Everard Bartlett (Bulls-4), Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets-3).