The Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets are the 2022 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Champions defeating the Auckland Tuatara 81-73 at a packed Eventfinda Stadium on Saturday night .
The NBL was guaranteed a first-time champion before the game began. The Nuggets won the Covid restricted NBL Showdown in 2020 but had never previously contested a full season NBL Grand Final.
In contrast to the Nuggets 30-year association with the NBL the Tuatara are in their rookie NBL season having emerged from the ashes of the extinct Huskies.
In a hugely entertaining Final it was the Nuggets that prevailed thanks to a Grand Final MVP performance from American Keith Williams. The rookie pro out of the University of Cincinnati amassed 34 points on 13 from 23 from the field and 6 from 7 at the free throw line.
Whenever the Nuggets needed a basket it was Williams, the least heralded of the three Nuggets imports, that delivered – 14 of his points coming in the all-important fourth quarter.
Williams received fine support from Tray Boyd III (19 points) and Nikau McCullough (9pts) but particularly the front court duo of Todd Withers and Sam Timmins the pair performing with distinction at both ends of the court.
The Tuatara enjoyed double figure contributions from Siler Schneider (16 points), Rob Loe (13 points and 12 rebounds), Chris Johnson (13 points), Dontae Russo-Nance (11 points and Taki Fahrensohn (10 points) but couldn’t quite replicate their outstanding performances that saw off the wellington Saints and Taranaki Airs.
10 teams took part in 2022 (regular season standings): Taranaki Airs, Nelson Giants, Otago Nuggets, Wellington Saints, Auckland Tuatara, Hawke’s Bay Hawks, Canterbury Rams, Franklin Bulls, Southland Sharks, Manawatu Jets.
Full List of Award Winners
Stuff MVP – Xavier Cooks (Saints)
Defensive Player of the Year – Jarrod West (Giants)
Youth Player of the Year – Dontae Russo-Nance (Tuatara)
Most Improved Player – Sam Dempster (Giants)
All Star Five – Jarrod West (Giants), Anthony Hilliard (Airs), Javonte Douglas (Airs), Xavier Cooks (Saints), Chris Johnson (Tuatara)
Coach of the Year – Mike Fitchett (Giants)
Most Outstanding Guard (Keith Carr Trophy) – Jarrod West
Most Outstanding NZ Guard (John Macdonald Trophy) – Corey Webster
Most Outstanding Forward (Commissioners Cup) – Xavier Cooks
Most Outstanding NZ Forward/Centre (Stan Hill Trophy) – Rob Loe
Scoring Champion (Alan Bland Memorial Trophy) – Anthony Hilliard
Rebounding Champion (Garry Pettis Memorial Trophy) – John Bohannon
Assist Champion (Dave Taylor Trophy) – Jarrod West
Best Team Free Throws (Nial Forsyth Trophy) – Nelson Giants
Team GM of the Year – Mitchell Langton
Club of the Year – Nelson Giants
Best Game Presentation – Wellington Saints
Best Fan Engagement – Canterbury Rams
Best Social Media – Franklin Bulls
Referee of the Year – Melony O’Connor
Photo by Render Creative.