The Wellington Saints have narrowly avoided what would’ve been the upset of the season tonight at TSB Stadium, scraping past the Taranaki Steelformers Mountainairs 89-81.
There was a near-capacity crowd in New Plymouth and for 35 minutes it looked as if the Airs had improved their chances of dodging the dreaded wooden spoon.
However, the Saints suffocated the Airs down the stretch and forced the hosts into consecutive misses and turnovers. Tai Wynyard also fouled out late in the piece, allowing the visitors to get numerous second goes.
The duo of Tohi Smith-Milner and Dion Prewster also kick started a sputtering offence in the second half, whereby the five-minute mark in the fourth they finally took the lead and would hold it.
Experience counted for a lot in the closing stages, but you have to feel for veteran Marcel Jones who came within a whisker of directing the Airs to a memorable victory.
His intent, along with all of his teammates, was evident from the tip and resulted in them take a 23-17 advantage into the first break.
The same thing happened across the next two periods, but as alluded to earlier, the Saints go themselves into a rhythm towards the back end of the third and took it up a gear when it mattered most.
Taranaki Airs 81 lost to Wellington Saints 89 - BOXSCORE
Airs: Marcel Jones (29pts, 6rbs & 6ast), Tai Wynyard (11pts & 4rbs), Scott Telfer (11pts & 3rbs).
Saints: Tohi Smith-Milner (25pts & 15rbs), Dion Prewster (24pts & 6rbs), Taane Samuel (14pts).
Stuff MVP Votes
Marcel Jones (Airs) - 8
Tohi Smith-Milner (Saints) - 7
Dion Prewster (Saints) - 7
Scott Telfer (Airs) - 4
Taane Samuel (Saints) - 2
Tai Wynyard (Airs) - 1
Dru Leo-Leusogia-Ape (Airs) - 1
(Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ)