The Southland Sharks have moved to a 3-1 record after eclipsing the Taranaki Mountainairs 108-91 in a game that featured 72 shots from long range as both teams went on a 3-point frenzy.
All up the game featured 145 field-goal attempts, so literally half of those shots came from deep and they landed at a good clip, the victorious Sharks nailing 16, as did the Airs.
Both teams made changes prior to tip-off with Jeremy Kendle cleared earlier in the day to replace the injured Mitch McCarron, though the Sharks were thrown a late curve ball when they had to leave last week’s 27-point forward Dom Kelman-Poto back in the hotel with an illness.
The Airs also had players missing with dashing guards Derone Raukawa (ankle) and Dane Brooks (back) both out with injuries.
Both teams put on an entertaining opening quarter, the Sharks just coming out the better 24-22 with Jarrad Weeks starting strongly with his attack on the basket. All up 16 players hit the court in the opening 10 minutes in a flurry of rotations.
By half-time the visitors had pushed to a 57-45 lead with Weeks delivering 20pts, ably supported by Todd Blanchfield from deep and Alex Pledger inside. Kendle looked rusty early, but some signs late in the half were encouraging and he looks to be a good fit as a replacement for McCarron.
The Airs showed plenty and despite the 12-point margin there was a lot to like about the brand of basketball they were playing, especially with Alonzo Burton and Chris Early pushing the tempo as much as possible.
The second half started in favour of the Airs as they worked the margin back to single digits early, however after a few errant shots the Sharks settled and once again Weeks and Blanchfield took over, while Kendle started to see a lot more of the ball.
Heading towards the last break Pledger copped an accidental poke in the eye on a rebound, the Sharks centre leaving the court for treatment. He returned midway through the last quarter and played most of the game out.
Leading 83-64 at the end of the third, the Airs came out in the last period with some aggression and decided to get up and apply some early pressure, which resulted in a couple of quick baskets. Again, Burton and Early took the game on.
Early had a great night, landing nine triples to go with 29pts and 10rbs.
However, as he had done all game, Weeks found some space for the Sharks and quickly snatched momentum back, delivering an MVP performance with seven triples on his way to a game-high 33pts.
The Sharks get a day off before heading to Manawatu on Sunday to play the Jets, while the Airs have another week to contemplate their winless start to the season before hitting the road with games against the Hawks and Rangers next round.
# Photo courtesy photosport.nz
Taranaki Mountainairs 91 lost to Southland Sharks 108
Airs - Chris Early 29pts, 10rbs & 9 treys, Alonzo Burton 21pts, Kevin Foster 19pts.
Sharks - Jarrad Weeks 33pts & 7 treys, Todd Blanchfield 25pts & 5 treys, Jeremy Kendle 15pts.
Stats That Matter - This game became a 3pt shoot-out with a collective 72 shots from deep, the Sharks hitting 16.37 and the Airs going for 16/35.
Sal's Pizza MVP - Jarrad Weeks (Sharks) with 33pts, 1rb, 6ast, 3stl, 7 treys.