The Southland Sharks have recorded a strong 117-81 win to start their season, taking full advantage of a young Wellington Saints outfit missing a handful of probable starters.
In what was a night filled with debut performances for both teams, the Sharks rode the wave of excitement in front of an energetic Orange Army at ILT Stadium Southland with an amazing shooting display that included 17-of-23 from deep at a 73 percent clip.
Piling on a 62-35 opening half off the back of Alonzo Burton, Mojave King and Brayden Inger firing from range, the home team excelled and used relentless full-court pressure to full advantage.
Equally, the Sharks' attack at the rim was on point as they continually opened the nervous Saints up.
Through the tough patches Saints skipper Kenneth Tuffin and dynamite guard Johnny Helu ensured the battle remained hot, but it wasn't until the second half that we started to see the emerging talent from the likes of Josh Tutagalevao, Marnie Dougall-Mita and Francis Wineera-Mulvihill.
The bulk of the damage was done early with the Sharks racing to a 33-15 lead through the opening quarter. In signs that would please coach Rob Beveridge, both Inger and King showed great aggression and relished taking contact on drives to the basket.
Dom Kelman-Poto quickly found his groove and focused hard on bringing others into the game with his 10 dimes, import Romaro Gill was a menace around the rim at both ends, while Burton was simply sublime with a perfect eight makes from downtown.
Despite the night squarely belonging to the Sharks, new Saints coach Guy Molloy will take plenty of positives from the second half with the home team edging the visitors 55-46.
Elsewhere around the stats sheet, the Sharks claimed the battle of the boards 45-29 and enjoyed 31 assists to 14.
All up, a strong and commanding first-up win for the Sharks and some pleasing signs for the young Saints with reinforcements just days away.
SCORE: Sharks 117, Saints 81
Sharks: Burton 26 PTS & 8-8 3PT | King 23 PTS, 8 REB, 4 3PT | Kelman-Poto 18 PTS, 8 REB, 10 AST | Gill 10 PTS, 13 REB, 5 BLK
Saints: Tuffin 21 PTS | Dougall-Mita 19 PTS & 5 3PT | Helu 11 PTS | Wineera-Mulvihill 10 PTS & 7 REB | Tutagalevao 10 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Alonzo Burton (Sharks) - 9 votes
Dom Kelman-Poto (Sharks) - 9 votes
Kenneth Tuffin (Saints) - 4 votes
Mojave King (Sharks) - 3 votes
Romaro Gill (Sharks) - 2 votes
Johnny Helu (Saints) - 2 votes
Rangimarie Dougall-Mita - 1 vote
Sharks - May 7 @ Franklin Bulls
Saints - May 7 @ Otago Nuggets
Round 1 Sal's NBL Schedule