Local basketball fans will have plenty to get excited about this weekend with two NBL games scheduled in three days.
On Friday night, the Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs take on the Nelson Giants in a game destined for a tough battle. The Giants have a proud history of winning and would be considered favourites in Fridays game but the 2018 NBL season is already proving to be unpredictable. With the addition of an extra import (3 allowed in each team in 2018), the overall quality of basketball has increased which will push the Taranaki locals to another level.
The Mountainairs are currently sitting in 4th place with a 1-1 record. Taranaki recorded a convincing win over the Manawatu Jets in the first round and succumbed to an exciting 3 point loss to league leaders, Hawkes Bay last week.
Nelson are unbeaten in 2 games this year and currently sit in 2nd place on the NBL ladder.
Taranaki import, Javonte Douglas has put his hand up early in the season and is currently the league leader in both Average Points scored (29 per game) and is the clear leader of Average Rebounds with 12.5 per game. Houston O’Riley is doing what he does best in dishing out an Average Assist rate of 7 per game (3rd in League). Across the team, the Mountainairs are also seeing solid contributions from imports Roger Woods and Xavier Smith, plus the locals Xavier Shaw and captain Alonzo Burton. The young guns, Thane O’Leary and Dane Brooks have shown evidence they are well on their way to being genuine contributors at the NBL level.
Nelson look a well-balanced team with solid contributors in all areas of the game. Damon Heuir has excelled in scoring this year (24.5 ppg) and the Mountainairs will want to keep him away from the free throw line with him shooting an excellent 93% from the line. He is also shooting at 50% from the 3 point line, so Taranaki will need to shut him down early to limit his influence. Nelson also features two current Tall Blacks in Finn Delany and Tohi Smith-Milner. The Brian Rampton Memorial Trophy currently sits in Nelson’s hands but the Mountainairs will fancy their chances in bringing the silverware back home.
Sunday afternoon sees the Canterbury Rams travel north to take on the Taranaki Mountainairs. Both teams are sitting mid table and will be looking to improve from a loss last week. Canterbury have been performing well in the previous two seasons and are looking strong once again. At an average of 26.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, import Winston Shepard is having a similar influence on his team as Javonte Douglas. The match-up between Douglas and Shepard should be intriguing all night. The Mountainairs will need to have their wits about them as Shephard and fellow import, Xavier Thames have been disruptive this season, leading the league in Average Steals with 3.5 and 3.0 respectively. A familiar face returns to TSB stadium on Sunday, with Tony Tolovae turning out for the Rams after spending the 2016 season with Taranaki.
Taranaki coach, Trent Adam is looking for some key improvements from his team. “We need to tidy up our defence, communication and reaction times. Our offense has been better when we keep the ball and our players moving. A higher tempo is what I want to see from our team this weekend.”
Both games at TSB stadium
7pm Friday May 11th, Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs vs Nelson Giants
3pm Sunday May 13th, Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs vs Canterbury Rams