By Mick McBeth -
Around 180 fans were treated to some quality basketball at the TSB Hub in Hawera on Sunday afternoon as the Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs welcomed the Manawatu Jets back into the league after their 2 year hiatus. Local young players and their coaches were invited to a morning of free coaching as part of the Mountainairs coaching in schools program, focussed on encouraging basketball participation rates and skill development.
As the 2018 NBL season draws near, Mountainairs coach Trent Adam and Manawatu’s interim coach, Tim McTamney took the opportunity to try out their systems.
Taranaki had the bulk of their NBL squad on show, minus two imports who will join the squad this coming week. Manawatu were also missing players from their full squad, with their imports yet to join them.
The Jets took first points in the game and early signs looked like it may be a scrappy night for the Mountainairs with the Jets fighting hard in every possession. Taranaki big man Thane O’Leary showed plenty of promise, top scoring with 25 points for the night. O’Leary looked full of energy and fearless which would have been encouraging for coaches, Adam and Dave Bublitz. Point guard, Houston O’Riley once again showed his class, taking control of the game at key moments. Mountainairs Import, Roger Woods looks a solid acquisition, showing strength and defensive smarts. The crowd were brought to their feet in the third quarter with Woods and Dane Brooks showcasing a couple of thundering dunks as the Mountainairs found their offensive rhythm. While the score line isn’t the priority in a pre-season match, the Mountainairs would be pleased to have run out winners 84 - 60. A notable statistic was the foul count, with the Mountainairs keeping their discipline in committing just 8 fouls in the match. Coach Adam was encouraged by what he saw in the hit out, “I liked our floor spacing and defence when we were locked in, unfortunately that wasn’t for the full game but there were some really good periods. For a pre-season match, I give them around a 75% mark”.
Coach McTamney was also encouraged by the showing of his side which featured 2017 Mountainairs squad member and former FDMC head boy, Matthew O’Connell. “We found out a lot from our players, mostly pleasing things. For some of our players, it was their first chance at this level and I felt they played exceptionally.”
The 2018 Mountainairs captain, Alonzo Burton wants his team to keep up the intensity showed in closing out the game today. “First and foremost, we want to make the playoffs this year. We need to be together as a team, do what we love to do and have fun doing it”
Augusta Mountainairs 84 (Thane O’Leary 25, Roger Woods 13, Houston O’Riley 12, Xavier Shaw 11)
The Taranaki Mountainairs first match is away vs Manawatu Jets on Sunday 29th April before playing their first home game at 7pm, Friday 4th May vs Hawkes Bay.