Nelson Giants move to 5-2 in NBL with undefeated road trip down south

The Nelson Giants are all National Basketball League title contenders.

Mike Fitchett’s side showed they were serious this season, going 2-0 on a tough trip down south against the Southland Sharks and Otago Nuggets over the weekend.

Nelson is sitting well with a 5-2 record and with three standout Americans in Jarrod West, Trey Mourning and Sam Thompson backed by a strong Kiwi core, the Giants deserve to be in the title mix.

They also had to do it the hard way, trailing at half-time in both games, but prevailed in the second half to emerge victorious.

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Point guard West, who played college ball at Louisville, was terrific for the Giants in their doubleheader.

He had 16 points and six assists in the 96-90 win over the Sharks at Invercargill. West took over in the second half in the 89-78 win over Otago, scoring a game-high 27 points – to go with 10 assists and five boards.

Giants captain Sam Dempster slides to the hoop in their win over Otago.  Dempster was effective with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Joe Allison/Getty Images

Giants captain Sam Dempster slides to the hoop in their win over Otago. Dempster was effective with 19 points and nine rebounds.

The Giants have struggled in recent seasons, finishing seventh last year and sixth in 2019, but have been a talented roster and excellent as a unit.

Mourning, the NBL’s top scorer, posted a 21-10 rebound double-double against Southland but was well contained by the Nuggets, limited to six points on 2-11 shooting. He did, however, manage 11 rebounds, all on the defensive end.

Sharks stalwart Andrew Wheeler took the coaching clipboard against Nelson with coach Rob Beveridge ailing and looked set to guide them to a much-needed victory.

Southland led by 12 at halftime, but a strong third quarter from the Giants and some late critical threes from West and Nic Trathen helped Nelson go home.

Mike Fitchett and the Giants have had a strong start to the season, going 5-2 after two wins over the weekend.

Joe Allison/Getty Images

Mike Fitchett and the Giants have had a strong start to the season, going 5-2 after two wins over the weekend.

The Sharks, generally one of the best teams in the NBL, find themselves in a 2-5 hole. It doesn’t get any easier with a terrific away doubles looming against Hawke’s Bay and Wellington.

Defending champions Wellington’s rocky start to 2022 continued, losing 90-83 to the shorthanded Canterbury Rams in Christchurch on Friday.

It was the Saints’ fifth defeat in six games, putting even more pressure on the 12-time champions.

Canterbury were missing two of their imports, Ryan Taylor (illness) and Matur Maker (injury), while guard Joe Cook-Green was also ruled out with injury, but the plucky Rams won at home.

Australian striker Xavier Cooks made a strong NBL debut for the Saints, recording a triple-double in the loss to the Rams.

Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Australian striker Xavier Cooks made a strong NBL debut for the Saints, recording a triple-double in the loss to the Rams.

Australian Saints forward Xavier Cooks, winner of the ANBL title with the Sydney Kings last season, showed his quality on his debut, recording a triple-double, posting 22 points (on an 8-11 shot), 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Point guard Taylor Britt was excellent for the Rams, scoring 28 points while adding five rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Wellington bounced back from Friday’s loss, bouncing back with a hard-fought 103-92 victory over Taranaki in New Plymouth on Sunday to improve to 2-5.

American point guard Mike Smith had his best outing of the season for the Saints, shining with 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals in a standout performance.

In Saturday’s top-flight clash, Auckland Tuatara triumphed over Hawks Bay Hawks 99-88 in Napier, improving their record to 6-1.

It was a balanced attack from the Tuatara, who shot 51% and had four players after 20 or more points.

The Manawatū Jets earned their first win of the season, toppling the Franklin Bulls 84-76 on the road Sunday. Manawatū trailed 62-58 early in the final quarter, but edged the Bulls 26-14 with a strong finish.

American center John Bohannon was dominant for the Jets with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

Round seven ends with the Tuatara hosting the Jets at Eventfinda Stadium on the North Shore on Monday (3 p.m. start).

IN ONE LOOK :

Sixth round NBL:

At Southland Stadium, Invercargill: Nelson Giants 96 (Sam Thompson 23, Trey Mourning 21, Jarrod West 16, Nic Trathen 13, Sam Dempster 10) Southern Sharks 90 (Mojave King 21, Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape 19, Dom Kelman-Poto 18, Winston Shepard 13, Jaylen Gerrand 10) 1Q: 20-25, HT: 42-54, 3Q: 72-70.

At Cowles Stadium, Christchurch: Canterbury Rams 90 (Sunday December 28, Taylor Britt 28, Max Darling 20) Wellington Saints 83 (Xavier Cooks 22, Taane Samuel 20, Tom Vodanovich 17, Kenneth Tuffin 12) 1Q: 18-20, HT: 43-40, 3Q: 61-65.

At Pettigrew Green Arena, Napier: Auckland Tuatara 99 (Chris Johnson 21, Dontae Russo-Nance 21, Rob Loe 20, Siler Schneider 20, Taki Fahrensohn 10) Hawke’s Bay Hawks 88 (Derone Raukawa 19, Jordan Hunt 17, Jarrod Kenny 12, Quintin Bailey 12, Ethan Rusbatch 10) 1Q: 25-25, HT: 53-43, 3Q: 71-70.

At the Edgar Centre, Dunedin: Nelson Giants 89 (West 27, Dempster 19, Thompson 16) Otago Nuggets 78 (Keith Williams 23, Nikau McCullough 23) 1Q: 22-22, HT: 35-43, 3Q: 64-59.

At Franklin Pool & Leisure Center: Manawatū Jets 84 (Shane Temara 21, Zane Najdawi 16, John Bohannon 16) Franklin Bulls 76 (Jayden Bezzant 21, Isaac Davidson 14, Leon Henry 12) 1Q: 19-22, HT: 36-39, 3Q: 58-62.

At TSB Stadium, New Plymouth: Wellington Saints 103 (Mike Smith 30, Cooks 20, Tuffin 16, Jordan Ngatai 14, Samuel 11, Vodanovich 10) Taranaki Airs 92 (Anthony Hilliard 36, Javonte Douglas 20) 1Q: 16-27, HT: 49-43, 3Q: 76-65.

Ranking : Tuatara 6-1, Giants 5-2, Hawks 5-3, Rams 5-3, Nuggets 5-4, Airs 3-4, Bulls 2-4, Sharks 2-5, Saints 2-5, Jets 1-5.

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