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Giants upset Saints in NBL; Airs top Sharks

The Nelson Giants have knocked the Wellington Saints from the top of the National Basketball League (NBL).

In the biggest upset of the season to date, the Giants finished strong, scoring 35 points in the fourth quarter to stun the Saints 105-96 on their home floor at Wellington's TSB Arena on Sunday night.

Australian forward Dan Grida led the victors with 27 points (11/16 FG, 4/5 FT) and nine rebounds, while Tall Blacks forward Dan Fotu put up 25 points (8/11 FG, 2/5 3pt, 7/10 FT), four boards and five assists.

Import guard Kobe Langley came close to a triple-double, with 25 points (7/18 FG, 3/10 3pt, 8/9 FT), seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals, while Sam Dempster and Theo Akwuba each scored nine points.

Australian guard Ben Ayre carried the Saints offence, hitting eight triples for his game-high 33 points (11/17 FG, 8/12 3pt, 3/3 FT), supported by Tall Blacks guard Izayah Le'afa with 28 points (10/22 FG, 3/12 3pt, 5/7 FT), six boards, six assists and three steals.

New Zealand big Tohi Smith-Milner produced 14 points (5/12 FG, 4/7 FT), nine rebounds and four assists, while import forward Lat Mayen also put up 14 points (5/11 FG, 4/4 FT), nine boards and six assists.

Dan Grida Nelson Giants NBL basketball
Dan Grida scored a team-high 27 points to guide the Nelson Giants to an upset of the Saints. PHOTO: NBL

In a quality, even contest, which featured 15 lead changes and 11 ties, the teams exchanged the lead back-and-forth until midway through the second period.

From down one with 4:56 remaining in the half, the Saints went on a 15-6 run, including two threes from Ayre, to lead 50-42 at the main break. When Mayen scored the opening bucket of the third quarter, Wellington had their largest lead.

The Giants dominated the third period, with a 23-11 stretch, featuring threes from Langley, Grida and Fotu, giving them a two-point lead, but the Saints responded to go up by four entering the fourth.

In a quarter of runs, Nelson scored 14 of the first 17 points to lead by seven, before the Saints tied it up with 4:18 remaining. Down the stretch, the Giants outscored the Saints 21-12, with Fotu scoring seven points.

In Week 8, the Giants (4-5) host the Mid-North Whai () in a mid-table clash at Nelson's Trafalgar Centre on Sunday (tip-off 6.30pm), while the Saints (6-2) travel to Pukekohe to face the Franklin Bulls earlier that day (tip-off 1pm).

Earlier on Sunday, the Taranaki Airs consigned the Southland Sharks to a 10th straight loss, rolling to a 102-78 win in New Plymouth.

Australian forward Sam Froling flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 21 points (8/15 FG, 5/8 FT), nine rebounds and seven assists, with Tall Blacks guard Flynn Cameron posted 17 points (6/8 FG, 3/4 3pt), five boards, five assists and four steals.

Also contributing for the Airs were Nico Hill with 15 points (6/8 FG, 2/3 3pt) off the bench, Tobias Cameron with 13 points (4/9 FG, 3/6 3pt) and seven rebounds, and Elijah Minnie with 12 points (4/6 FG, 3/4 FT).

Sharks captain Alonzo Burton scored a game-high 24 points (9/18 FG, 3/7 3pt), while big Callum McRae added 19 points (7/15 FG, 5/6 FT), 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Import forward Marcale Lotts put up 16 points (8/12 FG) and four boards off the bench.

Sam Froling Taranaki Airs NBL basketball
Sam Froling was a rebound and three assists shy of a triple-double. PHOTO: NBL

The Airs dominated from the opening tip, scoring the game's first nine points and led by 11 at quarter-time. The Sharks held their own in a low-scoring second period, but the game turned into a blowout in the third.

From up 12 early in the quarter, Taranaki went on a 23-2 run, thanks to eight points from Tobias Cameron and Southland going almost seven minutes without a basket, to stretch out by 33 points.

Next up, the Airs () welcome the Manawatu Jets to TSB Stadium on Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Sharks (0-10) are back home in Invercargill against the league-leading Auckland Tuatara (8-2) on Saturday (tip-off 4pm).

Nelson Giants 105 (Dan Grida 27, Dan Fotu 25, Kobe Langley 25) Wellington Saints 96 (Ben Ayre 33, Izayah Le'afa 28, Tohi Smith-Milner 14, Lat Mayen 14). 1Q: 24-24, HT: 42-50, 3Q: 70-74

Taranaki Airs 102 (Sam Froling 21, Flynn Cameron 17, Nico Hill 15, Tobias Cameron 13, Elijah Minnie 12) Southland Sharks 78 (Alonzo Burton 24, Callum McRae 19, Marcale Lotts 16, Scott Telfer 10). 1Q: 29-18, HT: 47-33, 3Q: 78-48


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