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NBL champion Rams open season with win


The Canterbury Rams have started their National Basketball League (NBL) title defence the perfect way.


The Rams hoisted their 2023 championship banner at Christchurch's Cowles Stadium on Wednesday night, before going on to defeat the Nelson Giants 79-69 to open the league's 42nd season.


Both teams went into battle minus a few stars - the Rams still awaiting the arrival of imports KJ Buffen and MJ Walker, and young Kiwi star Walter Brown, and the Giants without captain Sam Dempster and still with two import spots to fill.


In front of a sell-out crowd, the Rams blew the cobwebs out with captain Taylor Britt going for a game-high 20 points (7/20 FG, 2/4 3pt, 4/7 FT) and eight assists.


In his NBL debut, Australian import Lachie Olbrich (Illawarra Hawks) showed his work rate and competitiveness, proving to be a real menace every time he went near the ball, finishing with 15 points (7/10 FG) and 10 rebounds. He also provided the epic highlight of the night with an entertaining dunk in the second quarter.


New Giants forward Dan Fotu dominated the opening quarter, with 12 points and proving to be more than a handful for the Rams. He ultimately led the G-Men with 18 points (6/15 FG, 5/7 FT), seven boards, two steals and two blocks.


Taylor Britt
Canterbury Rams guard Taylor Britt drives past Alex McNaught of the Giants. PHOTO: NBL

Britt dropped 10 points of his own early, the difference at quarter-time favouring the home team, 21-20.


The Rams started hot in the second term, building a nine-point lead, before a quick Mike Fitchett timeout settled the Giants and they dragged back the gap as Alex McNaught (11 points) and Dan Grida (15 points) got busy, while young Aston Inwood added some spark of the bench.


Down 42-36 at the half, one of the biggest concerns for the Giants was on the glass where the Rams held a decisive edge 30-17, leading to a whopping 14 second-chance points.


The Rams started the second half on fire, going on a 13-2 run in the opening minutes of the third quarter to build a 17-point lead that proved too tough for the Giants to claw back.


Though heading home with a loss ahead of their opening home game on Sunday against the Franklin Bulls (tip-off 6.30pm), the Giants coaching staff will have been happy with what they saw from young Nick Davidson (11 points), who also starred in the preceding Rapid League game.


The only negative for the Rams was a lowly 2-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc, something they will put down to a bit of first-game rust, but a stat they will want to fix quickly ahead of a trip north to play the Bulls next week.


Canterbury Rams 79 (Taylor Britt 20, Lachlan Olbrich 15, Max Darling 15) Nelson Giants 69 (Dan Fotu 18, Dan Grida 15, Alex McNaught 11, Nick Davidson 11). 1Q: 21-20, HT: 42=36, 3Q: 63-49


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