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Nuggets end NBL losing streak; Bulls win

The Otago Nuggets have ended a six-game losing streak just in time to give their National Basketball League (NBL) playoffs push a boost.

The Nuggets pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 99-88 win over the Manawatu Jets at Palmerston North's Fly Palmy Arena on Sunday, following the Franklin Bulls' 93-70 rout of the Southland Sharks in Invercargill.


The win improved the Nuggets record to 5-8 in what is shaping as a four-way battle with the Bay Hawks, Tauranga Whai and Nelson Giants for the sixth and final NBL Playoffs berth.

American forward Kimani Lawrence led the Nuggets with 27 points (12/21 FG), six rebounds and two steals, while fellow import Zaccheus Darko-Kelly had one of his best games, with 19 points (7/15 FG, 3/9 3pt), nine boards and three assists.

Young Kiwi guard Dontae Russo-Nance put up 17 points (6/15 FG, 2/8 3pt), four boards and six assists, and Australian guard Ben Henshall also 17 points (6/15 FG, 2/7 3pt), seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

American guard Mustapha Heron continues to carry the Jets offence, going for 26 points (10/23 FG, 2/8 3pt, 4/4 FT) and two steals, with James Moors finishing with 16 points (5/8 FG, 5/7 FT), 10 rebounds and two blocks, and Liam Judd 13 points (5/8 FG, 3/4 3pt) and eight boards.

Kimani Lawrence Otago Nuggets NBL basketball
Kimani Lawrence produced 27 points and six rebounds for the Otago Nuggets. PHOTO: NBL

The Nuggets forced the Jets, who got only a combined nine points from two of their imports, Kahlil Whitney and Quashawn Lane, into 18 turnovers, leading directly to 21 points. Otago also had 23 fast-break points.

Several mini-runs made the difference for the visitors. The Nuggets had 8-0 runs in the first, second and third periods, then critically scored six straight points midway through the fourth quarter to go ahead 83-73 with 4:29 remaining.

Next week, the Nuggets (5-8) return home to the Edgar Centre to face the Hawks (5-7) on Saturday (tip-off 4pm), while the Jets (1-11) head to the Capital to meet the Wellington Saints (8-4) on Wednesday (tip-off 7.30pm).

The Bulls joined the league-leading Auckland Tuatara and defending champion Canterbury Rams with 10-plus wins this season, easing by the Sharks in the second half at Stadium Southland.

American forward Luther Muhammad paced the Bulls, with a game-high 27 points (12/24 FG), six assists and three steals, with fellow import Josh Scott put up 18 points (7/10 FG, 4/5 FT), six assists and three steals.

Dom Kelman-Poto scored 13 points (5/6 FG, 2/2 3pt) off the bench, while Isaac Davidson had 12 points (4/5 FG, 2/2 3pt), six rebounds and four steals.

For the Sharks, new import Cooper Robb top-scored with 19 points (7/14 FG, 5/11 3pt), four assists and six steals, supported by Callum McRae, with 16 points (6/14 FG, 4/5 FT), a monster 18 rebounds and four assists, and Alonzo Burton with 10 points (4/10 FG, 2/5 3pt).

Luther Muhammad Franklin Bulls NBL basketball
Luther Muhammad provided 27 points and six assists for the Franklin Bulls. PHOTO: NBL

The Sharks put up a fight in the first and second quarters, leading for most of the first half, but that changed late.

Franklin scored 16 straight points to turn a nine-point deficit into a seven-point lead just before halftime, then scored the first 11 points of the third period to lead 53-36 - an overall run of 27-1, with Muhammad and Sam Timmins combining for 18 points.

Another big run, this time 15 straight points early in the fourth quarter, including eight from Scott, turned the game into a 25-point blowout.

In Week 11, the Bulls (8-4) travel to Palmerston North to play the Jets (1-11) on Sunday (tip-off 6.30pm), while the Sharks (1-12) host the Bay Hawks (5-7) on Thursday (tip-off 7.30pm).

Otago Nuggets 99 (Kimani Lawrence 27, Zaccheus Darko-Kelly 19, Ben Henshall 17, Dontae Russo-Nance 17) Manawatu Jets 88 (Mustapha Heron 26, James Moors 16, Liam Judd 13, Simon Lafaele 10). 1Q: 21-18, HT: 48-45, 3Q: 69-65

Franklin Bulls 93 (Luther Muhammad 27, Josh Scott 18, Dom Kelman-Poto 13, Isaac Davidson 12) Manawatu Jets 70 (Cooper Robb 19, Callum McRae 16, Alonzo Burton 10. 1Q: 16-21, HT: 42-36, 3Q: 67-55


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