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Rams dominate down-low to beat Whai

The defending champion Canterbury Rams have surged to their seventh straight National Basketball League (NBL) win.

The Rams scored 42 points in the paint and made 19-of-22 free-throws on the way to an 86-72 road victory over the first-year Tauranga Whai at Mercury Baypark in Mount Maunganui on Thursday night.

Australian centre Lachlan Olbrich finished with a game-high 21 points (7/13 FG, 2/2 3pt, 5/7 FT) to go with nine rebounds and three steals, while import forward MJ Walker had 18 points (6/12 FG, 5/5 FT) and three assists.

Fellow American KJ Buffen put up 14 points (4/10 FG, 6/6 FT), six boards and three steals, with reserve Tall Blacks guard Taylor Britt added 12 points (6/12 FG), six rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Walter Brown 11 points (4/9 FG, 3/5 3pt) and six boards.

Kiwi guard Kruz Perrott-Hunt carried the scoring load for the Whai, with 20 points (7/15 FG, 5/10 3pt) and four assists, backed up by Phil Carr with 14 points (5/16 FG, 4/8 FG), 10 boards and two steals.

Denhym Brooke chimed in with 12 points (5/6 FG, 2/3 3pt) and eight rebounds, Jett Thompson 13 points (4/6 FG, 3/5 3pt) and import Demarcus Holland and Jayden Bezzant made valuable contributions.

Lachlan Olbrich Canterbury Rams basketball
Australian centre Lachlan Olbrich was a rebound shy of a double-double. PHOTO: NBL

Two crucial periods tilted the game in the Rams' favour.

The first, in the back half of the first quarter, saw Canterbury score the last 18 points of the period, with Walker and Olbrich dropping six, to flip an eight-point deficit into a 23-13 lead at the first break.

The second, early in the fourth quarter while leading by just five, saw the Rams score 11 straight points as part of an overall 17-3 run, with Britt scoring six, to take a 19-point lead with 3:08 remaining.

The Rams (7-2) complete their North Island double-header against the Wellington Saints (7-2) on Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm) in a top-four clash, while the Whai (4-7) head to Palmerston North to take on the Manawatu Jets (1-9) on Sunday (tip-off 3pm).

Canterbury Rams 86 (Lachlan Olbrich 21, MJ Walker 18, KJ Buffen 14, Taylor Britt 12, Walter Brown 11) Tauranga Whai 72 (Kruz Perrott-Hunt 20, Phil Carr 14, Jett Thompson 13, Denhym Brooke 12). 1Q: 23-13, HT: 41-36, 3Q: 60-51


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