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Rams overpower Saints; Sharks end streak

The defending champion Canterbury Rams have continued their charge in the National Basketball League (NBL).

The Rams rolled the Wellington Saints 107-84 in a top-four clash in the Capital on Saturday night, hours after the Southland Sharks ended their 11-game losing streak with a 99-81 home win over the Otago Nuggets.


The Rams underlined their championship credentials with their eighth consecutive win as their three imports combined for 72 points, including eight threes, on 64 percent (27-of-42) shooting from the floor.

Forward KJ Buffen put up 26 points (10/16 FG, 4/7 3pt), six rebounds and two steals, fellow American MJ Walker 24 points (8/14 FG, 3/4 3pt, 5/6 FT), four boards and two steals, and Australia centre Lachlan Olbrich 22 points (9/12 FG) and 10 rebounds.

Former Tall Blacks guard Taylor Britt reached 1000 NBL points early in the game, on his way to 17 points (7/13 FG) and seven assists.

Tall Blacks forward Tohi Smith-Milner and Australian guard Ben Ayre top-scored for the Saints. Smith-Milner had 21 points (8/11 FG, 3/6 3pt) and eight rebounds, and Ayre 21 points (6/17 FG, 2/8 3pt, 7/11 FT) and seven assists.

Lat Mayen was the only other to score in double-figures, with 15 points (6/12 FG, 3/7 3pt) and four assists, while fellow import Malik Benlevi ended with nine points and seven boards.

KJ Buffen Canterbury Rams basketball
KJ Buffen produced 26 points, eight rebounds and two steals for the Canterbury Rams. PHOTO: NBL

The Rams trailed just once, for all of 13 seconds in the first quarter.

A 15-0 run in the second quarter pushed them out by 19 and the Saints only got as close as 15 the rest of the way, early in the third quarter. They outscored the Saints 29-18 in the second period.

The Saints were hurt by the absence of Tall Blacks forward Hyrum Harris, who played only four minutes before exiting.

In Week 10, the Rams (9-2) host the Bay Hawks (4-6) on Saturday (tip-off 4pm), while the Saints (7-3) head to Tauranga on Wednesday (tip-off 7.30pm) to face the Whai (4-7).

The Sharks scored their first win since the final round of last season in the second game of the Deep South Derby against the Nuggets.

Kiwi Brayden Inger scored a game-high 22 points (9/20 FG, 4/13 3pt), with 12 rebounds and five steals in his best performance of the season, while import Caleb Asberry and captain Alonzo Burton also had 20-plus points.

Asberry had 21 points (8/13 FG, 4/5 FT), five boards and four assists, and Burton 20 points (7/14 FG, 3/7 3pt), five rebounds and two steals, while Kiwi big Callum McRae added 13 points (5/8 FG) and 10 boards, and import forward Marcale Lotts 12 points (6/7 FG) and six rebounds.

Australia wing Ben Henshall, recently named in the Boomers training squad, led the Nuggets with 20 points (7/16 FG, 3/7 3pt) and seven boards. Kiwi guard Dontae Russo-Nance finished with 19 points (8/16 FG, 3/8 3pt), five rebounds, five assists and two steals, and import forward Kimani Lawrence 15 points (6/16 FG) and seven boards.

Brayden Inger Southland Sharks basketball
Brayden Inger scored 12 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. PHOTO: NBL

Coming in having lost 11 straight to start the season, the game started like many others for the Sharks, trailing after the first quarter.

Southland trailed for most of the first half, and into the third period before the game turned. From trailing by seven, the Sharks closed the quarter on a 20-9 run, with eight points from Burton, to lead by four.

Then it was Inger Time. The former Tall Blacks forward scored 12 points in the fourth as the home side quickly built their lead to double-digits, then carried on, reaching as many as 24 points, outscoring the Nuggets 29-15 in the period.

Next week, the Southland Sharks (1-11) will look to start a winning streak at home against the Franklin Bulls (7-3) next Sunday (tip-off 3pm), while the Nuggets (4-7) are away to the Taranaki Airs (8-3) on Friday (tip-off 7.30pm).

Canterbury Rams 107 (KJ Buffen 26, MJ Walker 24, Lachlan Olbrich 22, Taylor Britt 17) Wellington Saints 84 (Tohi Smith-Milner 21, Ben Ayre 21, Lat Mayen 15). 1Q: 32-26, HT: 61-44, 3Q: 84-63

Southland Sharks 99 (Brayden Inger 22, Caleb Asberry 21, Alonzo Burton 20, Callum McRae 13, Marcale Lotts 12) Otago Nuggets 81 (Ben Henshall 20, Dontae Russo-Nance 19, Kimani Lawrence 15). 1Q: 18-26, HT: 44-47, 3Q: 70-66


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