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Saints, Nuggets too good for Jets, Giants

After six weeks, the National Basketball League (NBL) is starting to see some separation in the standings.

On Sunday, the Wellington Saints remained atop the league with a 107-82 rout of the Manawatu Jets in Palmerston North, while the Otago Nuggets protected their home court in a 107-94 result over the Nelson Giants in Dunedin.

The Saints almost had two players finish with triple-doubles, led by Australian forward Lat Mayen with 26 points (10/15 FG, 5/6 FT), 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

Tall Blacks guard Izayah Le'afa put up 13 points (3/15 FG, 2/10 3pt, 5/6 FT), eight boards, seven assists and three steals, while former national teammate Taane Samuel had 16 points (7/9 FG) and five rebounds off the bench in his first game back with the Saints.

Australian guard Ben Ayre scored 15 points (6/14 FG) and three assists, Kiwi big Tohi Smith-Milner 12 points (4/8 FG, 3/3 FT) and import forward Malik Benlevi eight points, eight boards and two steals.

Young Kiwi forward Liam Judd had a game-high 30 points (11/18 FG, 6/9 3pt) for Manawatu, to go with nine rebounds, three assists and three steals. American guard Mustapha Heron finished with 15 points (7/16 FG), six boards and four assists, and Campbell Scott 11 points (5/12 FG) and four rebounds.

Lat Mayen Wellington Saints NBL basketball
Saints forward Lat Mayen was an assist away from a triple-double. PHOTO: NBL

The game was never close after the opening minutes. The Saints were up 13 points at quarter-time and quickly stretched out by 20 early in the second period.

A 15-0 run, with Mayen and Samuel each scoring six points, saw the Saints surge ahead by 37 with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter. Manawatu finished strong as the bench emptied to avoid the most lop-sided loss of the season.

The Saints won convincingly despite shooting just 17 percent on three-point attempts, thanks to 60 points in the paint, a healthy rebounding edge, and 20 second-chance points and 20 points off turnovers.

In Week 7, the Saints (6-1) host the Giants (3-5) at TSB Arena on Sunday (tip-off 6.30pm), while the Jets (1-7) head to Auckland to meet the Tuatara (7-2) on Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm).

The Nuggets got a much-needed win at the Edgar Centre, improving to 4-3 to keep pace with the Saints, Auckland Tuatara, Taranaki Airs, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls in a distinct top-six.

Australian wing Ben Henshall scored a team-high 31 points (12/17 FG, 5/9 3pt), with 10 rebounds and four assists, closely followed by American forward Kimani Lawrence with 30 points (14/19 FG) and eight boards.

Import guard Zaccheus Darko-Kelly stuffed the stat-sheet with 15 points (6/13 FG, 3/7 3pt), eight rebounds and seven assists, while former Tall Blacks guard Tai Webster also had 15 points (6/11 FG, 3/5 FT) and four boards and ANBL development player Jack Andrew nine points and 10 rebounds.

For the Giants, Australian forward Dan Grida posted 31 points (13/23 FG, 4/5 FT) and seven rebounds, while Tall Blacks forward Dan Fotu had 22 points (9/21 FG, 2/4 3pt), eight boards and four steals.

Ben Henshall Otago Nuggets NBL basketball
Ben Henshall had 31 points and 10 rebounds for the Otago Nuggets. PHOTO: NBL

Kiwi guard Alex McNaught scored 11 points (5/8 FG), with five assists, with import guard Kobe Langley providing 10 points (4/10 FG, 2/6 3pt), four assists and five steals, and Sam Dempster nine points off the bench.

In a back-and-fourth first half that featured 16 lead changes, no team led by more than five points. The Nuggets surged to a 10-point lead early in the third period but the Giants fought back to lead 86-84 with 8:34 remaining.

However, Otago sealed the win with a 17-4 run, including threes from Henshall, Darko-Kelly and Darcy Knox, over the next four minutes.

Up next, the Nuggets (4-3) travel to Tauranga to face the Mid-North Whai (2-5) on Wednesday (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Giants are also on the road at the Saints.

Wellington Saints 107 (Lat Mayen 26, Taane Samuel 16, Ben Ayre 15, Izayah Le'afa 13, Tohi Smith-Milner 12) Manawatu Jets 82 (Liam Judd 30, Mustapha Heron 15, Campbell Scott 11). 1Q: 30-17, HT: 56-34, 3Q: 81-48

Otago Nuggets 107 (Ben Henshall 31, Kimani Lawrence 30, Tai Webster 15, Zaccheus Darko-Kelly 15) Nelson Giants 94 (Dan Grida 31, Dan Fotu 22, Alex McNaught 11, Kobe Langley 10). 1Q: 32-31, HT: 52-46, 3Q: 82-76


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