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Tuatara deflate Airs for first NBL victory

The Auckland Tuatara and Taranaki Airs have fought out an early-season thriller in the National Basketball League (NBL) with the mercurial Corey Webster reminding everyone he has plenty of gas left in the tank as he led the home team to victory.

Just four days after being humiliated by the Wellington Saints, the Aucklanders stepped on their home court for the first time and showed the ageless experience that is sure to trouble plenty of teams this season. 

Both teams went it minus at least one starter – the Tuatara without Tom Vodanovich, and the Airs minus Flynn Cameron. Other than that, we got to see the best of two teams tipped to run deep into the Finals later in the year.

Just two points separated the pair at quarter time (23-21), and the second quarter was even (19-19), leaving the Tuatara with a narrow 42-40 lead at the main break.

NZ Breakers development player Carlin Davison dominated the first half for the Airs with 15 points, while Corey Webster paced the home team.

The third quarter became an arm-wrestle with scoring hard to come by with two of the competition’s best big men, Rob Loe and Sam Froling, enjoying a great battle inside and off the boards.

The Airs started the last quarter with a 9-0 run, forcing Tuatara coach Aaron Young to call a timeout and settle his team. The break worked as the home team stepped back on court and reignited the fight with a 12-0 run, taking the lead with just over four minutes to play.

Corey Webster Auckland Tuatara basketball
Corey Webster had a game-high 25 points for the Auckland Tuatara. PHOTO: NBL

With the result hanging the balance, enter Webster, who dropped a big triple that looked to break the spirit of the visitors. Webster’s composure in the closing stages was evident.

Cam Gliddon found some strong form with four triples, helping the Tuatara to space the floor and open up the gaps for Loe and Webster to work into.

In the end, in a game that could have gone either way, it was the Tuatara’s ability to come up with big baskets and crucial stops that proved the difference.

Steady down the stretch, the Tuatara held on for an 84-77 win.

The Tuatara (1-1) head to Tauranga on Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm) to face the league newcomers Mid-North Whai (1-0), while the Airs (1-1) get a week off before hosting the Whai in New Plymouth next Saturday (tip-off 5pm).

Auckland Tuatara 84 (Corey Webster 25, Rob Loe 22, Cam Gliddon 21, Reuben Te Rangi 13) Taranaki Airs 77 (Sam Froling 21, Carlin Davison 19, Derone Raukawa 13, Elijah Minnie 12). 1Q: 23-21, HT: 42-40, 3Q: 54-55


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