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Tuatara, Saints pull away for NBL road wins

Big second and fourth quarters have propelled the Auckland Tuatara and Wellington Saints to National Basketball League (NBL) road wins on Saturday.

The Tuatara outscored the Mid-North Whai 22-10 in the fourth period on the way to a 92-72 win in Tauranga, while the Saints broke open a tie game after three quarters to beat the Nelson Giants 84-75 in Nelson.

The Tuatara were led by their current and former Tall Blacks stars - Reuben Te Rangi, Corey Webster and Rob Loe.

Forward Te Rangi scored a game-high 23 points (9/16 FG, 4/7 FT), while Webster had 22 points (8/16 FG, 3/7 3pt) and four assists, and Loe stuffed the stat-sheet with 16 points (5/10 FG, 5/6 FT), 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.

Young guard Reuben Fitzgerald managed 10 points (3/4 FG) off the bench, while Australian Cam Gliddon put up nine points, six boards, three assists and four steals.

For the Whai, American Vance Jackson Jr led the way with 22 points (8/22 FG, 4/12 3pt) and six rebounds, while Kruz Perrott-Hunt scored 15 points (6/12 FG) and Phil Carr 11 points (5/9 FG) and seven boards. Demarcus Holland managed nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in his NBL debut.

In a back-and-forth opening quarter at a packed Baypark Arena, it was the bigs from both teams who put on a show.

Jackson Jr showed off his elite touch from outside the arc by knocking down a pair of triples enroute to 10 first-quarter points, as savvy veteran and reigning league MVP Loe added seven for the visitors.

Rob Loe Auckland Tuatara NBL basketball
Rob Loe posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. PHOTO: NBL

The Tuatara came out with a hiss and a roar in the second, starting the quarter on a 14-0 run to flip the script. Te Rangi fuelled the visitors with 14 second-quarter points, in a masterclass in how to get to the rim.

Despite Jackson Jr pulling the home side back into the game with another pair of threes, the Aucklanders who went into halftime up 10. 

The pace of the game slowed up considerably in the third as the Whai looked to grind their way back into the game. East Carolina product Jackson Jr showing his scoring ability again, as he and Phillip Carr combined for 13 third-quarter points.

But the Tuatara were able to keep the Whai at arms-length, and went into the final period up eight. Auckland continued to score freely in the fourth, turning it into a blowout in the late stages.

The Tuatara (2-1) head to Nelson to face the Giants (0-3) on Friday (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Whai (1-1) are on the road for the first time against the Taranaki Airs (1-1) on Saturday (tip-off 4pm).

The Saints improved to 2-0 with an attritional win over the Nelson Giants on Saturday afternoon, led by Tall Blacks Hyrum Harris, Tohi Smith-Milner and Izayah Le'afa.

Harris posted a team-high 22 points (10/18 FG), 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals, while Smith Milner managed 20 points (9/17 FG), 12 boards and four assists. Le'afa chimed in with 18 points (4/16 FG, 3/11 3pt, 7/9 FT), six rebounds and four steals and Ben Ayre 13 points (4/15 FG, 4/4 FT).

Australian forward Dan Grida finished with a game-high 27 points (6/16 FG, 13/15 FT) and 11 boards for the Giants, while Kiwi Dan Fotu produced 20 points (7/15 FG, 4/5 3pt) and 10 rebounds.

Another sell-out crowd at the Trafalgar Centre were rewarded early as the Giants accelerated to a 7-0 start.

Harris eventually got the 12-time champion on the board and the battle began in earnest. The Saints were missing Lat Mayen (shoulder), who failed a late fitness test, but were boosted by the return of Izayah Le’afa.

Hyrum Harris Wellington Saints NBL basketball
Hyrum Harris led the Wellington Saints with 22 points and 10 rebounds. PHOTO: NBL

The Tall Blacks and NZ Breakers guard looked to shoot himself into form early and, while the shots were not dropping, Harris and Smith-Milner were gobbling up the offensive rebounds to keep the Saints in the contest.

The Saints found their rhythm in the second and third quarters, with Harris regularly bullying his way to the rim, Ayre using his speed and guile to find open looks, and Smith-Milner continuing to dominate the glass.

For the Giants, it was the tenacity of Grida, who prevented the game from blowing out early in the second half, and the brilliance of Fotu, who clawed the Giants back level at the end of the third.

The Tall Blacks power forward hit four three-pointers in the third period to give Giants fans plenty to cheer about with 10 minutes remaining.

The Giants needed more of that offence in the fourth, but it dried up, scoring just 10 points as the Saints turned the screws defensively and the Giants failed to look after the ball (finishing with 24 turnovers).

The Saints (2-0) head to the Deep South for their 'Southern Swing', against the Otago Nuggets (2-0) in Dunedin on Saturday (tip-off 7.30pm) and Southland Sharks (0-2) in Invercargill on Monday (tip-off 7.30pm).

Auckland Tuatara 92 (Reuben Te Rangi 23, Corey Webster 22, Rob Loe 16, Reuben Fitzgerald 10) Mid-North Whai 72 (Vance Jackson Jr 22, Kruz Perrott-Hunt 15, Phil Carr 11). 1Q: 19-24, HT: 51-41, 3Q: 70-62

Wellington Saints 84 (Hyrum Harris 22, Tohi Smith-Milner 20, Izayah Le'afa 18, Ben Ayre 13) Nelson Giants 75 (Dan Grida 27, Dan Fotu 20, Aston Inwood 11). 1Q: 19-21, HT: 54-50, 3Q: 65-65


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