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Whai upset Nuggets; Rams deflate Airs

The Mid-North Whai have scored the biggest win of their inaugural National Basketball League (NBL) season.

The first-year Whai outlasted the 2022 champion Otago Nuggets 70-69 at Tauranga's Mercury Baypark on Wednesday night, 24 hours before the Canterbury Rams topped the Taranaki Airs 86-83 in a top-four battle in Christchurch.


American shooting guard Demarcus Holland scored a game-high 20 points (8/14 FG, 3/3 FT), with six rebounds and three assists, while young guard Te Tuhi Lewis was the difference maker, with 17 points (6/8 FG, 5/6 3pt) and three boards off the bench.

Import big man Phil Carr posted a double-double with 15 points (5/12 FG, 5/5 FT), 12 rebounds and four assists, and Kiwi guard Jayden Bezzant with 10 points (4/13 FG, 2/6 3pt), six rebounds and two steals.

American forward Kimani Lawrence led the Nuggets with 19 points (9/20 FG), six boards and two steals, while Australian wing Ben Henshall stacked up a double-double with 13 points (4/14 FG, 4/4 FT), 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Kiwis Tai Webster and Jack Andrew each managed 14 points, with Webster shooting 5-of-12 and adding seven boards, and Andrew shooting 7-of-10 and adding six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Demarcus Holland Whai NBL basketball
Import Demarcus Holland led the Whai to a win over the Nuggets with 20 points. PHOTO: NBL

In a brutal to watch game at times, the Nuggets shot just 15 percent (3-of-19) on three-point attempts, while the Whai were still below average, hitting on 25 percent (8-of-31). Both shot under 40 percent from the field.

The Whai led 50-41 with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter after Lewis, who had 11 points in the period, but the Nuggets pulled the gap back to two points entering the fourth.

With the Whai leading by five early in the fourth, Otago went on a 16-6 run, with Darko-Kelly and Webster hitting threes, to go ahead 69-64 with 2:47 to play. However, Holland made two buckets to give the Whai the lead back and both teams went scoreless in the final minute.

The Whai (3-5) travel to Christchurch to face the Rams (6-2) next Friday (tip-off 7.30pm), while the Nuggets (4-4) complete their North Island double-header in Napier against the Bay Hawks (3-4) on Saturday (tip-off 4pm).

The Rams solidified their place in the top-six, finishing strong to pick up their fifth straight win and sixth in eight games.

Tall Blacks guard Taylor Britt scored a season-high 24 points (10/13 FG, 2/3 3pt), with five assists, for the Rams, while Australian centre Lachlan Olbrich added 22 points (7/11 FG, 7/10 FT), 10 rebounds and two blocks.

NZ Breakers development player Max Darling had 18 points (7/16 FG) and nine boards off the bench, as Canterbury's two American imports, MJ Walker and KJ Buffen combined for just six points and eight boards.

New Breakers signing Mitch McCarron led Taranaki with 17 points (5/10 FG, 6/7 FT) and seven assists, with the Cameron brothers, Flynn and Tobias, contributing 16 points each. Tobias Cameron posted a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds, while Australian Sam Froling managed 13 points and 10 boards.

Lachlan Olbrich Canterbury Rams NBL basketball
Lachlan Olbrich dropped 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Canterbury Rams. PHOTO: NBL

In a game which featured eight lead changes and with no team ahead by more than six points, Canterbury led for all but 90 seconds of the first half. However, the home side found themselves down five midway through the fourth quarter.

A pair of McCarron freebies put the Airs up 82-77 with 4:56 remaining, before the Rams ended on a 9-1 run and Taranaki went almost five minutes without a basket.

More poor three-point shooting highlighted the game, with the Rams shooting just 16 percent (4-of-24) and Airs 23 percent (6-of-26).

The Rams are off until next Friday, when they host the Whai at Cowles Stadium, while the Airs (5-3) return to New Plymouth to host the winless Southland Sharks (0-8) on Sunday (tip-off 3pm).

Mid-North Whai 60 (Demarcus Holland 20, Te Tuhi Lewis 17, Phil Carr 15, Jayden Bezzant 10) Otago Nuggets 59 (Kimani Lawrence 19, Tai Webster 14, Jack Andrew 14, Ben Henshall 13). 1Q: 21-25, HT: 36-33, 3Q: 55-53

Canterbury Rams 86 (Taylor Britt 24, Lachlan Olbrich 22, Max Darling 18) Taranaki Airs 83 (Mitch McCarron 17, Flynn Cameron 16, Tobias Cameron 16, Sam Froling 13). 1Q: 22-20, HT: 42-38, 3Q: 67-68


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