The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams and EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls locked horns in the Sal’s NBL Showdown at Trusts Arena on Wednesday night.
It promised to be a tight tussle a minute before three-quarter time when the Rams trailed by just 9 points, but the Bulls put their collective feet to the floor in the closing minutes to win comfortably; 102-77.
The result means the Rams have lost four on the trot, whilst the Bulls join the Jets at the top of the table with a 5-3 record.
Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points), Isaac Davidson (20 points and six assists) and Sam Timmins (18 points) were in sparkling form for the Bulls. Nikau McCullough was accurate from deep, making three from four from long range for 11 points.
Alex Talma scored a season-best 25 points for the Rams, but only Sam Smith (11 points), Tom Webley (9 points and 9 rebounds) and Taylor Britt (10 points) offered significant support.
Everard Bartlett (11 points) knocked down his first two efforts from three and with Davidson making 12 points in the opening term the Bulls were 27-20 ahead.
Timmins got in on the fun from beyond the arc on the opening possession of the second period, only for Tom Cowie to strike back for the Rams with a trey of his own.
The Bulls then made threes on four consecutive possessions – Connor Woodbridge the sixth Franklin player to score from distance - as they stretched their advantage to 48-34.
Webley, Britt and Talma gave the Rams some much-needed scoring impetus as they clawed their way back into the contest, though they still trailed 56-45 at half-time. Davidson led all scorers at the interval with 18 points - Talma the best for the Rams with 13.
A Timmins dunk drew applause from the home support – the two teams trading baskets for most of the third quarter. Talma went back-to-back, joining Davidson in the 20 points category as the Bulls advantage threatened to fall below double digits.
Britt made that a reality, briefly, another Bartlett triple giving the Bulls a 75-63 buffer at the thirty-minute mark.
Timmins opened the fourth with a shuddering dunk, Kelman-Poto added two with a shake-and-bake and when Timmins added another power move it was danger time for the Rams trailing 81-64.
Talma, having a storming game, added to his tally but with six minutes to play the Rams trailed 86-68 and any chance of a confidence-boosting win was well and truly buried.
There was time for Joe Reddish to score his first NBL points, much to the delight of his teammates, as the Bulls closed out a convincing win.
Sky City MVP Votes:
Isaac Davidson (Bulls-10), Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls-8), Alex Talma (Rams-5), Sam Timmins (Bulls-3), Sam Smith (Rams-3), Taylor Britt (Rams-1).