The Cigna Wellington Saints cruised to their second straight victory in the Sal's NBL tonight, brushing aside competition newcomers the Southern Huskies 87-60.
It was a back and forth affair in the first quarter, with both teams hitting the majority of their shots from both inside and out. The visitors seemed to have the ascendancy early on, but a pair deuces and an and-1 to Shea Ili in the closing minutes gave the home team a 21-18 lead. A full-court press was then implemented by Saints' Head Coach Paul Henare, which caused all kinds of trouble for the Huskies from the outset.
The Tasmanians would have to expend their energy on the offensive side of the ball just to get it over half-court, leaving them prone to defensive lapses on the other end. Ili was in his bag for nearly the whole quarter and drained a step-back trey at the buzzer to extend their lead to 17 and finish on that exact same number in points.
The third period was much the same as before the half, with the Saints picking apart what appeared to be a very team. Jordan Ngatai was given the green light to start the half and knocked down a trio of long bombs to push his team out to an insurmountable lead. Nick Kay also feasted on some poor rebounding and put back anything that came his way.
It looked like the game was going to turn ugly at the start of the fourth, but credit must be given to Huskies for making the Saints work for their points and not rolling over. They would still struggle to get anything going on attack and ultimately fell victim to a very classy Saints side who are near impossible to stop when in the zone. Nick Kay would finish as the game's leading scorer with 20 points and was joint-leading rebounder in the contest with 8. Shea Ili showed why he's an MVP by again putting on a show from the lead-guard spot and a special mention should also be made to Sunday Dech who was thrust into the game in the opening quarter and was an absolute menace defence. Tre Nichols got his and was a bright spot for the Huskies with an 18-point haul and fellow import Jalen Billups also chimed in nicely with a near double-double at 14 points and 8 boards.
The Huskies will now rest before travelling to Napier and playing the Taylor Hawks on Sunday, while the Saints have 6-day turnaround before they take on last year's Grand Final opponents and winners the Southland Sharks next Thursday.