Corey Webster inspires Wellington Saints to win
It seems foul trouble is the only thing capable of slowing Corey Webster down.
Despite sitting for most of the first half, the NBL’s leading scorer could not be denied in the second, propelling the Wellington Saints to a come-from-behind 99-89 win over the Manawatu Jets at TSB Bank Arena tonight.
Webster, forced to the bench with three fouls in the first seven minutes, did not return until the last play of the first half.
The Saints trailed by six at that point, and as many as 11 in the third quarter, but Webster more than made up for lost time to finish with a game-high 33 points in just 27 minutes.
It was a much needed win for Shane Heal’s team, having lost two of their last three and being abused on the boards on Saturday in Invercargill.
Wellington lift to a 7-2 record, setting up a mouthwatering, top-of-the-table clash with Hawke’s Bay in Napier on Saturday.
Dion Prewster then Damien Ekenasio’s shots rimmed out to leave the Saints one agonising point shy of the necessary ton.
He remains a bench weapon for the NZ Breakers, but Webster is thriving with the offensive responsibility in Wellington.
The shooting guard hit 12 of 23 shots, including four of seven from downtown, running rings around the hapless visitors who drop to 2-5.
The awful rebounding effort against Southland was also corrected as the Saints gained a 31-28 edge on the boards.
But coach Heal still has plenty to work on.
The Saints were plagued by turnovers in the first half, giving away seven as the hosts struggled to gain rhythm at either end of the court.
Former Saints stalwart Troy McLean also proved a thorn in their side, the veteran sharpshooter going toe-to-toe with young buck Webster for a while before running out of steam and finishing with 15 points.
Heal reacted to Saturday’s loss in Invercargill by tweaking his starting five, with import forward Ernest Scott replacing defensive specialist Ekenasio.
And Tall Blacks forward Jordan Ngatai, back from Brigham Young University-Hawaii, made his first appearance of the season, giving the Saints some serious frontcourt depth.
While Manawatu faded late, they looked good for an upset in the third quarter, leading by 11 on two occasions.
Heal was livid as Scott left Matt Te Huna wide open for a three and a verbal kick up the bum seemed to spark the American into action.
Scott (15 points) dished a nice assist to BJ Anthony (19 points, nine rebounds), then knocked down a trey of his own to slice the margin to four.
The effort level lifted and when a pretty Webster step-back jumper gave the Saints the lead towards the end of the third, the writing was well and truly on the wall.
Lindsay Tait had a solid night with 13 points and nine assists as the Saints shared the ball well.
Wellington Saints 99 (Corey Webster 33, BJ Anthony 19, Ernest Scott 15) Manawatu Jets 89 (Brandon Jenkins 22, Troy McLean 15, Paul Jones 13) 1Q: 20-21, HT: 39-45, 3Q: 71-69.