Good win for Wellington Saints, Rams seen off
Saints owner Nick Mills won't have to put his beloved club on the market just yet.
And if Wellington can replicate tonight's pace and accuracy in their remaining three games of the National Basketball League season they should be good enough to reach the playoffs.
That said coach Shane Heal will be looking for more consistency against Waikato in a week's time after a comfortable, but patchy, 99-82 win over the bottom placed Canterbury Rams.
Guard Corey Webster said he was "embarrassed" after the Saints' last game, a dire loss to Taranaki, and Mills that he'd sell the team if they didn't make the playoffs.
Early signs suggested Webster might be red faced again, cold through the first quarter with a solitary three-pointer.
But with Webster it's often a matter of time and so it proved as he poured in a team high 27 points to help the Saints improve to 9-6 on the season.
Dion Prewster (13 points) and hustling forward Damien Ekenasio played best supporting acts, while hard working big-men Brandon Bowman and Benny Anthony Jnr added 19 and 18 points respectively.
The key for the Saints is tempo and when they played at pace they were in a different league to the Rams even for the efforts of never-say-die forwards Matthew Rogers (29 points) and Ritchie Edwards (26).
An early alley hoop from Edwards to Rogers had the Rams on level footing with guard Jeremy Kench adding in some classy passing.
Heal had been urging his players to "get going" on offence. Bodies in motion was clearly the instruction.
The choreography looked a little complicated early on as turnovers punctuated the dance, but overall Heal will be pleased with the intensity and effort.
If anything, the Saints were held back at times by a rotation that seemed to rob them of hard earned momentum.
For whatever reason they gelled best when Webster and Prewster were on the court together. Against a more complete opponent that might matter, but a second quarter blitz gave the home side held a decisive upper hand.
Webster, Prewster and Jordan Ngatai knocked down open-look three-pointers early in the second and the score was suddenly 42-28 as the half approached. Webster had 14 by the half and as he found his range in the court began to open up.
The Saints won the second quarter 32-14 with Lindsay Tait relishing the fast break, but didn't put the foot on the throat.
The Rams deserve plenty of credit. Down by 19 at halftime, they dug in during the third with Edwards closing things out with back to back three-pointers.
Jeremy Kench and Marcel Jones showed plenty of class as the lead was cut to five, 74-69 going into the final stanza, but by then the Saints were conducting formalities against a tired opposition.
There was inevitability about the final margin, 17 points, and enough for Heal to go away with some confidence that a bit of fine tuning could turn it into far more.
Wellington Saints 99 (Corey Webster 27, Brandon Bowman 19, Benny Anthony Jnr 18, Dion Prewster 15) Canterbury Rams 82 (Mathew Rogers 29, Ritchie Edwards 26, Marcel Jones 13, Jeremy Kench 12). 1Q: 21-20, HT: 53-34, 3Q:74-69
The Dominion Post