Ernest Scott put the Wellington Saints in position for the win. And Jason Crowe did the finishing.
Crowe had 11 of his 14 points in the fourth period, leading the hometown Saints to an 85-80 National Basketball League win over the Taranaki Mountain Airs.
The win, in front of a loud Good Friday crowd of 3880 at TSB Bank Arena, solidified the Saints' spot inside the NBL's top-four at 4-3.
Scott, who arrived in Wellington this week for his second import stint with the Saints, had 18 of his team-high 21 points through three quarters and hit the dagger three that killed off an Airs rally.
Back-to-back threes from import point guard Crowe early in the fourth period gave the Saints the buffer they needed.
Taranaki, coming off a 76-69 home win over the Nelson Giants on Thursday night, were led by Jack Leasure's game-high 29 points, Link Abrams' 18 and Darryl Hudson's 15.
Taranaki captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell, who played in foul-trouble throughout the game, picked up his disqualifying fifth foul with six minutes to play, hurting the road team's hopes of an upset.
Stats pointed towards a blow-out, with the Saints coming into the game scoring an NBL-best 95.7 points per game and Taranaki a league-worst 81.5 points.
But it was a fight for all 40 minutes for the two-time defending champs.
Settling too often for three-point shots, turning the ball over six times and finding points tough to come by early, the Saints ended the first period on a 14-5 run in the last three minutes to take a 23-19 lead.
Leasure, with nine, and Abrams, with eight, accounted for 17 of the Mountain Airs' 19 first quarter points.
The Mountain Airs were able to hang close at halftime, down 43-40, thanks to more production from their bench.
Scott, back with the Saints for the first time since 2008, scored his first basket on a short hook shot in the lane with 1:19 remaining in the first, then drained back-to-back threes early in the second to put the Saints ahead 31-24.
He had seven points in the third period as he and Casey Frank's inside-and-outside combination kept the Saints up a point, 59-58, with a quarter to run.
Frank finished with 14 points and 11 boards, helping Wellington to a 46-34 rebounding advantage.
The Saints are back in action next Friday, hosting the Giants (2-3) at 7pm. Taranaki host the Harbour Heat (2-5) the same night in New Plymouth.
Wellington Saints 85 (Ernest Scott 21, Casey Frank 14, Jason Crowe 14, Troy McLean 11)
Taranaki Mountain Airs 80 (Jack Leasure 29, Link Abrams 18, Darryl Hudson 15)
1Q: 23-19, HT: 43-40, 3Q: 59-58.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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