The Wellington Saints will play Hawke's Bay in their National Basketball League semifinal on Saturday, in a repeat of last year's grand final.
Hawke's Bay (13-3) sealed the regular season title for the first time in franchise history with a 80-71 win over the Manawatu Jets (10-6) in Palmerston North yesterday.
The Auckland Pirates also finished 13-3 after thrashing the Giants 120-88 in Nelson on Saturday, but the Hawks are top after having the better of their regular season match-ups.
Auckland will play Manawatu in Saturday's other semifinal, with both games to be played at Wellington's TSB Bank Arena.
The grand final will be played at the same venue on Sunday.
The Saints (9-7) and the Hawks split their regular season match-ups 1-1 but the two-time defending champions Saints will draw some confidence from their win in Wellington earlier this month.
Hawke's Bay were without star forward Paora Winitana yesterday because of his religious beliefs, while the Jets elected to rest import guards Josh Pace and Chris Hagan.
Adelaide 36ers guard Everard Bartlett top scored for the Hawks with 21 points and was particularly deadly from deep, hitting six of his eight treys.
American big men Kareem Johnson (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Galen Young (13 and 12) both had double doubles.
The absence of Pace and Hagan meant Jets swingman Marcel Jones got another run and he made the most of it with a game-high 25 points.
Centre Nick Horvath continued his outstanding season with 12 points and 16 rebounds but could not stop the Jets' five-game winning streak from coming to an end.
Star-studded Auckland will surely enter the Final Four as favourites after their impressive double-header at the weekend.
The Pirates beat the Saints 94-91 in Wellington on Friday night before backing up impressively against the Giants in Nelson.
Import Ron Dorsey scored an NBL career high 28 points – including seven of nine three-pointers – while guards Hayden Allen (26) and Lindsay Tait (21) continued their hot form.
Nelson finish with a 6-10 record, their worst season since 1989.
Meanwhile, NBA prospect Steve Adams was named tournament MVP after leading Wellington to the New Zealand under-21 title on Saturday.
Adams led Wellington's scoring with 24 points in an 84-81 overtime win over Harbour in the final at the Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua.
Harbour guard Tai Webster – the younger brother of suspended Tall Black Corey Webster – scored a game-high 29 points.
Harbour did enjoy some success though, winning the women's title thanks to a 78-72 victory over Porirua in the final.
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