Saints hand Nuggets first loss of NBL season
When you're as sweet a shooter as Corey Webster, you don't really worry about rust.
The Wellington Saints guard defied doctors' orders and a bad ankle sprain to light up TSB Bank Arena last night and end the Otago Nuggets' fairytale run.
Webster finished with a game-high 32 points (13/21 FG, 5/9 3PT) as the Saints emerged 102-93 victors in a clash of the NBL heavyweights.
"I haven't been practicing and I was supposed to sit out two more weeks," said Webster, who has been battling the ankle injury since the Breakers' finals series and was a game-time decision last night.
"But it was a big game, I warmed up to see how it was and it felt good. Obviously the adrenaline helps during the game and it will be a bit sore now but I've just got to work through it."
Webster was clearly bothered by the ankle and had running repairs throughout the game, yet his shooting stroke remained picture perfect.
Asked if he was surprised by the lack of rust, Webster flashed a grin which strongly suggested a silly question.
"Not really, you know, I'm sort of used to doing that. I've shot the ball all my life so you've got to come out confident."
The Saints were missing suspended import Andrew Warren yet were sharp offensively and led for almost the entire game.
As well as landing a psychological blow on the Nuggets, the hosts (7-2) moved to outright second while the former league easy-beats dropped to 8-1.
Crucially Wellington won the rebounding battle 35-23 while Dillon Boucher used all his years of experience to draw the fifth foul on a frustrated BJ Anthony who had to watch the closing stages from the bench.
"We still haven't got our full squad but we're almost there and I think we're going to have a good run when we do," Webster said.
That could happen as soon as Saturday, away to Hawke's Bay, with Warren available again and Mike Homik recovering from his calf niggle.
Former Tall Blacks team-mates Lindsay Tait (Saints) and Mark Dickel (Nuggets) enjoyed their tussle and their court vision remains a joy to behold.
Tait (20 points, 11 assists) was happy to dish the ball for most of the night but stepped up late in the final quarter with two big threes to give the hosts a little breathing space.
Athletic Saints import Bryant Markson finished the night with 24 points as he picked his spots and continues to adjust to the run-and-gun New Zealand game.
Wellington Saints 102 (Corey Webster 32, Bryant Markson 24, Lindsay Tait 20) Otago Nuggets 93 (Hayden Allen 22, BJ Anthony 18, Antoine Tisby 18) 1Q: 28-18, HT: 50-42, 3Q: 75-67
The Dominion Post