Jets' take-off too late to reach semis
Manawatu Jets coach Darron Larsen is wishing the NBL season was a couple of weeks longer.
The Jets finished in fifth place after thrashing the Super City Rangers 112-76 in the final game of the season in Auckland yesterday.
It was their fifth win in a row as they improved dramatically in the second half of the season, beating the top two sides.
"Seven [wins] out of our last eight games and we beat Hawke's Bay and Saints," Larsen said. "We probably beat some of the top teams and probably deserved to be there, but didn't take care of business in the first half of the season."
The Jets were sitting in second to last mid-way through the season, but the return of centre Nick Horvath coincided with an improvement in play.
Once they got up to full noise, they almost snuck into the playoffs, but they ran out of season and it wasn't good enough.
"Not for us," Larsen said. "We had high expectations but just didn't make it."
While they finished as the form team of the competition, they will be kicking themselves they didn't pick up at least one more win earlier in the year.
Everything seemed to finally click in the big win yesterday, and that made up for the 100-94 loss to the Rangers in Palmerston North earlier in the season.
Larsen said they had an average first quarter, but they still led 24-19 at the end of the first spell.
The Jets scored 63 points in the middle two quarters and conceded only 34.
Their three-point shooting was running hot. Troy McLean finally hit form from deep, shooting six from 11 and Paul Jones sank four from seven.
Larsen was happy with the 37 per cent from the three-point zone, better than it has been all season.
Field goal percentage was up, too, at 48 per cent, while it was only 36 per cent for the Rangers.
Jets forward Arthur Trousdell battled an illness to play, having been vomiting the night before, but he got through 12 minutes despite being "white as a ghost and every now and then running for the bucket".
Manawatu dominated the rebounds, with Horvath and Jeremiah Trueman grabbing 14 rebounds - Horvath getting a double-double, also scoring 22 points.
Jones had a game-high 26 points, McLean was not far behind with 24 and point guard Brandon Jenkins had an impressive stat line of 13 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and five steals.
Former Jet Duane Bailey torched them in the first-round encounter with 32 points, but Manawatu kept him quiet yesterday.
The league's leading scorer Jason Cadee scored 19 points, Houston O'Riley 15 and Cameron Stuart 12, but there wasn't much else apart from Dillon Boucher's 11 rebounds, eight assists and five points.
The playoffs are next weekend, with the Wellington Saints playing the Nelson Giants in one semifinal and regular-season winners the Bay Hawks playing the Southland Sharks.
Manawatu Jets 112 (Paul Jones 26, Troy McLean 24, Nick Horvath 22/14 rebounds, Brandon Jenkins 13/11 assists, Alonzo Burton 12, Jeremiah Trueman 14 rebounds) Super City Rangers 76 (Jason Cadee 19, Houston O'Riley 15, Cameron Stuart 12) Q1: 24-19, HT: 57-36, Q3: 87-53, FT: 112-76.
Other results: Bay Hawks 98 Otago Nuggets 87,Canterbury Rams 90 Southland Sharks 87, Wellington Saints 83 Waikato Pistons 82.