The Ben Wright-coached Nelson under-13 boys' basketball team defied the odds to record an upset 63-61 win over Palmerston North at the national age group tournament in Tauranga.
After finishing second in their pool, Nelson yesterday faced a strong Palmerston North team that had recorded some large wins, including an 80-point drubbing of Mid Canterbury.
Nelson jumped out to an early lead and managed to increase that to five points by halftime. They continued to hang tough, holding a three-point advantage at three-quarter time.
Ben Ripley led all scorers with 30 points, with Max Darling making 13 and Tyler Marsh 12.
With Palmerston North on a roll, Nelson found themselves behind 60-58 with 1.35 minutes to go. Nelson called a timeout, and Matai McGunniety returned to hit a field goal and tie the scores at 61-all.
Darling was fouled and hit one free throw to give Nelson a 62-61 lead with 18 seconds to go. Point guard Luke Meehan managed to control possession for 15 seconds and was eventually fouled, with Meehan extending the lead to two with three seconds to play. Palmerston North had an opportunity to tie the game but fell short.
The win elevates Nelson to a semifinal with Waitakere West Premiers tonight at 7.30pm.
The Nelson under-13 girls beat Hawke's Bay 39-16 to enter the playoffs for 9th to 12th. In a low-scoring encounter, Nelson managed to keep Hawke's Bay scoreless in the third quarter to record a hard-fought win.
Nelson were to play Otago today at 4pm.
Meanwhile, the Nelson under-15 boys went down 63-49 to New Plymouth in their bottom-eight quarterfinal at their national age group tournament in Porirua. The Nelson girls also suffered a tight 49-48 loss to Harbour B in their bottom-eight quarterfinal.
- The Nelson Mail