Pistons get badly bitten by Southland Sharks
Kevin Braswell was kept quiet, but that's about all the Waikato Pistons did right in losing 82-66 to the Southland Sharks tonight.
Reuben Te Rangi was irresistible for the visitors scoring 28 points on 9-16 shooting, including a set of powerful dunks and four of eight from three-point range at Hamilton Boys' High School.
The Pistons were woeful on offence, making only 23 of 59 shots from the field and often struggling to move the ball.
During the week the Pistons had talked about shutting Braswell down and they did just that.
After scoring 39 in the last match between the teams, Braswell had only five points, due much to the defensive efforts of Akeem Wright.
Too bad they also had to play offence.
The home side were struggling to hold onto the ball early, with Corin Henry in particular giving the ball away often.
His four first quarter turnovers were balanced out with a good shooting performance from deep, drilling his first three three-pointers of the night.
That shooting kept the home side in it early, as Brian Conklin got to work inside the paint, making the most of the absence of any real Pistons big man.
Casey Frank was having trouble defending him, but Akeem Wright on the other hand was keeping Sharks sharp shooter Braswell quiet.
Braswell didn't put up one shot in the first quarter as Wright kept tight.
The Pistons seemed a little fortunate to lead 23-20 at the first break, but after that their offence went missing.
Four points in the opening eight and a half minutes was down to poor shot selection and no creativity on offence, as the Sharks drove to the hoop with ease.
Having no big man in the absence of Jack Salt, making the move to college hoops in America, really cost the home team.
Frank did manage to score some points for the Pistons late in the second, but a paltry nine points in the quarter allowed the Sharks to move out to a 50-32 halftime lead.
The Pistons' shooting was so bad that the halftime show, including four young children, provided a better shooting display.
After the break the hosts were better, but not good enough to eat into the large Sharks lead.
Conklin remained a handful for the Pistons inside the paint, as Wright kept tabs on Braswell.
Both teams started getting feisty as the quarter went on.
Conklin and Alex Talma had a wrestle after hitting the ground going for a rebound, which saw Pistons coach Pero Cameron and Sharks counterpart Paul Henare storm the court.
Henare was particularly upset about seven offensive fouls called against his team, sparking a confrontation with the referee.
The agitation seemed needless with his side up by 14 at the end of they third, and cruising to victory.
Shea Ili had the highlight of the night early in the fourth quarter for the Sharks, swatting a dunk on the transition by Wright into the Boys' High parking lot.
By that point the towels were almost constantly waving on the Sharks bench, as the visitors held their strong lead down the stretch.
Leon Henry had a big game for the Sharks, grabbing 10 points and 10 boards off the bench.
Only two Pistons players managed double figures, with Henry scoring 24 points, and Wright scoring 11.
Southland Sharks 82 (Reuben Te Rangi 28, Brian Conklin 20, Leon Henry 10) Waikato Pistons 66 (Corin Henry 24, Akeem Wright 11). 1Q: 20-23, HT: 50-32, 3Q: 63-49