Sharks deliver thriller against leading Saints

Last updated 05:00 05/05/2014
Leon Henry
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ
ON FIRE: Leon Henry launches himself at the basket in the Sharks’ thrilling 85-83 win over Wellington in Invercargill on Saturday night.

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Nights like Saturday are why Kevin Braswell plays the game of basketball.

The 34-year-old was flicked the ball on the three-point line with 12.5 seconds to play in his Southland Sharks team's National Basketball League showdown with competition frontrunners the Wellington Saints.

The scores were locked up at 80 apeice and Braswell delivered his clutch fourth-quarter play that has been seen many times before in New Zealand basketball, most notably when he lined up for the Breaker in the ANBL in 2010 and 2011.

Braswell's three-point play on Saturday night - which broke the deadlock and ultimately led to the victory - was one of three successful shots from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter for the American as he racked up 12 all-important fourth-quarter points.

That is Braswell's forte and what makes him the special player he is.

''If you watched me at the Breakers, that's all they did; the last five or six minutes of the game put the ball in my hand and let me make the plays.

''That's my play. You've got to make something happen. It's not always you are going to get the last shot but as long as you can be aggressive and make something happen, it can happen. It was a hell of a shot,'' he said with a smile soon after the game.

''I came here to tonight and I said 'I don't care how we are going to do this, we are going to win this game'.''

The Sharks started the best, at one stage in the first quarter leading by eight, and it was 24-18 at the end of that quarter.

At halftime the Sharks still had a five-point buffer before Wellington won the the third quarter 25-17 and looked to have been timing the run perfectly.

The teams jostled for the upper hand in a tense final quarter before Braswell made what turned out to be the play of the game with 12.5 seconds on the clock to grab the three-point lead.

The final 12.5 seconds, however, were nervous ones for Sharks fans.

As is usual in the sport of basketball, it took forever to complete as Wellington tried their best to manufacture a win.

To ensure the clock wasn't able to be wound down, Wellington fouled Luke Martin, forcing him to free-throw line.

Martin missed both, which meant it was still a three-point game but Dave Gruber was able to grab an offensive rebound and, with seconds remaining, the ball ended up with Braswell, who was fouled.

He went to the free-throw line but managed just one of the two to make it 84-80.

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With two seconds on the clock, the Saints had possession and Ernest Scott was able to dsrill a three-pointer to bring it back to 84-83.

Yet again, as soon as Southland fielded the ball, Braswell was fouled and went the free-throw line.

He made his first shot but missed his second. However, there was not enough time for the Saints to grab the rebound and get a shot away as the Sharks latched on to an 85-83 win.

While Braswell was delighted with the win, he was disapointed with himself and his team-mates' efforts at the free-throw line.

''Hopefully, our free-three shooting gets better next week so we can win by 10 instead of two points,'' he said

- Fairfax Media

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