Southland Sharks leave it late against Pistons
Another fourth quarter comeback led the Southland Sharks to an all-important 92-88 win over fellow play-off contender the Waikato Pistons at the ILT Stadium in Invercargill tonight.
The Sharks struggled to find their groove throughout as Waikato led through the first three quarters of the match.
However, an inspired fourth quarter display from the Sharks, where they outscored the Pistons 27-18, saw the home team bank the win.
The Sharks went into the game under strength with big man Gareth Dawson not in attendance.
Sharks officials said before the game his absence was due to "personal issues".
With Dawson not playing it affected the Sharks' height under the boards and put the spotlight on the depth in the squad.
James Paringatai was required to play far more minutes than usual and actually started the game with coach Paul Henare opting to use Leon Henry off the bench as usual.
Adding to the Sharks problems, they met foul trouble throughout the game and went into the final quarter with Shea Ili, Reuben Te Rangi, Leon Henry and Paringatai all on four fouls.
Ili was the first to be fouled out of the game midway through the final quarter.
The Pistons' American import Akeem Wright had his own foul troubles and was also fouled out in the final quarter after contributing 26 points.
The reality was the high foul count and general messy nature of the game didn't help the spectacle and at times referees Gavin Zimmerman, Raewyn Willocks and Matt Bathurst looked to have lost control.
Credit must be given to another match-winning display from the Sharks' Kevin Braswell, who equalled his franchise record of 39 points.
The game didn't end well with the Pistons' American import Corin Henry leaving with what looked to be a nasty injury.
The two teams will have little time to reflect on tonight's game as they prepare to square-off again in Hamilton on Thursday night.
The Sharks' next home game will be on Sunday, June 1 against the Taranaki Mountain Airs.
- The Southland Times