Southland Sharks fans get what they paid for
Southlanders turned out in force tonight to bring the curtain down on the 2014 Southland Sharks' home campaign and the Sharks delivered for the occasion.
A season-high 2340 people turned out for the Sharks' ninth and last 2014 home National Basketball League game - a game that just may have clinched them a place in the playoffs in a fortnight.
In fact, tonight was the largest crowd in the Sharks' five-season history, with stadium staff having to open up the top of the stand for the first time.
The Sharks blitzed an under-strength Canterbury Rams 35-11 in the first quarter, which ultimately set up the 108-83 win.
Canterbury fought hard, winning the second and third quarters, but there was just too much ground to make up.
Brian Conklin was the Sharks' best with his 28-point and 15-rebound haul.
Luke Martin continues to impress as the season wears on, producing another impressive performance last night with his 21 points.
Tai Wesley again highlighted he has been an ideal pickup, scoring 22 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.
A team-sheet blunder by the Sharks in the first quarter meant Dan Peck's involvement in the game was limited.
Peck's name wasn't put on the sheet before the game and, after 34 seconds on the court, officials realised.
Peck was pulled and that was it for him for the game.
It didn't cost the Sharks but will be a lesson learned by Sharks management.
In the first quarter, referee Raewyn Willocks would have been thankful she was still in one piece after being collected by Sharks big man Conklin by accident.
Conklin and Rams American import Matt Rogers clashed, which sent Conklin flying and he collected Willocks in the process, sending her into the corporate tables.
Much to everyone's relief, Willocks - who is half the size of Conklin - got up with a smile.
The two Americans had a running battle throughout the night, which included both picking up unsportsmanlike fouls in the third quarter when Rogers took objection to a challenge Conklin made on one of his Canterbury team-mates.
The Sharks will now eye a double-header on the road against Canterbury and Nelson in the final round of the regular season next weekend.
One more win will certainly see Southland make the semifinals but if other results go their way, they may have already even done enough.
To be pushing towards another potential title his an impressive effort by the Sharks, given the season they have had off the court to date.
By rights, they probably should be struggling, given they are missing four frontline players from the start of the season but instead they believe they are a genuine shot at defending their title.
Some smart recruiting and other squad members stepping up has ensured they have remained a threat.
Southland Sharks 108 (Brian Conklin 28, Tai Wesley 22, Luke Martin 21) Canterbury Rams 83 (Ethan Rusbatch 20, Jeremy Kench 18, Matthew Rogers 18). 1Q: 35-14, HT: 57-38, Q3: 76-62
- The Southland Times