Rampant Pirates eat Sharks
A rampant third-quarter performance from the Auckland Pirates has seen the NBL league leaders overcome the Southland Sharks, 107-89 in Auckland last night.
Southland were always going to be up against it, playing an in-form Auckland side, who had won their last eight games and trounced the Sharks by 19 points, just six days ago.
With only pride and contracts for next season to play for over the last three games of the season, Southland came out like a side with nothing to lose.
A major upset was on the cards at halftime with the Sharks trailing by just two points, but any chance of a boilover disappeared in the third quarter.
Southland were out-scored, 31-17 by a classy Pirates' team, containing three past or present Tall Blacks and two outstanding American imports, which effectively sealed their fate.
To their credit, Southland kept fighting during the final quarter, but the 16-point third-quarter deficit was always going to be too large to make up.
Southland once again struggled to shut down Auckland's potent offence, allowing over 100 points for the second time in a week.
The Pirates shot 56 per cent from the field, and a red-hot 13 of 27 (48 per cent) from three point land.
American big man Larry Abney, who has been one of the few shining lights for the Sharks this season, notched his eighth double-double of the year, with a team-high 20 points and 11 rebounds.
James Paringatai, who became the first Shark to bring up 50 appearances for the club last night, had a memorable game, scoring a season-high 15 points in his 16 minutes on court.
Cantabrian Ethan Rusbatch, who was a late-season pickup for the Sharks, also gave coach Richard Dickel some food for thought over the final patch of the season – with 14 points and six rebounds.
Star American point guard Kevin Braswell had a game he would rather forget, scoreless in the second half, to end with 10 points on three of 14 shooting.
As has been the case all season, Auckland got a balanced scoring attack on the night, with six different players netting double figures.
Athletic American big man Isma'il Muhammad, who caused the Sharks problems in their most recent game, was again a handful for the Pirates, with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Compatriot Ron Dorsey helped himself to 19 points, while rising star Brook Ruscoe, went well off the bench with 16 points.
The result drops Southland back to a disappointing four-win-10-loss record and means they will be fighting it out for the wooden spoon with the Otago Nuggets and Harbour Heat over the final week of the season.
Southland had high hopes at the beginning of the season, with one of the stronger starting fives in the league, but could not recover from a poor start to the season – where they had to play their first seven games away from home.
The Sharks are back in action tomorrow night against the Manawatu Jets at Invercargill's velodrome.
Auckland Pirates 107 (Isma'il Muhammad 20, Ron Dorsey 19, Brook Ruscoe 16, Alex Pledger 15)
Southland Sharks 89 (Larry Abney 20, James Paringatai 15, Ethan Rusbatch 14)
- © Fairfax NZ News