Saints survive Webster loss to beat Taranaki
No Corey Webster, no problem for the Wellington Saints, who withstood the loss of their leading scorer to defeat the Taranaki Mountain Airs 98-79 at TSB Bank Arena tonight.
With a Final Four berth locked up, Saints star Webster sat out the game as a precaution after suffering a rib cartilage sprain during Wednesday's training.
X-rays today cleared the shooting guard of serious damage and Saints physio Gavin Cross said he would have played if it had been a playoff game.
Webster will miss Sunday's away game against the Waikato Pistons but is expected to be fit for next weekend's Final Four in Wellington.
Point guard Lindsay Tait (11 points, 10 assists) is also expected to sit out the Waikato game as he nurses a minor hamstring niggle.
Without the focal point of their offence, the Saints shared the ball nicely while imports Brandon Bowman (19 points, nine assists) and Bryan Davis (18 points, 12 rebounds) stepped up to gain revenge for their shock loss in New Plymouth.
The win lifted the second-placed Saints to 11-6 and further boosts their confidence on home court, where they have lost just once this season.
Taranaki made Shane Heal's side work for their win, with the scores locked at 23-23 after the first quarter, before the Saints took a 46-43 lead into the locker-room at halftime.
Wellington stretched the advantage to 10 points heading into the final term as the result started to become a formality.
Taranaki's outstanding import Sulieman Braimoh torched the Saints with a game high 40 points while the home side shared the load nicely with six players scoring in double digits.
Defensive specialist Dion Prewster was a more than capable replacement for Webster in the starting lineup, while Bowman, a skilled all-around player, enjoyed the opportunity to be featured in the Saints' offence.
Davis - who has been plagued by foul trouble since arriving in Wellington - was finally able to stay on the good side of the officials and show the ability that made him a solid performer in the NBA's 2013-14 D-League.
The Saints' ball movement got noticeably crisper as the game wore on and, while the long-limbed Braimoh was a beast at both ends, he simply didn't have the supporting cast to mount a serious challenge.
Wellington Saints 98 (Brandon Bowman 19, Bryan Davis 18, BJ Anthony 12) Taranaki Mountain Airs 79 (Sulieman Braimoh 40, Aaron Bailey-Nowell 15, Kaye McKee 11)
1Q: 23-23 HT: 46-43. 3Q: 71-61
The Dominion Post