Canterbury Rams close out NBL season in style
The Canterbury Rams will know they can hold their own in the National Basketball League next year after concluding their comeback season in style.
Canterbury finished their campaign on a high note on Saturday night beating the defending champion Southland Sharks 90-87 at Cowles Stadium in front of another sellout crowd.
It capped off a pleasing finish to the season for the Rams, who won five of their last seven games, after starting out 1-10. They avoided the wooden spoon, finishing ninth in the 10-team league with a six win-12 loss record.
The Press understands it was coach Dave Harrison's last game in charge with a new face set to guide the team next season.
There was a lot to like about the Rams performance, with the team producing a gritty showing without their starting backcourt of captain Jeremy Kench (broken nose) and American import Glen Dandridge (elbow injury). Fellow American Matt Rogers was limited to just 22 minutes by foul trouble.
Southland, who had already clinched fourth spot on the ladder and a spot in this weekend's final-four playoffs, were also undermanned with potent American point guard Kevin Braswell being rested.
Without two of their leading scorers, the Rams homegrown players rose to the occasion.
Stand-in skipper Ethan Rusbatch was one of the best players, finishing with an outstanding stat line of 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Rusbatch, who hit the game-winning three-pointer in last week's overtime victory over Otago, again showed how much he embraces pressure situations. He drained the go-ahead basket with 35 seconds remaining after the scores were locked at 85-85.
Back-up big man Brent Fisher delivered his finest game of the season, contributing nine points and eight rebounds in his 14 minutes on court. Fisher also knocked down two important free throws in the closing stages.
Marty Davison, who again started at point guard, illustrated how much his confidence has grown over the season, adding seven points and five rebounds.
Marcel Jones was superb for Canterbury with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Richie Edwards poured in 20 points - which included two critical baskets late in the game.
Friday night's semifinals in Wellington pit top-of-the table Hawke's Bay against Southland.
The hometown Saints take on Nelson in the other matchup. The final will be played on Saturday night.
Canterbury 90 (Marcel Jones 22, Richie Edwards 20, Ethan Rusbatch 19, Brent Fisher 9) Southland 87 (Dan Peck 18, Luke Martin 16, James Paringatai 12) Quarter scores (Rams first) 19-20, 42-34, 65-55, 90-87
Final points: Hawke's Bay 30, Wellington 24, Nelson 22, Southland 20, Manawatu 18, Waikato 16, Super City 14, Otago 14, Canterbury 12, Taranaki 10.