Former Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf made a giant first impression on the National Basketball League, going one point shy of a half-century as the defending champion Waikato Pistons started their title defence with a big win.
Devendorf scored a Waikato franchise record 49 points as the two-time defending champion Pistons defeated the Nelson Giants in a 2009 NBL Finals repeat on the opening night of the 2010 season at the Te Awamutu Events Centre.
His points haul eclipsed the most in Waikato (Warriors/Titans/Pistons) history, bettering the 46 points scored by Clifon Bush, now with the Bay Hawks, scored against the Giants in 2001 for the then-Titans.
Tall Blacks centre Alex Pledger finished with 11 points and new shooting guard signing Gerard Bowden had 10 points for the new-look Pistons, who led 18-17 after the first quarter and gradually pulled away from the Giants, missing Tall Blacks forward Mika Vukona.
By halftime, Waikato's lead was seven points and up to 15 points after three periods as Devendorf took over. Import centre Michael Harrison, who has been nursing an ankle injury, topped the Giants with 24 points, while former Tall Blacks Phill Jones had 17 and Tony Rampton 14.
In Christchurch, another pair of former Tall Blacks, Paora Winitana and Jeremy Kench, had big nights as the Christchurch Cougars started the new season the right way.
Winitana finished with 27 points and Kench 20 points as the Cougars came from 18 points down at halftime and six points down after three quarters to beat the Bay Hawks 75-72 at Cowles Cauldron.
Down 48-30 at the main break, the Cougars unleashed a 21-9 third period and 24-15 fourth to stun the Hawks.
Dave Langrell led the Hawks with 18 points, while one-time Canterbury Ram Nat Connell had 15 points and Ben Hill, coming back after off-season knee surgery, had 12 points for the Hawks.
The Giants travel down the North Island's West Coast to face the Taranaki Mountain Airs in the only game on the NBL's Friday night slate in New Plymouth.
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