Mission accomplished for the Wellington Saints, who have returned to the capital with two wins from their southern road trip.
American import Eric Devendorf and naturalised centre Nick Horvath were influential in both games as the Saints defeated the Southland Sharks 81-69 in Invercargill on Saturday after beating the Otago Nuggets 94-80 in Dunedin on Friday.
The Saints improved their record to eight wins and three losses and are one of three teams on 16 points with Nelson Giants (8-3) and Harbour Heat (8-4) also chasing the league leading Waikato Pistons (9-1).
"They were two really tough road wins," Saints coach Pero Cameron said.
"Thankfully the guys grinded out the wins."
Sharp shooter Devendorf scored 31 points against Otago and 23 against Southland to lead the Saints' scoring in both games.
Horvath was dominant inside the paint, hitting 12 of 14 shots against Otago for 24 points and 10 of 15 against Southland for 22 points.
"Our bigs in general, I thought played really well," Cameron said.
"If we can get them to continue to play well and keep improving our defence, we're looking pretty good. Defensively I thought we were pretty good, to back it up in a double header and get two wins was satisfying."
The Saints' next assignment is at home against Hawke's Bay on Thursday night.
Cameron was wary of the Hawks, who beat Nelson 80-54 and Taranaki Mountain Airs 99-76 at the weekend.
"Hawke's Bay are playing a very good brand of ball right now," Cameron said.
"They've brought in two new players. Josh Pace has been there for a couple of weeks and the other American [Jon Rogers] has arrived for the last two games as well. So they're very talented and they'll be tough."
In other games, defending champions Waikato beat Christchurch Cougars 88-83 and Harbour 78-71 to get a jump on the field.
The top-of-the-table clash between Waikato and Harbour was decided in the second quarter when the visitors turned an eight-point deficit into a 14-point lead at the halftime break.
Harbour started strongly with BJ Anthony instrumental on offence with eight quick points while no-one could find their range for Waikato before the roles were reversed in the second quarter as Tom Abercrombie and Tony Ronaldson led the fightback.
Abercrombie's all-court game was crucial for Waikato as the forward was on court for more than 38 minutes and led all scorers with 21 points.
- The Dominion Post
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