The Nelson Giants put the foot down when it counted to remain unbeaten in the Trafalgar Centre and firmly in second spot in the National Basketball League after a 103-88 win over the Taranaki Mountain Airs tonight.
Nelson led by five at halftime against a rugged Taranaki team but wobbled a little in the third period, especially when Mountain Airs guard Jack Leasure connected on three consecutive three-point shots in transition.
But the fourth quarter belonged to the Giants, a 16-5 run setting the tone on the way to a surprisingly comfortable victory, a season sweep and retention of the Brian Rampton Trophy.
Leading the way for Nelson was American small forward Josh Pace, last year's leading scorer in the NBL. He had 32 tonight with his usual mix of unconventional left-handed shots supplemented by strong work on the offensive boards.
Brook Ruscoe continues to be a great recruit for Nelson with another 16-point, seven-assist night but the most pleasing performance came from 39-year-old Nelson captain Phill Jones. No Kiwi player has racked up more points or played more games in the NBL than Jones, but he had scored a total of three points in his last two games as he adapted to a new role with Nelson. He had 16 tonight to signal a return to form.
Taranaki were a man down with athletic centre Kenny Gabriel suspended after receiving a disqualifying foul a night earlier. Link Abrams and Aaron Bailey-Nowell soldiered on in his absence but it was left to the guards to do the bulk of the scoring.
While Nelson largely kept Leasure in check, aside from his nine-point outburst in the third quarter, Brad Anderson had a huge game with 29 points, converting 61 per cent of his shots and adding four rebounds and four assists.
Nelson Giants 103 (Josh Pace 32, Phill Jones 16, Brook Ruscoe 16, Erron Maxey 12, Darryl Jones 11) Taranaki MountainAirs 88 (Brad Anderson 29, Jack Leasure 19, Link Abrams 14, Aaron Bailey-Nowell 12). 1Q: 22-15, HT: 45-40, 3Q: 67-66
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