A player of the week calibre performance from American guard Josh Pace has helped the Nelson Giants maintain playoff momentum in the National Basketball League tonight.
The Giants sit solidly in the top four and enhanced their finals prospects with a 97-84 win over the Super City Rangers in Nelson.
Waitakere are rooted near the foot of the table but managed to stay close until the early stages of the final quarter when a skittish Nelson team finally settled and put the foot down. A four-point lead ballooned out to 19 before the home side cleared their bench and Waitakere made a couple of late three-point shots.
Pace posted season highs in both scoring (35) and rebounding (17), gathering a remarkable 10 offensive rebounds as Nelson won the battle of the boards, 50-28. He made 14 of his 20 shots and added two assists in 30min on court in a compelling all-round display.
Countryman Erron Maxey was also effective with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Mika Vukona had 11 of his 14 rebounds after halftime, but it was not a vintage performance from the playoff-bound Giants.
Waitakere returned to the NBL after a long absence this season and have earned a reputation for being dogged and determined. With the likes of Carl Buck and Houston O'Riley steering them and young forwards Patrich Bolstad and Jack Salt emerging from the West Auckland basketball nursery, there is a lot to like about the feisty Rangers side.
They certainly kept the more lauded Nelson team off their game for three quarters, with the Giants taking a 69-65 lead into the final period. But Brook Ruscoe ramped up the tempo for Nelson and coach Liam Flynn was able to use all his subs, rookie guard Akira Marsters scoring his first points in the NBL when he converted an offensive rebound with a minute to play.
Nelson now face a road double header against Wellington, who are also a final four side, and Hawke's Bay, the only team to beat the Giants in Nelson this season. Their final game is against the surging Southland Sharks in two weeks from tonight.
Nelson Giants 97 (Josh Pace 35, Erron Maxey 23) Super City Rangers 84 (Carl Buck 20, Houston O'Riley 15, Shea Ili 14). 1Q: 21-20, HT: 52-46, 3Q: 69-65
- © Fairfax NZ News