Taranaki Mountain Airs revive spirit of the past
The retro look was in on Saturday night.
The Taranaki Mountain Airs turned back the basketball clock wearing the BP Bears green strip of 20 years ago and found their points-scoring mojo at the same time.
The Airs were on a high, having by far the better of a free-flowing National Basketball League match against the Super City Rangers, winning 114-93 at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.
After a delayed start - the game was held up for 15 minutes because of the lights dimming - the Mountain Airs won the battle of the fast break, with captain Jack Leasure leading the way with 33 points.
Taranaki's second import, big man Kenny Gabriel, also had a busy night with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds, with Ethan Rusbatch and Brad Anderson both scoring 16.
The home side won every quarter, ending their two-game losing streak to take the Airs to a five-win, 10-loss record for the season with one game to go - against the Otago Nuggets in New Plymouth this Saturday.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Rangers, who are stuck at the bottom of the table with two wins and 13 losses.
Duane Bailey returned after missing one game to top score for the Rangers with 23, guards Houston O'Riley and Carl Buck added 18.
The Mountain Airs led 29-23 after a high-scoring first quarter and extended that lead to 56-47 at the break.
The home side pushed out to a 15-point lead soon after the restart, effectively ending any hopes of a Rangers comeback. A monster three-point bucket from halfway with time up in the quarter by Rusbatch pushed Taranaki's lead out to 82-66.
A 32-27 final quarter gave the large crowd plenty to cheer about with both sides going all out on attack.
The stats sheet said it all with 41 rebounds going Taranaki's way, with the Rangers only pulling down 24.
And Taranaki's three-point shooting was much more effective with seven from 14 compared to five from 17.
Alarmingly for both sides was the number of turnovers - 13 for the Rangers and 18 for Taranaki.
Leasure was happy with the win and with his own form.
"There was lots of open space tonight. They like to run with the ball and that makes it easier for me, a lot more opportunities.
"We're looking forward to backing up against Otago. They're one of the better teams. We found them tough on the road.
"We were missing Sid [big man Sid Adams] tonight. He was away at the NBA draft [following brother Steven]. But he'll be back and we'll be ready for Otago."
In other games, the Wellington Saints delivered a psychological blow to fellow title contenders the Otago Nuggets with a resounding 97-72 win in Dunedin, while in yesterday's other game the Southland Sharks warmed up for the playoffs with a 96-85 win over the Waikato Pistons in Hamilton.
On Saturday, the Nelson Giants held on to beat the Bay Hawks 88-86 in Nelson.
TARANAKI MOUNTAIN AIRS 114 (Jack Leasure 33, Kenny Gabriel 22, Brad Anderson 16, Ethan Rusbatch 16) SUPER CITY RANGERS 93 (Duane Bailey 23, Carl Buck 18, Houston O'Riley 18, Shea Ili 13, Patrick Bolstad 12). Halftime: Taranaki 56-47.
Taranaki Daily News