Pistons get on board

Last updated 17:49 06/04/2014

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They wouldn't have gained many aesthetic points, but the Waikato Pistons would have been happy enough with a win.

The visitors got their first National Basketball League victory of the new season with an 85-75 success over the SuperCity Rangers in Waitakere yesterday (DIGITAL - today).

 Anything less than a win against a notably understrength home side would have been a major setback for one of the title favourites, and they had to battle through patchy periods before pulling away at vital times.

 "It was good to get the W," Pistons imported small forward Akeem Wright admitted afterwards.

 "For the first three quarters we played some good basketball - we moved the ball pretty well and defended well, while they hit some tough shots."

 "In that fourth quarter we got a big lead and got lackadaisical. It's early on, we're still learning and once we get a few more games under our belt I think we're going to be pretty good.

 The Pistons struggled to find any offensive rhythm for the majority of the opening quarter and trailed 11-5 midway through the first 10 minutes, despite Rangers point guard Houston O'Riley being forced to the bench with two early fouls.

 Akeem Wright helped the visitors garner quick scores with three three-pointers in the opening quarter, but his side still gave up easy baskets with some weak defensive rebounding.

Their ball movement in the second quarter improved, allowing the opportunity to find better shots inside and out as Zac Carter's three gave the Pistons a 26-17 advantage three minutes into the second stanza.

Imported point guard Corin Henry was responsible for what may have been the worst airballed three in NBL history, but he also showed his value with quick hands on defence and his ability to get to the rim and hit some tough fadeaways.

Alex Talma also made a contribution with six quick points off the bench as the Pistons extended their lead to 15 points near the end of the half, but with former Waikato import Eric Devendorf creating things for the hosts, Rangers reduced the deficit at halftime to 45-35.

The second half didn't start off any better for the Pistons, as they gave up some sloppy fast-break buckets. When Jack Salt missed two free-throws and then had his shot blocked by O'Riley, leading to a basket at other end, coach Pero Cameron had seen enough and called a much-needed time-out.

The Rangers drew within three points and if they had been able to knock down a reasonable percentage from the charity stripe, they could have nabbed a surprise lead. Instead, the Pistons got another bench contribution from lefty three-point bomber Karl Noyer, and a crazy buzzer-beater trey from Henry gave them a 68-54 lead with 10 minutes to play.

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They extended that to a 20-point advantage early in the last period, allowing them to coast to their first win.

Henry improved throughout to end the game with 20 points and five assists, Wright had 17 and five rebounds while Casey Frank had a number of savvy plays in his 12 points, seven boards and five assists.

 Wright also did a strong defensive role on the dangerous Devendorf.

"I feel I'm our best wing defender, so any of the good guards and good wing players, that's going to be my match-up every night," Wright said.

 "Eric's a great player - he can create off the dribble and make big shots, so it was tiring. But overall we did a good job collectively on him as a team - when he got past me we had help defence back there."

The hosts were without the injured Dillon Boucher and his former team-mate and the NZ Breakers, Daryl Corletto. But they unearthed a potential star in 16-year-old Tai Wynyard, who produced a block of a Wright dunk in garbage time and contributed 14 points.

The Pistons are now 1-1 after they dropped their opening match away to the Bay Hawks on Friday night.

- Fairfax Media

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