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Sharks topple Giants in NBL opener

The Southland Sharks have rubber-stamped their name as a 2017 National Basketball League (NBL) favourite, while for the Nelson Giants it is hard to paint a pretty picture following their opening outing.

The Sharks ran up an impressive 96-58 win over the Giants in Invercargill on Thursday night to ignite the NBL season.

Giants coach Al McAughtry has conceded his team were left a little stunned early in the game and failed to recover.

"We certainly didn't expect that, and that is not taking anything away from Judd [Flavell] and his team.

"They've got size and they move the ball well. There is some veterans there that know what they are doing and know where to be.

"Unfortunately we got caught on the hop," McAughtry said.

"I felt there was perceived pressure that wasn't there. We were shaky with the ball and when that happens the clock pressure hits."

While Sharks coach Judd Flavell in the lead up to the season stressed the Sharks season would be built on grit at the defensive end they produced a first quarter blitz racking up 27 points.

Derone Raukawa from the bench led the charge with 10 points, while Australian Mitch Norton was the spark behind much of the attack.

On the flipside the Giants started the season in less than spectacular fashion at the attacking end with Finn Delany's nine points their lot in the first quarter - with seven of the those coming from the free throw line.

The Giants shot just one from 17 from the field in the first quarter as they went behind by 18 points which started the tough night out.

What made the assignment more difficult is the Sharks picking off the defensive rebounds at will from those Nelson misses.

Nelson were able to put up 21 second quarter points and reduced the gap to 13, but by halftime Southland pushed out to 49-30.

With three third quarter three pointers Southland went out to a 75-44 lead and only pride remained at stake for Nelson.

With the a big lead Flavell opted to go deep into his bench in the final quarter but even so still won the final quarter 21-14.

Reuben Te Rangi found his groove in his return to ILT Stadium Southland.

Te Rangi played for the Sharks in 2013 and 2014 before joining the Super City Rangers where he struggled to have the impact on the NBL as many would have expected.

He has rejoined Southland for the 2017 season an made an immediate impact with his 17 points.

Although the standout showing stretched throughout the court for Sharks with James Hunter highlighting he is a encouraging addition this season.

For Nelson, Delany was expected to lead the charge and he did with 19 points, but his team failed to chip in and there was little else to shout about.

The fact they could muster just 58 points will provide the Giants with plenty of concern.

It won't take long before the Sharks are provided the ultimate test to see just where they stack up as they play the Wellington Saints in Invercargill next Friday.

The Saints and the Sharks have largely been tipped as the two leading contenders in the 2017 NBL.

For Nelson the break is much shorter as they head home to take on the Taranaki Mountain Airs for the Brian Rampton Memorial Trophy in Nelson.

Southland Sharks 96 (Derone Raukawa 19, Reuben Te Rangi 17, James Hunter 13) Nelson Giants 58 (Finn Delany 19). 1Q: 27-9, HT: 49-30, 3Q: 75-44.

Article courtesy of The Southland Times.

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