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Mountain Airs topple Sharks in scrappy affair

It took all of 79 seconds for the National Basketball League (NBL) game between the Taranaki Mountain Airs and the Southland Sharks to get feisty.

After collectively missing the opening four shots of the game at New Plymouth's TSB Stadium on Friday night, Augusta Mountain Airs captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell was pulled up for tossing Duane Bailey to the floor in a battle for position.

But Bailey wasn't the only body to be thrown to the court in the opening quarter, as Sharks guard Andrew Wheeler ushered his counterpart Houston O'Riley down to the hardwood.

O'Riley would have the last laugh though as the Mountain Airs came out with a 64-61 win.

The Sharks came into the game on the back over an over-time win in Nelson on Thursday night, with their arrival to Taranaki being delayed due to weather.

Knowing their opponents had had a tough 24 hours, the Mountain Airs went straight at the visitors early to take an early 6-0 lead.

However, it didn't last long as the Southland side found their feet to take a one-point lead out of a forgettable opening quarter.

The second quarter saw much of the same as both sides struggled to drain a basket.

The Sharks were able to make the most of Mountain Airs centre Daniel Gomis' foul trouble as he picked up three before the break.

This forced Bailey-Nowell, who is already undersized at power forward, to play in the middle as the Mountain Airs went small.

After playing over 40 minutes on Thursday night, you'd have forgiven Sharks swingman Reuben Te Rangi for being a little fatigued, however he was making the most of his shots and drained three of his opening five to lead the Sharks to a four-point halftime lead.

While the Mountain Airs appeared to be on top of the exchange for much of the first half, the scoreline didn't reflect it as they failed to capitalise on a number of trips down the floor.

Mountain Airs coach Trent Adam told the team to push the tempo in at the break and they answered immediately in the third quarter, going on a 12-0 run.

Needing to stop Taranaki from scoring, the Sharks gave big man Alex Pledger extended minutes in the third to play an enforcer role.

The seven-footer showed no signs of the injury that had kept him sidelined as he proved to be a force in the post. However the hosts grabbed the lead and took a six-point buffer into the final quarter.

It proved to be enough as the Sharks ran out of gas down the stretch, allowing the Mountain Airs to move to 3-1 for the season heading into their clash with the Super City rangers in Auckland on Sunday.

Adam said his side knew Southland hadn't had the easiest 24 hours and the Mountain Airs were able to take advantage of that.

"We played hard, they were probably a little bit fatigued, so it was a great opportunity for our guys to get a win that maybe not many people thought we could get.

"We got a bit of momentum [in the third quarter], then that built some belief and all of a sudden we knocked down a couple of shots."

The Sharks loss sees them drop to 2-2 heading into next week.

Taranaki Mountain Airs 64 (Tylor Ongwae 22, Aaron Bailey-Nowell 13, Houston O'Riley 12) Southland Sharks 61 (Mitch Norton 12, Reuben Te Rangi 10, Hayden Allen 10). 1Q: 17-18, HT: 29-33, 3Q: 51-45

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