The Southland Sharks enhanced their reputation as the National Basketball League's second best team, while the Canterbury Rams look a long way off title threats.
Southland made it two victories over the Rams within nine days, winning 93-79 at Christchurch's Cowles Stadium on Sunday.
The victory improves the Sharks' record to 9-3 and solidifies second spot on the ladder behind titles favourites, the unbeaten Wellington Saints.
Canterbury were 1-5 against top four sides heading into the contest and again failed to deliver on their promise. They were desperate to produce a statement victory, but were outrebounded and outplayed by Judd Flavell's hungry Sharks.
The Rams drop to 6-7 and should still make the top four, but languish some way behind the Saints and Sharks at this late stage in the regular season.
Southland bashed the Rams on the boards 52-38 with Tall Black Alex Pledger and Australian big man Nick Kay pulling down 23 rebounds between them.
Canterbury landed just 33/77 [43 per cent] from the field with Southland restricting them to 7/23 [30 per cent] from three point range.
It was a balanced scoring display from the Sharks, who did an excellent job of sharing the basketball.
Sharpshooter Luke Aston top-scored for Southland with 20 points and was deadly from deep, hitting 5/11. He was ably assisted by Reuben Te Rangi, who was busy with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Australian guard Mitch Norton had a standout showing with 15 points and eight assists.
Marcel Jones paced the Rams with 27 points and 10 rebounds. His team-mates were largely kept quiet, apart from reserve Gareth Dawson, who produced plenty of energy off the bench with 10 points.
American point guard Jeremy Kendle exploded for 12 points in the first quarter, but only had a further two for the game.
Reigning NBL MVP McKenzie Moore was underwhelming in his first game at home for the Rams since rejoining the team. American Moore, a mid-season signing, shot just 4/14, while registering nine points.
The Sharks clung to a 67-65 lead approaching the final quarter and they landed the first crucial blow of the last term.
A Derone Raukawa three pointer put them up by eight [73-65], with Moore then called for an offensive foul on the next possession.
Another three from Aston straight after had the Sharks rolling at 76-65 with seven and a half minutes to play.
Kay put the Southlanders ahead by a double digit margin at 80-69 with a nice reverse lay-up with five minutes left, which was the game.
The Rams made a sloppy start to the game with Southland racing out to a 10-0 lead.
It took Canterbury nearly three minutes to get on the board before they awoke on the offensive end.
Sparked by the play of Kendle, Canterbury cranked ino life and started to cause the Sharks problems on the fast break.
Kendle scored 10 of the Rams' first 12 points as they got into their groove.
AT A GLANCE:
Southland Sharks 93 (Luke Aston 20, Reuben Te Rangi 17, Nick Kay 16, Mitch Norton 15) Canterbury Rams 79 (Marcel Jones 27, Jeremy Kendle 14, Ethan Rusbatch 12, Gareth Dawson 10) 1Q: 20-23, HT: 48-43, 3Q:67-65
Article and image courtesy of Stuff.co.nz/The Southland Times