The Southland Sharks have banked a confidence boosting win over the Super City Rangers and also avoided a semifinal date with the Wellington Saints.
The Sharks beat the Rangers 101-83 in Waitakere to lock up second spot in the National Basketball League standings with one round-robin game still to play before the playoffs.
Only a matter of a couple of weeks earlier the Rangers thumped Southland by 30 points in Te Awamutu but the Sharks responded in impressive fashion on Monday night.
In timely fashion, Southland produced one of their best performances of the season as they build towards the playoffs.
It was Southland who made an impressive start against the Rangers rushing out to a commanding first quarter lead of 31-19.
The Rangers pulled it back in the second quarter winning that quarter 26-23 but Southland still held a 54-45 lead at the break.
The Sharks shot at over 50 percent from three-point land in the first half with veteran Hayden Allen banking three from three against his old team and Luke Aston chipping in with three threes from five attempts.
Southland were also winning the battle of the boards at 24-17 at halftime.
Any thought of a Rangers comeback was rubbed out when the Sharks dominated the third quarter 28-16 to take an 82-61 lead into the final quarter.
The Rangers won the final quarter 22-19 but the damage had already been done.
As has been the case throughout the season there wasn't a standout performer for Southland with the workload shared throughout and the shooting was on point.
Aston was the leading scorer with 21 points which included five threes. While Allen chipped in with 16 points which included four three from five attempts.
Nick Kay has been impressive in the rebounding stakes in recent weeks and again he led Southland in this department picking off 12 boards as they dominated the Rangers in the scrap for the ball.
Encouragingly Alex Pledger, who had been battling some concussion problems, got through 25 minutes against the Rangers and played well.
Dillon Boucher, who is the Breakers general manager, passed the National Basketball League record for most games played by an individual in his showdown for the Rangers against the Sharks.
It was his 409th in the New Zealand league and he passes his former Tall Blacks team mate and another New Zealand basketball legend in Phill Jones who has played 408 games in the league.
Boucher NBL career started in 1994 with the Auckland Rebels and is a nine-time NBL title winner.
In 2003 he was named the MVP of the league.
The Sharks will round out their round-robin campaign on Sunday in Invercargill when they take on Hawke's Bay in a rare afternoon fixture.
For the Rangers, they will finish against a fellow playoff team the Canterbury Rams at Trusts Arena in Waitakere on Saturday.
Southland is likely to play the winner of that game in the semifinals in Tauranga with the loser set to meet the unbeaten Wellington Saints.
AT A GLANCE
Southland Sharks 101 (Luke Aston 21, Hayden Allen 16 , Alex Pledger 14, Derone Raukawa 13, Reuben Te Rangi 10), Super City Rangers 83 (Mitch McCarran 23, Earnest Ross 19, Dillon Boucher 13, Lindsay Tait 12, Brook Roscoe 10).
1stQ: 31-19, HT: 54-45, 3rdQ: 82-61.
Article and image courtesy of The Southland Times / Stuff.co.nz