Wellington Saints (18-0) v Canterbury Rams (10-8) When: Friday, June 16, 5pm Where: ASB Bay Park Arena, Tauranga Referees: Dallas Pickering, Sean Cronin, Ryan Jones
The defending champion Wellington Saints created history by being the first NBL team to go through the regular season unbeaten. But that won’t worry a Rams squad that has plenty of talent on the roster, including last year’s MVP McKenzie Moore, and NZ MVP Marcel Jones.
Moore led the Rams to a regular season title last year and he will face the leagues leading scorer, Corey Webster, who was the Most Valuable Player in 2014 for the title winning Saints team. Jones will match up with Saints forward Tai Wesley who has been the Finals MVP for two straight seasons.
Both the Saints and Rams are the top two scoring teams in the competition, the Rams have both the second and fourth league leaders in scoring with Jones and American guard, Jeremy Kendle.
Kendle will go against Tall Black point guard Shea Ili, who led the league in 3pt% (45.3), second in assists (6.7) and steals (2.3) Both teams have a storied history in the league, Wellington with nine championships and the Rams with four.
Since final four format began in 2012, the regular season winner has lost in the semi-final three times, and only once has the regular season winner won the title (Southland – 2015).
Saints Head Coach, Kevin Braswell, was a player in the 2015 Sharks team, and since beginning his coaching career with the Saints last year, he has a career win/loss record 33-5 (86.8%).
Braswell played in Southland with Rams Head coach Mark Dickel who is taking the Rams franchise to the second straight semifinal after leading them to the regular season title last year
HEAD TO HEAD
Points Saints 100.2 (1st) Rams 91.9 (2nd) Points Allowed Saints 84.0 (=1st) Rams 92.0 (7th) FG% Saints 50.9 (1st) Rams 46.5 (2nd) Opp FG% Saints 42.2 (1st) Rams 45.2 (5th) 3pt% Saints 38.6 (1st) Rams 35.6 (3rd) Opp 3pt% Saints 33.1 (3rd) Rams 37.3 (7th) FT% Saints 77.4 (2nd) Rams 68.8 (6th) Rebounds Saints 41.4 (3rd) Rams 41.2 (4th) Off Rebounds Saints 10.5 (6th) Rams 14.3 (2nd) Assists 21.3 Saints (1st) Rams 19.1 (4th) Steals Saints 8.5 (2nd) Rams 7.4 (3rd) Blocks Saints 2.9 (3rd) Rams 2.5 (6th) Turnovers Saints 12.2 (2nd) Rams 14.4 (7th) Forced T/O Saints 13.4 (2nd) Rams 12.3 (5th)
23/3 @Rams Saints, 94-85 8/4 @Saints Saints, 114-04 17/4 @Saints Saints, 102-79
SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks (12-6) v James Blond Supercity Rangers (11-6) When: Friday, June 16, 7pm Where: ASB Bay Park Arena, Tauranga Referees: Melony Wealleans, Matt Bathurst, Gavin Zimmerman
The two time champion Sharks will play last years runners up Rangers.
This is the third straight semi-final appearance for the Rangers under Head Coach Jeff Green, who has four NBL titles.
Judd Flavell is in his second season as Head Coach of the Sharks, taking them to the semi-finals last year. Flavell won a title as Head coach of the Auckland Pirates in 2012.
The Rangers are led by 41 year old Dillon Boucher who became the most capped NBL player this season, and will be playing his 410th game. Boucher led the league in steals this season and will be going for his ninth NBL title.
The Waitakere based franchise also have playoff proven point guard Lindsay Tait who is playing his second season with the side. The two time MVP has won seven championships.
Southland have retained key players Alex Pledger, and Aussie duo of Nick Kay and Mitch Norton. Pledger and Kay have dominated the rebounds, the Sharks lead the league at 44 per game.
The Sharks added former Ranger Reuben Te Rangi, who returns to the team where he won his lone title with in 2013.
This is the second time the two teams have met in the semi-finals, the Sharks winning the 2015 semi 95-80, eventually going on to win the title.
Southland have been dominant at home with a 8-1 record, but are only 4-5 on the road. The Rangers are only slightly better with a 5-4 away record.
HEAD TO HEAD:
Points: Sharks 91.2 (3rd) Rangers 89.8 (4th) Points Allowed: Sharks 84.3 (2nd) Rangers 88.3 (4th) FG% Sharks 44.6 (4th) Rangers 44.2 (5th) Opp FG% Sharks 43.0 (2nd) Rangers 44.9 (3rd) 3pt% Sharks 33.3 (4th) Rangers 29.2 (7th) Opp 3pt% Sharks 31.2 (1st) Rangers 34.6 (4th) FT% Sharks 72.3 (4th) Sharks 76.7 (3rd) Rebounds Sharks 44.0 (1st) Rangers 42.6 (2nd) Off Rebounds Sharks 11.1 (5th) Rangers 12.3 (4th) Assists Sharks 19.9 (3rd) Rangers 20.0 (2nd) Steals Sharks 5.6 (6th) Rangers 9.5 (1st) Blocks Sharks 2.7 (5th) Rangers 2.9 (4th) Turnovers Sharks 13.4 (5th) Rangers 12.6 (4th) Forced T/O Sharks 11.4 (6th) Rangers 16.0 (1st)
8/4 @Sharks - Sharks, 100-73 25/5 @Rangers - Rangers, 112-82 5/6 @Rangers - Sharks, 101-83