Team Orange has confirmed itself as the team to beat in the Southland Sharks Summer League with a third straight victory over Team White last night completing a clean sweep of the round robin to enter next week's semifinals as top qualifier.
Team Black opened its account with a hard-fought victory over Team Blue, who turned Maroon for the evening in the original 2010 SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks kit.
In the early game, Orange dominated at the offensive end, riding a torrent of second chance points to leap out to a 20-9 quarter time break after an even start. Rhys Smolenski, Anton Pahl and Tom Cowie were a constant threat from three-point land and Orange's 30-20 half time lead stretch to 59-39 after a scrappy third quarter.
Orange then killed the game as a contest going on an 11-2 run out of the break with Sole Tipu's back-to-back threes getting Team White going. Matt Maginn was among the best for Team White, his aggressive play keeping his side competitive. Lydon Aoake continued to impress, dominating in the paint, scoring at will in the final quarter and taking Orange clear to its 85-60 victory.
In the late game, Team Black kicked the slow starts that have plagued their opening two games to leap out to an early 11-2 lead over Team Blue/Maroon. A short-handed Blue/Maroon, with only seven players stripped, elected to go with a youthful combination with veterans Andrew Wheeler and Hoani MacDonald sitting early, their injection bringing their team back level at 17-17 at the first break. Black were not helped with Mac Stodart taking a heavy blow mid-way through the first which saw him sit out the rest of the quarter.
Stodart's return, in combination with Keegan Irwin up front saw Team Black finish the half strongly on a 7-0 run, before a late Wheeler lay-up saw the Black lead cut to five at the main break, 40-35. The quarter was highlighted by a monster alley-oop dunk by big Sam Hodges, who continues to grow in stature each week.
An even third quarter saw Black take a two-point lead into the final ten minutes, with Sam Whittaker in everything at both ends of the floor. Before Black made the key plays down the stretch, a Stodart and-one play followed by a drive to the basket for two more, but the result to bed, blowing the Black lead out to 10 inside the final two minutes.
Blue/Maroon wouldn't roll over and full-court pressure say two quick baskets to bring them back within touch, but in the end it was Black's night with an 89-83 Final.
Orange finishes in top spot at 3-0, with Black, Blue & White separated by goal difference, after all finished the round robin at 1-2.
Next week's semifinals will feature a repeat of last night's games with Orange facing White while Black takes on Blue.
1st - Orange 3-0 (+41)
2nd - Black 1-2 (-1)
3rd - Blue 1-2 (-9)
4th - White 1-2 (-31)
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