The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks got plenty from Saturday's pre-season game against Otago played in Gore on Saturday.
Otago burst out of the blocks early to take a 15-point lead into the first interval, before the Sharks got down to business with a 41-point second quarter to take control of the game at the half and never look like relinquishing it.
In the end, the Sharks triumphed 136-123 to re-claim the Invercargill Licensing Trust Challenge Shield and take the first important on-court steps for Head Coach judd Flavell's men.
"We got plenty out of it. Otago came out with a lot of energy in the first and it was good to have to fight our way back into it. I thought we went from strength to strength as the game went on and it was good to give all of the young guys a good run," Flavell said.
"I was really impressed with (new Shark recruit) Tom Vodanovich. He can play all over the floor and doesn't leave anything in the tank. He looked great in his first game in the signlet and hopefully his work ethic will be infectious this year." Luke (Aston) and Jimmy (Hunter) made big plays for us when we needed them and kept the scoreboard rolling. When Jimmy was active he dominated inside which was pleasing."
"I also thought Nathan Walker did really well. For a lot of younger guys the opportunity to play at a higher level and faster pace can be daunting but he fit right in and was able to impact the game so he should take a lot of confidence from that," Coach Flavell said.
"It's good for us to get some mileage in and get the guys on-court and more comfortable with each other."
The squad will be rounded out by the arrival of bronze medal-winning Tall Blacks Reuben Te Rangi and Derone Raukawa, along with US import Orlando Coleman, who join the squad this week. Alex Pledger will link with the team this weekend in Palmerston North for the NBL Blitz tournament, where all eight NBL franchises will contest four games over three days of competition.
The NBL proper tips off on Thursday 26 April with the SIt Zero Fees Southland Sharks lining up against the big off-season mover the Taylor Hawks. The game is scheduled for Taradale and will be live-streamed via the NBL website. The Sharks' first home game is on Thursday 10 May against the Manawatu Jets in ILT Stadium Southland.