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Sharks end Saints unbeaten streak

The Wellington Saints' 705-day, 24-game unbeaten run is over after losing their season-opener to the Southland Sharks.

The Sharks produced a stirring performance on the road to win 113-108 at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington on Friday night.

They had contributions across the board, with seven of the eight players they used scoring double-figure points. Australian import Jarrad Weeks led the way with 29 points, but his contribution was one of many.

By contrast, it was a two-man show for the Saints as Shea Ili (32 points, 10 assists) and Jordan Ngatai (26 points and seven rebounds) led the way, but they lacked scoring support from their team-mates through most of the match as foul trouble plagued their supporting crew. Four of their players would foul out in the final four minutes.

Ili seemed to be the only one drawing fouls, as he was infringed on 10 times, shooting 11-13 from the free-throw line.

The Saints had not lost since May 22, 2016 - against the Sharks in Invercargill - and it looked as though their unbeaten run might end at 24 when they trailed by seven points with 2.45 to play.

They had got there after a final quarter filled with tension and drama.

It started with six minutes to go when shooting foul on Saints import Shaun Bruce was followed by a technical foul called against the Sharks' Derone Raukawa in the aftermath. That gifted the Saints three points, which got them back into the game, down one.

BJ Anthony squared up to Coleman with 4.42 on the clock to add to the drama with the sides still separated by just a point. Both were called for fouls.

Ngatai scored a go-ahead two 20 seconds later, but was also called for a technical foul for something he did after the bucket to hand the lead back to the Sharks.

Anthony fouled out on a dodgy offensive foul call with 3.57 to go, replaced by import Majok Majok, who himself was sitting on four fouls.

A pair of twos put the Sharks up by five 102-97 with 3.08 to play - it was the sixth lead change in three minutes.

Leon Henry was called for an intentional foul on the Sharks' American import Orlando Coleman soon after when attempting to grab an offensive rebound. Coleman continued a verbal exchange with the former Tall Black after missing the second of his two free-throws, getting the last laugh when Henry fouled out on the very next play.

Majok followed Henry to the bench 30 seconds later with his fifth foul as the Sharks put the hosts to the sword, drawing out to a decisive nine-point lead with 1.40 to play.

American import LJ Peak was the fourth and final Saints player to foul out with 32 seconds remaining after the Saints had rallied to only be down by four, but his departure finally spelt the end of their comeback, and undefeated streak.

Earlier, the first quarter saw the Saints get out to a 13-5 lead, before the Sharks slowly clawed them back to trail 31-27 at quarter time. Ngatai and Ili had 24 of Wellington's first-quarter points, missing just one of 11 shots from the field between them, with the latter scoring 14.

The second quarter saw a comical Sharks debut for Canadian import Conor Morgan. He was subbed on, played for six seconds before the scorebench flagged the referees to ask who he was. As it turned out, the Sharks had failed to add him to their team sheet and he was forced to sit back down on the bench, destined to play not further part in the match.

His absence wasn't too keenly felt as Coleman and Tom Vodanovich continued the Sharks' fightback as they got their first lead since the opening minute of the game two minutes before halftime.

Raukawa nailed a contested jump shot on the buzzer to put the Sharks up 57-55 at halftime.

The Sharks started strong in the third quarter, reaching a seven-point lead with four minutes to go as Jarrad Weeks started to up his game.

The Saints closed the gap back down to two by the end of quarter to setup the thrilling finale.

The Sharks move to 1-1 after losing their season-opener to Bay Hawks 92-84 on Thursday.


Southland Sharks 113 (Jarrad Weeks 29 points, Orlando Coleman 19, Reuben Te Rangi 14). Wellington Saints 108 (Shea Ili 32 points, Jordan Ngatai 26, LJ Peak 15). Q1: 27-31; HT: 57-55 Q3: 83-81

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