The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks return to the finals for the second straight season with a 98-93 win over the Mike Pero Nelson Giants.
Southland held the lead for the majority of the game, and were up 11 points with under four minutes to play.
But Nelson showed grit in the final stanza, and were led by none other than Mika Vukona who was a huge part of Giants run which saw them get to within three with 1:27 left.
Alex Pledger would be fouled and make both free throws to put the Sharks back up five. Finn Delany would make a quick two to close to within three, and with 37 seconds left they were able to force a Sharks turnover to set up a thrilling finale.
But the Giants failed to execute out of the timeout when they would attempt a risky cross court inbound which led to the ball going out of bounds. Nelson would be forced to foul Raukawa who would slot both to seal the win.
It was a big game for Raukawa, who had to start in place of point guard Jarrad Weeks who did not place due to a hamstring injury. The kiwi guard would have 16 points.
Southland got off to a quick start thanks to Canadian forward, Conor Morgan, who was big tonight with 25 points, 16 rebounds and five steals. Southland held a three point lead at quarter time, and extended it to eight thanks to back to back buckets from Morgan.
The second quarter would be physical both teams fighting to secure the boards, tempers would quickly flare up between both teams after a tussle between Morgan and Delany led to a mini rumble between the teams which spilt out of bounds.
The Giants managed to close to within four at halftime thanks to Damon Heuir and Finn Delany who had to carry the offense after both Kyle Adnam and Tohi Smith-Milner were restricted to the bench for most of the period due to foul trouble. Delany would end the half with 19 points and Heuir with 14.
Nelson would get their first lead in the third quarter, but the Sharks went on a 13-2 run to go back up 10. Again, Nelson would make a run to close within two and only trailed by five going into the fourth.
But the Giants were just unable to pip the Sharks who are going to the finals for the fourth time winning titles in 2013 and 2015.
Southland will have confidence they can defeat the Saints in Wellington as they did beat them there 72-68 win the 2015 final .
Sal's NBL Semi-Final 2: Saturday, 4th August
At TSB Bank Arena, Wellington Mike Pero Nelson Giants 93 (Finn Delany 26, Damon Heuir 25, Kyle Adnam 15) SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks 98 (Conor Morgan 25 points, Alex Pledger 22 points, Orlando Coleman 17)
Photo: Photosport NZ