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Saints cruise to big win over Sharks

It may be the NBL's greatest rivalry but the Southland Sharks were no match for the Wellington Saints on Anzac Day.

Led by a brilliant shooting display by big man Rob Loe, the Saints maintained their unbeaten start to the season, while handing Southland their first loss, with a commanding 126-102 victory at the TSB Arena.

Loe drained his first five shots, including three from beyond the arc, to finish with 24 points, as well as seven rebounds.

But he had plenty of help, with Shea Ili close behind on 23 points and Sunday Dech adding 18 off the bench.

All up the Saints had seven players in double figures. And while Dom Kelman-Poto had a game-high 27 points for the Sharks, they struggled to find an answer on defence in the second half.

The last time these teams met was in last year's final when the Sharks claimed the title with a 98-96 win.

Indeed, there has been little between the two clubs in recent years, splitting the last six championships between them. And it looked like Thursday night's clash would be another close encounter after the visitors held a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

But with Loe finding his range from the outset, and Ili matching his Tall Blacks teammate with 15 first-half points, the Saints began to pull away at the back end of the second quarter.

Five-straight points from Jordan Ngatai put them up by 10, although a late run by the Sharks, including a Mitch McCarron three at the buzzer, cut the Saints' lead to 63-58 at halftime.

Loe finally missed a shot shortly after the break but that didn't deter the English-born big man.

He immediately followed that up with a lay-up and a three, while Dech also got hot as the Saints outscored their rivals by 15 in the quarter.

There was no way back for the Sharks at that point, with the lead blowing out to 31 at one point and they will now regroup ahead of next week's game against the Taranaki Mountain Airs.

Wellington, meanwhile, are back in action on Saturday with a trip to the Canterbury Rams.

Wellington Saints 126 (Rob Loe 24, Shea Ili 23, Sunday Dech 18 ) Southland Sharks 102 (Dom Kelman-Poto 27, Jarrad Weeks 21, Tom Vodanovich 14 ). Q1: 26-27, Q2: 63-58, Q3: 99-79.

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