The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks sit alone in second on the Sal's NZNBL points table after coming from a long way back to defeat the Southern Huskies in Launceston tonight.
The Sharks trailed by as many as 17 and by 14 at three quarter time, but held their nerve down the stretch to finish over top of their Australian counterparts to claim a 104-97 victory on the road.
The win was made even more special given the side played Friday night, spent all of Saturday travelling and was again short-handed as new American import Roberto Nelson sat court-side, still awaiting FIBA clearance, while Tom Vodanovich's foul trouble meant that coach Judd Flavell rode Hyrum Harris, Alex Pledger, Dom Kelman-Poto, Todd Blanchfield and Jarrad Weeks for the final 11:32 of the game.
That quintet delivered a 35-14 final ten minutes to claim the most unlikely of wins.
In fairness, The Sharks should never have been that close. After shooting the lights out on Friday night in Invercargill, the Sharks could get nothing to drop from long-range, missing their first 13 three-point attempts.
They fought to stay in touch and as the shots started to drop, the Huskies tightened up and in the end, experienced heads, most notably Weeks, Blanchfield and Pledger got the men in orange home.
Pledger claimed Sal's MVP honours with a dominant performance inside. He led the Sharks to a 62-36 points differential in the paint, finishing with 22 points on 84% along with 9 rebounds. Harris also finished with 22 to go with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 steals. He continues to create havoc driving to the basket and was a constant presence up at both ends of the floor.
Weeks and Blanchfield marshalled the troops down the stretch, hitting big shots when they counted, whilst Kelman-Poto stuffed another stat sheet, including a game high 13 rebounds, four coming off the offensive glass.
In short, it was the gutsiest of wins. And more will be needed as the Sharks face the other three top-four teams in a seven day span. A trip to Christchurch on Friday will be followed by the Saints and Hawks travelling to Invercargill next Sunday and Thursday respectively.
The belief will build in the Sharks' camp after tonight. And they will need all of that over the next week.
Image via Photosport NZ