An emphatic 37-19 start by the Southland Sharks has propelled the reigning Sal's NBL champions to a strong 103-88 win over the traveling Southern Huskies.
Jarrad Weeks led the charge with 16pts in the opening quarter, including four treys, while Alex Pledger, Hyrum Harris and Todd Blanchfield all saw plenty of the ball as well. The hot start left the Huskies shell-shocked and made for a tough contest from there as they tried in ernest to get back into the game.
Second chance points (24pts) and points in the paint (50pts) proved pivotal for the winners, while six players in double digits for the winners provided the home team with a decisive edge over the eight-man visitors. A 59-35 rebound count in favour of the Sharks over the Huskies towering line-up was also a big factor.
Though the Huskies won the next three quarters 69-66, the damage had been done and at one stage they found themselves 24 points down.
The win gives the Sharks plenty of confidence ahead of the Final 4, especially with Roberto Nelson back on court, giving the Sharks their full squad for their tilt at back-to-back titles.
Southland Sharks 103 def Southern Huskies 88
Sharks - Jarrad Sharks 30pts, Alex Pledger 14pts & 15rbs, Dom Kelman-Poto 15pts & 11rbs, Todd Blanchfield 15pts.
Huskies - Jalen Billups 24pts, Craig Moller 23pts , Marcel Jones 13pts.
Stats That Matter - The Huskies went in with their biggest line-up of the season, yet lost the rebounds 35-59.
TAB MVP Votes - Jarrad Weeks (Sharks) 10, Alex Pledger (Sharks) 8, Hyrum Harris (Sharks) 4, Craig Moller (Huskies) 4, Jalen Billups (Huskies) 3, Lochlan Cummings (Huskies) 1.
The opening quarter by the Sharks was arguably some of the very best basketball we have seen all season in the Sal's NBL. It took just 150 seconds of play for the Sharks to lead the Huskies 17-3 with five made treys bringing the crowd to its feet and effectively sitting the Huskies on their backsides. Game over.
While everyone talks about Pledger, Weeks and Blanchfield in any conversation about the Sharks, it's a big blunder if you fail to scratch the surface because that's where you'll find Hyrum Harris, Tom Vodanovich and Dom Kelman-Poto, who together are maybe the hardest working trio of underrated stars in the league.
The Huskies have accomplished plenty this season, their first in the NZNBL, however they look tired and worn down as the regular season comes to a close. Travel has clearly caught up with them and right now they look more like a traveling troupe who will stumble to give you an answer if you asked them what day it is or what town they are in? The fact some of these guys can keep their eyes open right now is a credit to them.