Central Otago and the Dunedin Barbarians claimed first blood during Saturday’s opening round of the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks Summer League.
Central Otago outmuscled the younger and smaller Tiger Sharks 73-60 in the opening game, while an under-manned Dunedin side rode a large half-time lead to hold off the Mako Sharks 89-83 in a tense finish.
In the first game, Central Otago got out to a hot start with an early eight-point lead, before the Tiger Sharks could blink. James Hargest student Cam Archer provided the early offense scoring seven of the Makos opening 10 points and was a large reason why his team was in touch at the first break, trailing 22-17.
Two quick Tom Cowie baskets after the break narrowed the gap further, but that proved to be as close as the Tigers would get as both teams found buckets hard to come by, combining for just 19 points for the quarter. Three of those came on the half-time buzzer with impressive Central Otago captain Pierre Poyet, draining a prayer from three-quarter court as time expired.
That gave Central a 35-23 halftime lead and whilst the Tiger Sharks fought hard over an evenly matched second half, ultimately Central Otago’s size advantage was too much, dominating inside, particularly on the offensive glass with second chance points a large factor in the win.
Central Otago 73 (Christian Alberton 18, Pierre Poyet 16, Laine O’Connell 11, Hunter Fremantle 9, Sam King 7, Oliver Jolly 6, Delrick Boyd 6) defeated Tiger Sharks 60 (Tom Cowie 19, Jordan Murphy 11, Matt Maginn 10, Cam Archer 9, Ethan Mitchell 6, Morgan Waihirere 3, Kalani Grimwood 2)
In the second game, the Dunedin Barbarians showed they will be a force in this competition. They suited up just seven players and then lost dynamic guard Darcy Knox to a lower leg injury midway through the third quarter to leave them even more short-handed down the stretch.
An even start was blown apart in the second quarter. Early in the second period with the game evenly poised at 29-28, Dunedin went on a 19-0 run, led by Knox, who exploded for 12 in the quarter to give his side a 51-35 half time lead.
When Knox limped off the court his side was up by 12 with 4:16 left in the third. The Makos then went on a run to close the game up to just five points at the final break. That closed to just three in the final minutes and with the game on the line, Dunedin’s Matt Bardsley hit a dagger three with just 13 seconds left on the clock to stretch the lead to 6 and put the game to bed.
Andrew Wheeler was a constant threat on the offensive end, finishing as the highest scorer of Week One with 29, while Connor Coll threw himself into everything at both ends of the floor, finishing with 17 points.
Dunedin shared the scoring load with Knox’s 18 points giving us a glimpse of the form that made him the Dunedin Club League’s MVP, while Bardsley (21) and Aaron Roydhouse (18) made key contributions, especially following Knox’s departure.
Dunedin Barbarians 89 (Matt Bardsley 21, Aaron Roydhouse 18, Darcy Knox 18, Hamish Robertson 14, Mitch Hughan 13, James Scobie 5) defeated Mako Sharks 83 (Andrew Wheeler 29, Connor Coll 17, Izaac Williams 13, Anton Pahl 10, Alex Wright 8, Sidney Ashton 6)
Second round action on Saturday will see the Mako Sharks take on Central Otago at 2pm, followed by the Tiger Sharks against the Dunedin Barbarians.