Happy but not satisfied. That's a pretty fair summation of Southland Sharks Head Coach Guy Molloy's thoughts after Friday night's opening round win over the Property Brokers Jets from Manawatu at ILT Stadium Southland.
The Southland Shark faithful turned up in numbers to watch their side for the first time in 2023 and watched their side take control of the contest in the third quarter and ease to a comfortable 96-87 victory to start the season on the right note.
Both sides were missing key pieces with Sharks sharp-shooter Brayden Inger in the final stages of recovery from a pre-season ankle injury, while the Jets were without imports Javion Blake (due to clearance issues) and Mustafa Heron (still in the United States playing in the G League Finals) along with Josh Leger, who damaged his shoulder and will likely miss the opening three weeks of the season.
Despite that, the Jets hung in the contest, using the three ball to good effect to only trail by 8 (58-50) at the half. The Sharks then took control of the contest, tightening up their perimeter defence and rebounding to extend to a 15-point buffer after three quarters, which they stretched out to as man as 21 early in the fourth.
The Jets closed the game up over the final four and a half minutes, outscoring the Sharks 13-2, including the final ten points of the game to add some deserved respectability to the scoreboard.
The Sharks were paced by point guard Jeremy Kendle who earned the maximum 10 MVP points from both coaching staffs on the night, thanks to his 24 points on 64% shooting from the field along with eight rebounds and eight assists. Fellow import Grant Anticevich continued his strong pre-season showing with a double-double, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Alonzo Burton (15), Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (14) and Johnny Helu (11) also made strong contributions.
Coach Molloy was particularly happy with his side's discipline and their second half intensity.
"We had a couple of cheeky turnovers in the last minute but before that point on a night that we didn't shoot that well we had 19 assists and only two turnovers so it was pleasing how we moved the ball, shared it and kicked it out. We had some good execution at times and found where we need to go and defensively in the critical period through the third quarter and into the fourth, we rebounded well and stopped their second chance points," Molloy said.
The Sharks travel to Dunedin next Sunday to face the Otago Nuggets before returning home to take on the Auckland Tuatara at ILT Stadium on Friday 21st at 7pm. Tickets are available from Stadium reception or online at Ticketek.co.nz.