The Taranaki Steelformer Airs gained their second win of the Sal’s NBL season by beating Southland Sharks 97-86 at TSB Arena, New Plymouth on Saturday evening.
The Airs welcomed imports Javonte Douglas and Anthony Hilliard , Douglas returning to Taranaki after playing for the Airs in 2018, and both players made a strong impression on the home crowd.
Hilliard finished with 28 points (5/11 3PG), Douglas scored 14 points to go with 13 rebounds and 7 assists while Tai Wynyard maintained his strong early season form with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
For the Sharks Mojave King scored 28 points and Brayden Inger tallied 20 points but out rebounded 20-7 on the offensive glass the Airs were able to take full advantage of the extra possessions they were presented with.
The Sharks endured a late Friday night bus trip from Wellington to New Plymouth due to a cancelled flight – understandably it took them a while to find their ground legs, and trailed 22-18 at quarter time.
The visitors were outworked early in the second period conceding the first 8 points of the frame but some zone defence stalled the Airs progress.
Mojave King led all scorers at the interval with 14 points, however it was the Airs with a 46-38 advantage heading into the locker room.
Hilliard scored 10 points for Taranaki in the third but a floater on the three-quarter time buzzer from Tom Cowie meant the Sharks trailed by just four points (71-67) with ten minutes to play.
The Sharks pulled to within a single point early in the final period but failed to wrestle the initiative from the hosts. Instead it was the revitalised Airs, inspired by Hilliard’s outstanding debut, that closed out the contest.
SCORE: Airs 97, Sharks 86
Airs: Hilliard 28 PTS | Wynyard 19 PTS & 13 REBS | Douglas 14 PTS, 13 REBS & 7 ASSISTS |Davison 9 PTS | Rodger 9 PTS
Sharks: King 28 PTS | Inger 20 PTS | Kelman-Poto 12 PTS | Leusogi-Ape 10 PTS | Gill 4 PTs & 8 REBS
Full box score HERE.
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