At TSB Arena in Wellington on Saturday night the Wellington Saints defeated Southland Sharks 96-86 for a second consecutive Sal’s NBL home win.
The Saints were paced by their import duo of Mike Smith (30 points) and Xavier Cooks, who in his second game for the defending champions, posted a giant double-double of 24 points and 24 rebounds.
Tom Vodanovich was also in double-double mode with 14 points and 17 rebounds while Taane Samuel scored all of his 16 points in the second half.
Jaylen Gerrand was in sparkling form for the Sharks posting a career high 28 points. He received good support from Dom Kelman-Poto (12 points and 13 rebounds) and Winston Shepherd III ( 11 points and 13 rebounds).
2021 Saint Romaro Gill returned to TSB Arena for the first time since his departure last year but was largely ineffective registering just 2 points and a single rebound although he did
Not only were the Sharks coming off a loss to the Hawks 48 hours earlier but also had to do without the injured Mojave King who scored a season high 29 points on Thursday.
His scoring output wasn’t missed in the opening exchanges as the Sharks forged a 21-18 lead at the first break and 47-38 at the half.
Gerrand was the star of the opening 20 minutes, the former Westlake Boys High standout making 4 triples on his way to 17 points and with Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape in double figures the Sharks back court was functioning nicely.
Xavier Cooks was already in double-double territory at the break adding 11 points to a stunning 15 rebounds.
The Saints began the second half with a 9-2 run and when Taane Samuel scored his first points of the game the Saints had the lead (52-51).
The lead changed hands a further six times in the back end of the third – the Saints ahead 69-67 at three-quarter time.
Samuel and Jordan Ngatai landed triples but Brayden Inger countered with a trey of his own to keep the Sharks in the hunt – down 77-75.
Saints guard Michael Smith joined Cooks with 20 points and although Gerrand landed his fifth triple the Sharks trailed 87-80 with four minutes to play.
Smith took the Saints lead into double figures and the Sharks effort was spent.
Things are getting desperate for the Sharks who now sit near the foot of the table with a 2-7 record at the half-way mark of the season. It will likely take 8 or 9 wins to make the top-six, and a spot in the play-offs, meaning the 2018 NBL champions must now win at least six of their remaining nine games. That quest begins next weekend when the Sharks entertain the Manawatu Jets.
SCORE: Saints 96, Sharks 86
Saints: Smith 30 PTS & 5 ASSISTS | Cooks 24 PTS, 24 REBS & 3 BLOCKS | Samuel 16 PTS | Vodanovich 14 PTS & 17 REBS | Ngatai 9PTS
Sharks: Gerrand 28 PTS | Kelman-Poto 12 PTS, 13 REBS & 5 ASSISTS | Shepherd 11 PTs & 13 REBS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Xavier Cooks (Saints) - 10 votes
Mike Smith (Saints) - 7 votes
Jaylen Gerrand (Sharks) - 6 votes
Taane Samuel (Saints) - 3 votes
Dom Kelman-Poto (Sharks) - 2 votes
Tom Vodanovich (Saints) - 1 vote
Romaro Gill (Sharks) - 1 vote
Saints – June 17 @ Nelson Giants
Sharks – June 19 vs. Manawatu Jets