The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks bounced back strongly from a disappointing first outing to defeat the Go Media Otago Nuggets 84-57 in Queenstown today to split their two-game pre-season series.
After a sloppy opening game, the Sharks looked like a different team today, filled with purpose and intent and when they pushed the pace up and down the floor were too strong for their Otago neighbours in a display which pleased Head Coach Rob Beveridge.
"On Saturday we didn't really know each. We were second guessing ourselves. I don't know the players, they don't know me, so it was good to assess, evaluate what we did and we put in some specific goals that we wanted to achieve today whether it was a win or a loss. Winning the game was great for our confidence but probably the process for us defining who we are, our style and how we play was very pleasing," he said.
"The intent that we played with and the intensity level was outstanding and we did a really good job, particularly with how we moved the ball and attacked the rim and that's exciting basketball and I think the players bought in."
The players' personal accountability in bouncing back from Saturday's flat performance was what impressed Beveridge the most.
"We all have to reflect. I don't have all the answers, we've got to collectively fix things and find a solution and we asked our players to assess their own game and where we went wrong in the first game. It's not that we were that bad on Saturday. Obviously the scoreline didn't look that good in the end and really it reinforced to us that we can't play that way and the players now understand that. And they were the ones who came out today and said we have to do, this, this, this and this. The way that they came together as a group with great leadership from the older players, the warm-ups were better and you could tell they were just more switched on and I think they have now identified that we have to play a certain way if we are going to be successful."
The Sharks started in much more convincing fashion taking an early lead which saw them go into the quarter break up by five, which stretched to 11 at the half, 24 at three quarter time and 27 at the final buzzer.
Brayden Inger was an offensive machine, scoring 11 in the first quarter alone and finished with a game high 19 points to go with 8 rebounds and three assists. Alonzo Burton showed why he will play a key role this season, heating up from long range and driving to the basket to end with 18 points and four steals while Dom Kelman-Poto notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards and was a monster inside at both ends of the floor. Toby Gillooly was also impressive from long range and at the rim to chalk up 13 points and seven rebounds.
"I( was really happy with Zo (Burton). He's going to be our premier scorer and he played well and shot the ball well. Brayden Inger showed is overall inside/outside game and he's going to be a massive part of our group and then you've got Dom (Kelman-Poto) who was just a beast in the second half and totally dominated the game, Toby (Gillooly) made big plays and the old leader in Wheels (Andrew Wheeler) who set the tone on and off the court, he ran the bench and got them going so there was some really good individual performances and they all contributed in their own way, Beveridge said.
The squad now awaits the arrival of American imports Courtney Belger and Josh Cunningham who end their 14-day managed isolation Monday morning and arrive at Sharks HQ that afternoon.
The team will then prepare to open its 2021 Sal's NBL campaign at Nelson next Monday (26th) at 2pm before returning home for it's home season opener against the Taranaki Mountainairs at ILT Stadium Southland on Thursday 29th at 7:30pm. Tickets are on sale now at ILT Stadium Southland reception.