The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks left it late to see off the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams 100-87 at Stadium Southland on Thursday night. A bumper crowd turned up for the last home game of the Sharks season, and to celebrate a return to the court for Alex Pledger.
Pledger, who has been receiving treatment for colorectal cancer after a preseason diagnosis received the loudest ovations of the night when he entered the game twice.
The Rams, with nothing to play for but pride, started the game the sharpest, rocketing to a 12-2 lead. The first injection of Pledger coincided with an 8-0 Sharks run, the presence of the 7fter affecting the Rams drives significantly. EJ Singler made sure, however, that the Rams led after the first quarter, dropping 13 himself to see them to a 20-19 lead.
The Rams pulled away further in the second, with Deshon Taylor proving almost impossible to stop as he drove to the hoop. Rob Beveridge was playing cautiously with his starters, staggering their minutes ahead of next week’s Final Four.
The situation is compounded by the news Alonzo Burton will miss the Final Four with a broken hand, forcing Beveridge to be even more careful.
It wasn't until the fourth where the Sharks played the "playoff basketball" Beveridge had been imploring them to all night. Toby Gillooly was instrumental down the stretch, but Dom Kelman-Poto was named the Sal's Player of the Game after an all-round performance that matches his thus far impressive season.
The biggest cheer of the night came when Pledger re-entered the game with a minute to play to slot a technical free throw, then made a layup to take the Sharks to triple digits.
The Rams head to Otago now, looking to finish their season on a high, while the Sharks can now prepare to take on the Hawks in Thursday's semi-final.
Southland Sharks (100) defeated Canterbury Rams (87) - BOXSCORE
SHARKS: Dom Kelman-Poto (28pts 11reb 4ast), Josh Cunningham (21pts 7rbs 4ast), Alex Pledger (5:35mins, 3pts, 3reb)
RAMS: Deshon Taylor (31pts 5rbs 3ast), EJ Singler (16pts 5rbs 4ast)
Stuff MVP Votes
Dom Kelman-Poto (Sharks) 10pts
Deshon Taylor (Rams) 7pts
Courtney Belger (Sharks) 4pts
EJ Singler (Rams) 4pts
Josh Cunningham (Sharks) 3pts
Toby Gillooly (Sharks) 1pt
Alex Pledger (Sharks) 1pt