The Southland Sharks have been left reflecting on one that got away on Sunday night, losing their Week Two clash at Edgar Centre in Dunedin against the defending champion Otago Nuggets by 76-68.
The two teams traded blows early with the Nuggets taking a four point quarter time lead before the Sharks grabbed the momentum to take an eight-point lead into the locker room at halftime. Turns out the halftime break came at the worst possible time.
The Sharks offense stuttered in the third with the team combining for only four field goals and seven turnovers in the quarter with the home side claiming an eight-point lead of their own at three quarter time.
Somehow the Sharks wrestled their way back into the contest, largely on the back of Jeremy Kendle, who caught fire early in the fourth to score 10 points in a little over five minutes to bring the Sharks within a point with 4:36 to play. But that was as close as the Sharks would get. Otago responded with an 11-0 run to close out the contest and retain the ILT Challenge Shield, played between the two neighbours.
Kendle was again superb in a losing effort, finishing with a game high 27 points to go with seven rebounds and six assists, while Ben Hall again impressed of the bench with 11 points, 5 rebounds and a +4 plus/minus over the 15 minutes he was on the floor.
Kendle was maintaining the faith after the game.
"Credit to Otago. They came out and outplayed us after halftime. That's something we can learn from. We're a young team and we are learning and we have got to keep grinding and go back to the film and learn from."
"I'm proud of this group. We're going to keep getting better all season, growing and developing and continuing to come together. I think we have one of the higher ceilings in the League," Kendle said.
The Sharks face a short week of preparation ahead of Week Three of the Sal's NBL with the undefeated Auckland Tuatara coming to ILT Stadium Southland on Friday (21 April). The game tips off at 7pm.