WELLINGTON (NZNBL) – The defending champion Wellington Saints, coached by Pero Cameron, have defeated the Waikato Pistons 90-87 in a round one grand final re-match in the New Zealand National Basketball League.
The biggest story of the night was the debut for the Saints of 17 year-old Steven Adams. The athletic, 210cm power forward, whose sister Valerie is an Olympic gold medallist in the shot put, is seen as perhaps the most exciting prospect in the history of New Zealand basketball.
His opening night line of 14 points on 6/10 shooting in just 18 minutes gave a glimpse of the potential that already has the New Zealand Breakers, NBA clubs and New Zealand national team coach Nenad Vucinic paying close attention.
The Saints triumphed thanks to a 31-26 final term and 23 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks from small forward Leon Henry, the last player cut from New Zealand’s 2010 FIBA World Championship squad. Tall Black reserve Casey Frank was also strong with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists.
For Waikato, Hayden Allen was superb with 33 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. Like Henry, he too narrowly missed a place on the Tall Blacks squad in Turkey and both made a promising start in their bid to play in this year’s FIBA Oceania Championship.
Tall Blacks back-up power forward BJ Anthony also impressed with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
In other games, Hawkes Bay defeated Taranaki 82-65 thanks to a 52-28 second half. The Hawks were led by 20 points from former Syracuse Orangeman Josh Pace and 19 points from two time FIBA World Championship reserve Paora Winitana, before defeating the Manawatu Jets 99-85 the next night behind 30 points from Pace and 21 from Winitana.
Former Duke University player Nick Horvath had 22 points and 8 rebounds for the Jets.
Waikato bounced back to defeat the Nelson Giants 98-85 thanks to 28 points and 8 rebounds from import Sylvester Seay. Giants import Daryl Dora debuted with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, while 2009 FIBA U19 World Championship representative Josh Bloxham made a promising start to the season with 13 points.
Long-time Tall Black Mark Dickel spearheaded the Southland Sharks to a 73-70 win over the Otago Nuggets with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Import Jordan Lawley scored 19 points for the Sharks, while Scott O’Gallagher led the way for Otago with 22 points and 4 assists.