Giants lose by six in Semi Finals

The Southland Sharks beat the Nelson Giants 98-93 in the second semifinal at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington on Saturday night. Earlier, the Saints beat the Hawke's Bay Hawks 99-73.

Canadian import Conor Morgan led the Sharks with 25 points and 16 rebounds. He did it all, hitting from deep and working in the paint in an all-action performance.  He was ably supported by Alex Pledger with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while American import Olrando Coleman (17 points) and Derone Raukawa (16 points) were also big contributors.

The Giants were a two-man band at the offensive end for much of the match. Finn Delany had 26 points and Damon Heuir had 25, but Kyle Adnam was kept quiet until late on, scoring 15 points. 

In contrast to the first semifinal, which for the most part was a dour, defensive battle, the Sharks and Giants looked hellbent on providing an entertaining contest. They combined for 102 points in the first half alone as defence was at a premium. 

There was also a major flash point two minutes and 51 seconds before halftime when both teams' five on-court players ended up in a shoving contest off the court. Southland and Nelson players take part in a scuffle during their NBL semifinal on Saturday night.  Nelson's Delany, who was very impressive with 19 points in the first 20 minutes, battled for a rebound under the rim with Southland's Morgan. The tussle continued as both spun off the court, with Delany shoving Morgan through a flimsy advertising hoarding. Sharks import guard Orlando Coleman was first on the scene to address Delany, before Tall Blacks enforcer Mika Vukona arrived with the remaining six players not fair behind. Both coaches ended up on court to help separate the players.

Those four players named above were all called for fouls in the aftermath, with Coleman and Vukona believed to have been given technicals, although there was some confusion around that. Such an incident could lead to further trouble later in the match, but to both teams' credit they played the remainder hard, but fair.  The closeness of the players in that incident was matched on the scoreboard, with the Sharks leading 53-49 at halftime.

The third quarter was another back-and-forth affair. The Giants briefly gained the lead early on, continuing to hit threes as they did all game, before the Sharks led by as many as 10 midway through.  Heading into the final quarter, the Sharks led by five, 75-70.

The quarter started in tense fashion, but Morgan stepped up when his team needed him, nailing a three-point play before a long two to put his side up by 11.  But a 8-0 run, including two clutch twos in the paint from Vukona, got the Giants back to within three, 92-89, with 1.27 on the clock.  Pledger hit two free-throws, before Delany scored a layup. Nelson won a turnover, which Heuir turned into a layup.   Pledger was fouled again with 13.2 seconds on the clock, scoring both free-throws to put the margin out to three again. 

Nelson took a timeout to move the ball up the court, but whatever was drawn up in the break failed miserably on court, as Delany threw a deep pass across court to no-one which sailed out of bounds.  Southland then held on for the win in a match befitting the semifinal billing.

Southland Sharks 98 (Conor Morgan 25 points, Alex Pledger 22, Orlando Coleman 17, Derone Raukawa 16) Nelson Giants 93 (Finn Delany 26 points, Damon Heuir 25).
Q1: 27-24; HT: 53-49; Q3: 75-70

Bill Dahlberg