Victorious basketballer grateful for support

 

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Age has proved no object for victorious Clinton-based basketballer Lydon Aoake.

The 28-year-old Southland Sharks guard has returned to his South Otago home after his team won a skin-of-the-teeth 98-96 victory against the Wellington Saints in the capital on Sunday.

The Sharks were underdogs going into the match and the Saints competition favourites after two consecutive National Basketball League wins.

But rather than immediate joy at his team's achievement, Aoake said instead he felt ''a big sense of relief'' when the final buzzer went.

Southland Sharks player Lydon Aoake after his team beat the Wellington Saints in the NBL championship final in Wellington on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Southland Sharks player Lydon Aoake after his team beat the Wellington Saints in the NBL championship final in Wellington on Sunday. Photo: Supplied

It was when - with only seconds to go - Saints player Shaun Bruce took a shot that missed that he knew the match was won.

''It was right down to the wire ... and man it just went crazy. The whole bench ran on to the court. It's pretty much what you see on TV. It's that exciting.''

IT technician and father-of-one Aoake's rise to NBL championship level has been swift: he made the squad in April this year.

There the 1.86m guard has stepped out with the likes of Tall Blacks Reuben Te Rangi, Derone Raukawa, James Hunter, Luke Aston and Alex Pledger.

It is hard to credit he once believed his dreams of making it big had passed him by, after spending years in the Auckland basketball scene trying unsuccessfully to catch the eye of a League team.

His opportunity emerged when he shifted to Clinton to work at infant formula company Danone Nutricia in Clydevale.

''It wasn't easy, and people sacrificed a lot for me to have this opportunity. I'm very grateful for all the support I received from my family and my work.''

Aoake will take a couple of weeks' break from training after his exertions at the weekend.

''My knees are a bit sore, but I'll be back into conditioning during the off season.''

Life will continue to get busier:

alongside a return to his own IT pursuits, Aoake will be supporting partner Chantelle Meaola's new beauty business and preparing for 2-year-old son LJ to start day care.

jack.conroy@cluthaleader.co.nz

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