Basketball: Inexperience proves costly for Nuggets

uggets point guard Scott O'Gallagher (left) drives past Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny during their...
uggets point guard Scott O'Gallagher (left) drives past Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny during their NBL game at Dunedin's Lion Foundation Arena last night. Photo by Jane Dawber.
The Hawkes Bay Hawks had too much Pace for the Otago Nuggets - Josh Pace that is.

The classy American small forward might be sleepy-looking but he cut through the Nuggets defence and strolled to the hoop for a series of baskets with barely a hand laid on him.

When he could not find his way to the hoop the southpaw put up the ugliest shots you will ever see. They seemed impossibly flat but he squeezed them in, wobbles and all.

His haul of 23 points and 10 rebounds was probably the difference between the two sides, although Paora Winitana had a big second half and landed some crucial three pointers.

The 97-86 win was the Hawks' fifth consecutive win this season while the Nuggets' miserable losing steak has been extended to 30 games. Amazingly, the franchise has not been able to sneak a win in more than three years.

The team appears to be getting closer to ending the drought. Craig Bradshaw scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Point guard Scott O'Gallagher came alive in the second half, netting 18 points and Lance Allred had 16 points and seven rebounds. So there is enough firepower in the line-up but the team just seems to lack some belief.

Captain Sam To'omata felt his side's inexperience was the difference when the match was evenly poised with about three minutes to run.

"I just think it comes down to experience," To'omata said.

"They have bench players that can start for any team in the league and we've got some kids that are coming through and probably won't be at that level for another couple of years."

The game looked to be slipping away from the Nuggets midway through the third quarter. The gap had ballooned to 15 points but the home side rallied.

Sam King stole the ball back and Bradshaw knocked down a mid-range jumper and moments later landed a three-pointer. O'Gallagher drove to the hoop and got the basket and the foul. Suddenly, the margin had been cut to three with 10 minutes to play.

Pace owned the opening stanza, waltzing his way to the basket with consummate ease. He went quiet in the second and third periods but like the champion he is he found another gear when the match was on the line.

He scored 11 points in the last quarter to seal the win and left the small crowd of about 450 wondering how the ball found its way through the hoop. He fired his shots like you would skim a stone but they went in all the same.

At least he had to earn those shots. He got far too many freebies early on.

"I think our transition defence was weak and we are going to have to go back to the drawing board for that. That has nothing to do with experience. That comes down to discipline," To'omata said.

"[Pace] got too many easy baskets and we didn't really make them work hard enough for their shots.

"But our team last year would probably have got done by 20."

The number of times Ben Hill was left unguarded on the outside was a sin. The big guy has a nice touch from out wide and he hit four three-pointers in his haul of 16 points.

Arthur Trousdell continued his impressive season with a solid match with 15 points and seven boards, and Winitana scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half.

In last night's other NBL clash, the Wellington Saints recovered from a 55-45 halftime deficit to beat the Auckland Pirates 91-83 in Wellington.

Nuggets v Hawks
- The scores

Hawks 97
Josh Pace 23, Paora Winitana 18, Ben Hill 16

Nuggets 86
Scott O'Gallagher 18, Craig Bradshaw 17, Lance Allred 16

• Quarter 28-23, halftime 46-39, third quarter 69-66

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