Basketball: Nuggets 'should have won'

Warren Carter he finds the hoop during the Nuggets' match against the  Canterbury Rams at the...
Warren Carter he finds the hoop during the Nuggets' match against the Canterbury Rams at the More FM Arena in Dunedin. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Everything hinged on one last Mark Dickel drive towards the hoop.

The Nuggets player-coach had a sublime match and, with the seconds ticking away in overtime, had an opportunity to snatch a memorable win for his side.

He cut towards the hoop with his all of his trademark speed, went up for the lay-up and felt he was bumped in the process. The ball did not drop and he called for the foul. That call never came.

The Canterbury Rams grabbed the rebound and Inga Solufuti sealed the 90-87 win with two points from the free throw line.

The agonising loss has left the Nuggets (7-9) with no chance of making the playoffs.

As a disappointed 1200-strong crowd made their way out of the Edgar Centre, Dickel found little joy or consolation in superb personal effort in which he posted a triple-double of 14 assists, 11 rebounds and 12 points.''

It is really, really frustrating. We should have won the game,'' he said.''

I got fouled on the play at the end but once again, the refs for whatever reason, call whatever they want to call. That kind of decided the game.''

We played a good game. We had some line-ups we have not used before but so did they, so there are really no excuses. If we'd have been good enough, we'd have won.''

The Rams were missing small forward Marcel Jones, who was serving an automatic one-game stand-down after he was ejected from the game against the Southland Sharks in Invercargill on Friday night.

The Nuggets were without Brendon Polyblank, who broke his nose last weekend and had corrective surgery on Friday.

Warren Carter stepped up in Polyblank's absence with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Unfortunately, he battled foul trouble and it was a turning point in the match when he fouled out with one minute 30 seconds in regulation time.

Guard Micah Lepaio had his best game for the franchise. He landed four of his eight three-point attempts for a career-high 18 points.

Brandon Bowdry struggled at the offensive end for most of the game. He still managed to slot 14 points and he dominated the boards with a game-high 15 rebounds.

American Matthew Rogers was steady for the Rams with 23 points. Richie Edwards added value from the bench with 19 points and Jeremy Kench (18) and Ethan Rusbatch (17) had some good moments.

The teams traded baskets in the opening stages. The Nuggets were getting some traction on the inside with Dickel finding Carter with some dazzling passes.

The big man finished with a dunk whenever he could and the signs looked promising for the home team.

The Rams rallied through a series of stops, then Rusbatch drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key and was fouled by Carter in the process. He added the extra while Carter took a seat on the bench.

With Carter sidelined, the Nuggets struggled to score and the Rams took a useful 26-14 lead into the break.

Micah Lepaio got his side back into the match with a brace of lay-ups and Carter had hit a crucial three-pointer after the lead had ballooned to 11 points.

Lepaio finished the half with a three-pointer of his own to level the scores.

Bowdry finally found his range midway through the third quarter, adding consecutive three-pointers. That helped the home side build a nine-point lead.

But Canterbury chipped away at the deficit and went into the last period trailing by three points.

With 27 seconds left in regulation time and the scores locked 76-76, Dickel wound down the shot clock before setting off for a drive. The Rams were equal to the challenge and disrupted his progress. Sam King put up desperate shot to no avail and the game went into overtime.

On Friday, the Wellington Saints beat the Waikato Pistons 85-83, the Manawatu Jets prevailed 86-71 against the Taranaki Mountain Airs and the Southland Sharks dispatched the Rams 108-83.

On Saturday, the Nelson Giants downed the Waitakere Rangers 97-89 and yesterday the Hawkes Bays beat the Mountain Airs 81-64 and the Jets trumped the Pistons 85-74.

The scores

Canterbury Rams 90
Matthew Rogers 23, Jeremy Kench 18

Otago Nuggets 87
Warren Carter 27, Micah Lepaio 18

Quarter scores: 26-14-26, 36-36, 55-58, 76-76

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