Henshall shines as Nuggets dig deep for victory

Ben Henshall stood his ground and went hard.

Wellington Saints shooting guard Lat Mayen came charging towards him and only had eyes for the hoop.

But the referees only had eyes for Mayen, and when Otago Nuggets guard Henshall hit the deck, so too did the call against Mayen for an offensive foul.

It ignited a scream from animated Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere, and brought the Nuggets bench to their feet, as Mayen was dealt his fourth personal for the night.

Moments later, Mayen - who was fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter - had the ball in his hands but Henshall somehow managed to force him to drop it cold and watched it roll off the court.

It was a turning point in the third quarter for the Nuggets, who were down by nine at halftime, and brought the 1500-strong crowd to life at Dunedin's Edgar Centre last night. 

They stormed home to beat the Saints 105-98.

The Nuggets were brutal defensively in the second half - Jack Andrew coming up with a big steal with a minute left on the clock and Henshall finished with a massive three.

Henshall was simply outstanding. He finished with 29-points and was in the thick of everything.

Zaccheus Darko-Kelly had his best outing for the Nuggets scoring 27 points and eight rebounds.

But it was the contributions across the court, from Kimani Lawrence to Robbie Coman, that brought the Nuggets home.

The Nuggets were in blistering form early with a 8-0 run.

Then things started to heat up and the tension boiled into a small scuffle involving multiple players.

It ended with a couple of technical fouls and both teams made them count - and the feeling remained among the two sides for the opening half.

But Tohi Smith-Milner stood up for the Saints and banged down a three to give the visitors their first lead of the game.

Henshall drained a couple of deep threes to re-gain the lead for the Nuggets.

Izayah Leafa stole a cross court ball from the Nuggets and attacked the hoop hard for the Saints. That helped the visitors find their rhythm and started to find the hoop easier.

Lawerence added a nice tear drop, Tai Webster had a step back three on the baseline and Darko-Kelly added a couple of late free throws to trail 30-29 after the first quarter.

It was played at a frantic pace and that did not slow down in the second.

Lawrence had a nice fade away shot and drew the foul and at the other end, Andrew came up with a block on Smith-Milner.

Then came some more heat from both sides and ended with Mayen, who was visibly frustrated, taking a seat on the bench. 

Meanwhile, his team-mates started to pull away, but the Nuggets still strung together some nice passages of play. 

Henshall popped the ball up to Lawrence in the paint and as he went for the jump shot, he dropped the ball down to Andrew who finished off a nice play.

But the Saints started to really ramp things up. 

Smith-Milner had a massive dunk and, when he went for a bucket that missed, Malik Benlevi picked up the crumbs to finish it off in the air.

They controlled the middle passage and pulled out to a 10-point lead and extended it to 65-56 at the break.

The Nuggets really clawed the game back through the start of the third quarter.

Darko-Kelly found his entry to the paint easier and he teamed up with Andrew for some nice offloads.

Darko-Kelly banged down a big three to bring the Nuggets within three and they kept rolling from there.

Henshall pulled up with a deep three and things were tied 81-81 at the end of the third.

From there they fought hard to come up with a well deserved win to remain unbeaten.