You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
A 91-75 victory over the Nelson Giants tonight has seen the Saints finish the regular season at 15-3, holding an unassailable margin over the 13-4 Giants and 12-4 Southland Sharks.
The Giants and Sharks will face off in the 2 v 3 semifinal in next weekend's Final Four in Wellington, while the Saints will take on the Bay Hawks in the 1 v 4 encounter.
Who will come out victorious is still anyone's guess, with all four sides on a roughly level playing field. Unlike last year, when the Saints romped to the title without losing a game, there has been no dominant outfit in 2018, and each side has had stretches where they have failed to flatter.
The Giants notably had one tonight, seeing an 11 point lead - and their chances of clinching top spot - dissipate as the Saints came roaring back.
Saints point guard Shea Ili was curiously benched for the first five minutes of the game, but once he belatedly got going the Saints pulled away, recording one of their most convincing wins in a season full of largely uninspiring victories.
Ili - a near-lock to be named Most Valuable Player - had 18 points and import shooting guard LJ Peak, who seems to be - pardon the pun - peaking at the right time, provided a game-high 21.
The Giants - who beat the Saints in overtime just last week - are still a potent title challenger. Tonight they were without import small forward Jerry Evans Jr, and they have rarely managed to get a full-strength side on the floor all season.
With the Saints' victory locking in the semifinal matchups, the rest of the week profiles as an anti-climax. There is still the race to avoid the wooden spoon, with the Taranaki Mountain Airs, Supercity Rangers and Manawatu Jets all on three wins.
The latter two meet on Sunday in a likely spoon decider, while on the same day the Sharks and Giants also clash in a now-meaningless encounter, which could lead to some curious strategies or lineups as the respective coaches look to hide their gameplan before they meet again in next week's finals.