Nuggets dig deep to win in overtime

Otago Nuggets guard Matt Bardsley tries to find a way past Southland Sharks defenders Alonzo...
Otago Nuggets guard Matt Bardsley tries to find a way past Southland Sharks defenders Alonzo Burton (left) and Joshua Turner at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin on Saturday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Two words come to mind following the Otago Nuggets’ thrilling 86-79 overtime win over the Southland Sharks in Dunedin on Saturday afternoon.

Firstly, wow. And secondly, how?

The game appeared to have slipped away from the Nuggets in the third quarter.

The Sharks outscored the Nuggets 25-12 and took a five-point lead into the final period in front of a crowd of 1500.

Import Kimani Lawrence had got himself into trouble and had to sit out most of the quarter on four fouls.

Somehow he was able to get through the entire fourth quarter and overtime without picking up another.

And, boy, that was crucial. He was instrumental during the extra five minutes.

His 18-point haul and 13 rebounds were good reward for a thoroughly professional display by the import.

Centre Jack Andrew was another standout. His double-double of 18 points and 15 rebounds was an early statement to the league.

He hit an important three-pointer late in regulation to remind everyone you have to stay alert when he has the ball. He also slapped away three blocks as well.

Australian Ben Henshall impressed on his Nuggets debut. He scored a game-high 21 points which included a lovely fade-away jumper and some crazy drives to the hoop. He is going to score a lot of points this season.

Matt Bardsley made a big impact off the bench. The "Slippery Eel" grabbed three steals and banged in 17 points.

He landed the most critical basket of the afternoon — a floater into the middle of the basket with fewer than three seconds remaining.

That shot sent the game into overtime and from there Lawrence and Andrew took over.

Coach Brent Matehaere was thrilled with the result.

"I’m super pumped with that," he said.

"It is nice to see a smile on Jack’s face, and Kimani got himself into this team.

"Lawrence rode that foul trouble so well, oh my goodness. I think we are going to see big things from him. He is here to work. He’s been in the gym every day."

The Nuggets needed a big contribution from the bench because they were missing star guards Tai Webster and Dontae Russo-Nance.

Russo-Nance is out with a wrist injury and the best-case scenario is he will be available for round four.

Webster should be good to go against the Manawatū Jets in Dunedin on Friday night.

Zaccheus Darko-Kelly arrived in Dunedin on Thursday night following a 36-hour flight, and the American import struggled in his opening game for the Nuggets.

You can put that down to jet-lag. His passing game certainly looked top drawer.

"Let’s just say I don’t think he flew business class," Matehaere joked.

For the Sharks, American forward Marcale Lotts filled up the stat sheet with 14 boards, 13 points, five blocks and four steals.

Centre Callum McRae pulled in 13 rebounds and added 12 points in a solid performance, and guard Joshua Turner got into early foul trouble but battled back to score 16 points.

In the Rapid League game between the two teams, the Sharks won 37-26.

The Rams opened the NBL season with a 79-69 win over the Giants, the Whai made their debut with a 91-70 thumping of the Hawks, the Airs beat the Jets 83-78, and the Saints demolished the Tuatara 110-80.


The scores

Otago Nuggets 86

Ben Henshall 21, Kimani Lawrence 18

Southland Sharks 79

Joshua Turner 16, Marcale Lotts 14

Quarter scores: 26-18, 46-38, 58-63, 76-76.