Nuggets win first NBL title in thriller

Otago Nuggets guard Richie Rodger takes the ball to the hoop as Manawatu Jets guard Nelson...
Otago Nuggets guard Richie Rodger takes the ball to the hoop as Manawatu Jets guard Nelson Kirksey trails him in the NBL final in Auckland tonight. Photo: Getty Images

It was tense.

It was tight.

And in the end, it was history making.

A huge finish helped the Otago Nuggets to their first National Basketball League title in Auckland tonight.

They beat the Manawatu Jets 79-77 in the final.

It completes a remarkable comeback for the team in its first season since 2014.

The Nuggets trailed 55-52 at the last break.

But they went on an 11-1 run to start the fourth quarter as its offence began to click.

The Jets hit back but a huge Jordan Ngatai block followed by a Josh Aitcheson free throw closed out an intense finish. 

Final Most Valuable Player Jordan Hunt had 21 points, while Kane Keil and Aitcheson both had key contributions with 15 and 16 each.

It was a shaky start for both sides, although the Nuggets remained close.

The game was called loose by the referees and made for a physical opening.

Turnovers plagued the Nuggets - they had 14 at halftime - as they struggled to get clean looks at the hoop.

However, they were able to do enough defensively to stay in touch.

They lost key man Jordan Ngatai to foul trouble two minutes from the end of the first.

He picked up a charge for his second foul with the side trailing 15-12.

The Nuggets played cautious with him, leaving him off for the remainder of the half.

They were able to keep it close throughout the second though.

Aitcheson came up with several big plays, while Hunt and Keil both reached double figures in scoring by halftime.

The lead changed hands several times, but the Jets took a 41-37 lead to the changing rooms.

But it was the Nuggets that started better after the break.

They went on a 10-0 run, getting stops and finding scoring from Hunt and Keil again.

At 47-41 the Jets took a timeout, twice having left a man unguarded under the hoop.

But the Jets hit back and a Tom Vodanovich three-pointer gave them the lead back at 51-50 and held that at 55-52 at the final break.

Again the Nuggets came out firing to start the fourth.

They took the lead back, before Ngatai opened up an eight point margin with a three-point play.

The Jets hit back once again and with one and half minutes left the Nuggets led by just one.

However Ngatai's block followed by Aitcheson's free throw closed the game out for the Nuggets.

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