Students stun Saints with hard-fought win

Andy Bay Falcons guard Toby Lewis (right) tries to create space against Mid City Magic defender...
Andy Bay Falcons guard Toby Lewis (right) tries to create space against Mid City Magic defender Mitch Hughan at the Edgar Centre on Saturday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Varsity have sent an early shockwave through Dunedin basketball.

The students stunned the St Kilda Saints on Saturday, beating the powerhouse 80-76 as the men’s club basketball season began at the Edgar Centre.

It was Varsity’s first win since 2022, and their first against a team other than the one-year-wonder winless St Kilda Bullets, since 2021.

And they had to work hard for it.

The Saints had led virtually the entire way, when William Fredrick’s three-pointer gave Varsity their first lead with one minute and 11 seconds remaining. Fredrick followed that with a classy pull-up, extending the lead to 78-74 with 30 seconds to play.

He top-scored for Varsity with 18 points, supported by Jack Hollingworth (15 points).

The Saints should not be written off.

They were missing a lot of quality — James Ross, Lawson Morris-Whyte, Jamie MacDonald, Danyon Ashcroft, Liam Aston. But there was still a sprinkling of class there, notably Otago Nuggets point guard Mike Ruske, who led the team with 25 points.

For much of the game, it looked to be enough.

The Saints were cruising when they hit a 45-24 lead midway through the second quarter.

Varsity made a push to close to 45-32 at halftime, but it was the third quarter that closed the gap.

They went on a 10-0 run, Fredrick contributing seven of those points and hitting the triple to spark it, as the score closed to 57-53.

At the other end, the Saints’ offence faltered.

Ball movement disappeared, they began settling for early, low-quality shots and they insisted on throwing the ball into the post from poor angles.

They did enough to hold off the students and lead 63-56 at the final break.

The lack of an offensive threat outside of Ruske became evident in the final quarter. The Saints added just 13 points to that total.

Meanwhile, the Varsity defence swarmed. They generated turnovers and pushed the ball for transition baskets.

But the Saints did enough to keep a toe in front — most of the way.

Varsity finally drew level at 73-73 with two minutes and 30 seconds to play, when Hollingworth finished on a third-chance put-back opportunity.

Ruske got to the line and converted on one shot to give the Saints back the lead.

Then Varsity delivered the killer blow.

Hollingworth drove right off Fredrick’s screen, and Fredrick popped high to the slot.

The Saints threw a double at the Hollingworth, both Ruske and Tyler Lapham looking to pressure the guard.

But the rotation from the weak side was late, and Hollingworth was unflustered by the pressure, finding a wide-open Fredrick to slot a triple and take a 76-74 lead.

The next play down, Fredrick used a screen to get a switch, before breaking this man down and hitting a dagger pull-up from the foul line.

Ben Hoskin, Olly Smith and Maika Shortland had 19 points each as the City Rise Bombers beat the Magic Lions 97-89.

Mitchell Hughan led the Mid City Magic with 25 points in a 123-82 demolition of the Andy Bay Falcons.