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They held off a comeback and then closed out the win.
Perhaps it was closer than the Otago Nuggets would have liked. But they executed well down the stretch to beat the Canterbury Rams 87-77 in Auckland on Saturday.
The Nuggets led 65-49 late in the third quarter, but found themselves holding off a rampant Rams side at 72-72 with just under five minutes remaining.
Breakout star guard Taylor Britt (21 points), who did not play the third quarter, and young big man Tom Webley (14 points) did much of the damage for the Rams.
The Nuggets’ shots stopped falling but they never let the Rams in front.
A layup and a three-pointer from influential guard Richie Rodger helped the side reopen its gap, as did Jordan Ngatai’s ability to get to the foul line.
Ngatai finished with 19 points, identifying mismatches by posting up smaller guards and drawing eight fouls.
Kane Keil shot well for his 16 points, while Rodger’s all-round influence went beyond his 10.
The result snapped a two-match losing streak, while condemning the Rams to a third straight loss.
They are a side hit hard by injury, having lost Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green for the rest of the season, as well as being without Toby Gillooly.
Despite that, Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere was thrilled with the win.
"It was great," he said.
"Especially to get a win over a Canterbury team that’s really organised and talented.
"Even though they’re suffering a bit in terms of injuries, a win against the Rams is always special."
He said the cold scoring spell had just been a case of shots not falling rather than how the team was playing.
"I guess it was the same in the game against the Bulls — we were taking good shots.
"None of the shots we were taking were bad shots; they just weren’t going in.
"We had to back ourselves to make our shots, for them to go in.
"Kane [Keil] hit two threes and Richie [Rodger] hit another one and that’s what we needed.
"Our goal was to keep them under 80 points and if we could get over 80 we were in a good spot."
It was back-to-back threes from Rodger and Jordan Hunt that opened the Nuggets’ first lead late in the first quarter.
Keil added another not long after to make it 22-15 and they went to the break ahead 28-22.
That opened further in the second quarter with a notable productive stretch from Matt Bardsley — who managed eight points and five rebounds in 6½ minutes of game time.
They led 56-42 at halftime, although the shooting troubles began in the third quarter.
The Nuggets added just nine points and went nearly four minutes at the end of the period without a bucket.
However, the defence remained locked in and the Rams — without Britt — managed just 12 themselves.
Those scoring troubles continued early in the fourth, while Britt returned to ignite the Rams’ offence.
However, the Nuggets rediscovered their shooting touch to close out the win and move to 3-2 for the season.
In other games, the Franklin Bulls beat the Manawatu Jets 83-72, the Nelson Giants downed the Auckland Huskies 19-83 and the Manawatu Jets Taranaki Mountain Airs.