Otago Nuggets show resilience with crucial win

Australian teenager Ben Henshall in action earlier this month. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Australian teenager Ben Henshall in action earlier this month. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Ben bounced back.

Rebounding was cool again.

And the Otago Nuggets posted an important 107-94 win against the Nelson Giants in front on 1450 fans at the Edgar Centre today.

But this game was won midway through the fourth quarter.

With the game locked 90-90, the Nuggets piled on 11 unanswered points to set up the win.

Mr Hustle Kimani Lawrence banked in a one-hander off the class.

Australian teenager Ben Henshall, who shone with 31 points and 10 rebounds, popped in three from a fast break.

Zaccheus Darko-Kelly faked his opponent and knocked down an open three, and Darcy Knox completed the run with a three from the wing as well.

Star guard Tai Webster took a heavy fall and sat out the final quarter, so that is a concern.

But the Nuggets snapped a three-game losing streak.

Henshall, 19, who had a couple of quiet games prior, was back to his best.

The Nuggets were badly out rebounded in the back-to-back games against the Canterbury Rams but won the battle of the boards 45-33.

Coach Brent Matehaere was pleased with the performance. It was not an easy game.

"It helps when you are knocking down shots," he said.

"It was good to get our mojo back.

"To be honest it was a really good effort. They had to lock in on defence and that Nelson team is a decent team — they are in the hunt."

In a bruising, high-tempo opening quarter, the Nuggets emerged with a slim 32-31 advantage.

Webster and Henshall popped in nine points apiece. But the Nuggets' American import duo of Lawrence and Darko-Kelly picked up two fouls each.

That could have been a big problem but they managed the situation well.

Kobe Langley and Daniel Grida (31 points) were causing headaches for the Nuggets, though. Grida was getting to the hoop easy enough, and Langley was making timely appearances in the passing lane and also drilled a couple of threes.

Lawrence (30 points, eight rebounds) went to work in the paint and hustled up some points in the second quarter.

Daniel Fotu (22 points) replied at the other end. The Giants forward poked in a three and finished off a fast break from a Sam Dempster steal.

The lead changed hands again when Henshall found the target from beyond the arc, and Webster netted two when Henshall picked off a pass and hurled the ball up court.

The Nuggets nursed a 52-46 lead at halftime.

They got that out to 10 early in the third period. Darko-Kelly and Henshall connected from out wide and Jack Andrew slammed in a dunk.

The visitors rallied with their own brace of threes, but Lawrence twisted his way to the hoop for a dunk and Henshall landed a jumper to beat the buzzer.

With 10 minutes remaining the Nuggets retained a six-point lead.

The game was in the balance until the Nuggets’ 11-point run.

In the Rapid League game the Giants beat the Nuggets 41-38.

In the other NBL games this round, the Auckland Tuatara beat the Hawke’s Bay Hawks 120-96, the Taranaki Airs beat the Franklin Bulls 90-76 and the Giants edged the Southland Sharks 89-79.

The scores

Otago Nuggets 107 (Ben Henshall 31, Kimani Lawrence 30)

Nelson Giants 94 (Daniel Grida 31, Daniel Fotu 22)

Quarter scores: 32-31, 52-46, 82-76