News & Results

Sharks upset Saints in Semi 14 Jul 2013

Sam Worthington - Dominion Post

The Southland Sharks have advanced to the franchise’s first NBL grand final by stunning hot favourites the Wellington Saints 81-66 at Pettigrew Green Arena.

It was the Sharks’ first trip to the semifinals in their fourth year of existence, but they dealt with the cut-throat format like seasoned veterans.

The Paul Henare-coached side lost to the Saints just eight days ago, but they turned up when it counted to produce an inspired and disciplined performance.

Their swarming defence frustrated the Saints, whose star-studded roster unravelled, making a whopping 21 turnovers.

Lindsay Tait returned from a three-game injury absence, but the decorated point guard was clearly not himself and shot 0/9 FG, finishing with just four points from the free throw line.

The Sharks will meet the winner of tonight’s second semifinal between the Otago Nuggets and the Nelson Giants, with the grand final tomorrow at the same venue.

It was terrific basketball from Henare’s crew, and it was a shame that the arena was less than half full.

The NBL booked the Final Four for Napier early in the season under the presumption Hawke’s Bay would claim their usual position in the semifinals.

But the Hawks bombed out, and despite optimistic predictions the locals failed to show.

Southland’s starting five were all tremendous, none more so than Leon Henry who finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three steals.

Brian Conklin had 19 points and nine boards while Kevin Braswell shot poorly but set the defensive tone with five steals.

Southland took the first half 44-33 as they came out much the sharper.

The Saints’ first half effort reflected the flat atmosphere and the Sharks pounced.

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