Saints fire massive warning shot as they dispatch Rams in second game
The Wellington Saints celebrated their first home game in 669 days with an impressive 95 - 74 win over the Canterbury Rams at TSB Bank Arena.
Following on from a dominant away win over the Otago Nuggets in week one, the Saints started the same five that disposed of the Nuggets in Kerwin Roach, Dion Prewster, Taane Samuel, Tohi Smith-Milner, and Romaro Gill.
For the Rams, this was their first game of the season, and they started imports Deshon Taylor and EJ Singler, alongside Sam Smith, Quintin Bailey, and the returning Jack Salt.
After a fire alarm initially delayed the game by 20 minutes, Import Kerwin Roach had the first 4 Saints points in almost two years as the game started at a frenetic pace. Rams import Taylor had the hot hand early, contributing eight of the first ten as they went on a run of their own.
Dion Prewster took a few minutes to get going, but brought the crowd to its feet with a massive dunk in the first to reduce it to a two-point deficit. A Taane Samuel three-point make then gave the Saints the lead before a Zico Coronel time-out stopped play.
Both teams looked evenly matched in the first as the lead swapped hands on multiple occasions. Two late threes by substitute wing Kenneth Tuffin and Kerwin Roach left the score at 23 - 20 after the first quarter.
The home team looked more settled in the second quarter, racing out to an early six-point lead on the back of scores by Tuffin and Prewster. Prewster continued his hot streak as he moved to 12 points early in the second. The lead for the Saints was also 12 as Samuels converted a free throw and had a miss on the second tidied up by seven-foot-two big man Romaro Gill.
Rams import Taylor was the only Rams points scorer part way through the second, as the lead stayed in double digits. The Saints suffocating defense not only forced Rams mistakes, but Coach Mick Downer was also forced to use two of his timeouts.
The three-pointers continued to drop for the Saints, as they hit the halftime break on an excellent 55 percent efficiency from deep. The Saints swarming defense was another feature of the first half, with the Rams only seeing success when they went to big man Salt down low.
Half time score, 49 Saints - 36 Rams
The Rams started the second half hot as they quickly reduced the deficit to seven points, before three more Prewster points took him past 20 and the lead back to 10.
The Gill / Roach pick and roll duo continued to create havoc for the Rams, as the Saints earned their points at the free-throw line in the third stanza.
MVP candidate Prewster had to head to the locker room midway through the third for a minor injury, but his team rallied around him on the back of Roach and some excellent transition play. Tuffin was also hot from three as the Saints kept the lead around the 15 mark.
Big man Alex Talma was a bright spot for the Rams in the third, as they reduced the deficit to eleven with two minutes left in the fourth. More enterprising play late in the third brought the Saints lead back to nine by the break.
It was new Saints signing Tohi Smith-Milner who opened the scoring in the fourth with a three. More Saints threes pushed the lead up to 16 points, 81 - 65.
The massive Gill showed his impressive rim protection with a big block on one end, leading to a flashy finish by Prewster on the other end, arguably the game’s best play.
The impressive Tuffin showed his value on the other end with some strong defense leading to a turnover and a Roach finish, pushing the lead to 17 with around four minutes to go in the fourth. Gill put the icing on the cake with another highlight play as he converted a pinpoint lob pass by Smith-Milner with two minutes left.
Final score Wellington Saints 95 - Canterbury Rams 74
Early MVP-candidate Prewster had 31 points on an impressive 68 percent shooting. He was ably supported by Roach, who had 18 with 7 assists, and Gill with 17 and 7 rebounds.
For the Rams, import guard Taylor had 16 points, while Salt had an impressive 16 on his return to professional basketball.
Key Stats: The Saints shot an excellent 47 percent from three, and converted 16 free throws; nine more than their opponents.
Dion Prewster (Saints-10) Kerwin Roach (Saints-8) DeShon Taylor (Rams-6) Romaro Gill (Saints-2) Kenneth Tuffin (Saints-2) Jack Salt (Rams-2)