Saints go one and one on South Island road trip
The Wellington Saints had their first challenge of the year, going on a Southern road-trip, returning home with one win over the Canterbury Rams and one loss to the Southland Sharks. This ended the Saints long winning streak of 1035 days, with their last lost being againts the Sharks also in the 2018 Finals.
Coach Zico Coronel would have been disappointed with the loss in the first game, as one of the on form teams in the Sharks took it to them in Invercargill.
With a subdued offense and not having the customary big scoring run in the third and fourth quarters, the Saints struggled to get consistency on either end.
A slow first quarter only had them behind slightly, but the Sharks even scoring from their shortened rotation pushed the lead out to 11 at the end of the first half. Big man Dom Kelman-Poto hit the boards hard as he and Josh Cunningham scored efficiently inside.
The Saints usually strong 3-point shooting wasn't a feature as the Sharks scored efficiently in the third. The Saints came back a little in the quarter, with Taane Samuel playing well inside, but the Sharks pulled away to win by 14.
Kerwin Roach was the Saints best on the night with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Final score Southland Sharks 84 - Wellington Saints 70.
Under pressure for the first time this season after their first loss of the year the night before, the Saints were fired up and back to their best defensively.
Kenneth Tuffin was impressive, setting the tone with deflections and some strong man defense. Though it was was a slow start for both teams on offense, it was more of a defensive battle early on for the fans.
It took some excellent ball movement with a few minutes to go to in the first quarter to get an open look to a Saints veteran in the corner, Troy Mclean, who canned it for three points.
The Rams were up to the challenge early, but the Saints pulled away to a 15 - 9 lead as their offensive actions started to pay dividends.
It was the Rams who started the second well, though with four quick points. The Saints edged the lead out to seven, as the ever-present Dion Prewster had some nice scoring inside and out. They continued to have their way in the second, with both imports getting on the score sheet as the lead pushed out to 12.
The Rams had a late run to trim that lead a little as Prewster continued to be aggressive. It was a sloppy finish to the second, but the Saints still went into halftime ahead.
HT score 38 - 32.
The scoring picked up in the second half as Taane Samuel continued his rich vein of form. He had an impressive night on both ends of the court.
A Tuffin three from a handoff and then a Samuel layup got the lead back to double digits. The Rams stayed in touch though, as the lead moved back and forth around the ten-point mark. Three Saints were up to double digits in the third as their offense continued to flow.
It was another Troy McLean three in the third which pushed the lead out to 15, the Saints veteran doing what he does best, shooting threes. The Saints started strongly in the 4th quarter, with Samuels again featuring on both ends.
Kerwin Roach also featured heavily, his breakaway dunk extending the lead out to 19. Roach put the icing on the cake with two more exciting scores that put the lead over 20.
Final score Wellington Saints 89 - Canterbury Rams 64.
Kerwin Roach had an impressive season-high 26 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 5 asts.
Dion Prewster had 22 points with 3 steals.
Taane Samuel had 16 points to go with 7 rebounds.