Saints split doubleheader
The Wellington Saints had a mixed weekend with an away loss to the Bay Hawks in Napier, followed by a bounce-back win over the Taranaki Mountainairs at home in the TSB Bank Arena.
Friday’s game was a stop-start affair punctuated by a slow start on offense and a surprisingly lackluster defense.
The stacked Hawks team, with their inside and outside threats posed problems early, as the Saints gave away possession in the first quarter.
There were uncharacteristic mistakes on both ends as they continued to fall behind.
Tohi Smith-Milner continued his rich vein of form as he got it going inside and out, they were doing it tough, but a better second quarter brought the deficit back.
The Hawks spread their scoring around in the first half, eventually going into the halftime break ahead 46 - 41.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, as Smith-Milner and Dion Prewster continued to score.
It was veteran Leon Henry who also kept the visitors in it as he made big plays on both ends. A better Saints third had them down by four at the end of the quarter, with the Hawks consistent scoring keeping the game close.
The visiting Saints had the lead with a few minutes to go but some defensive lapses and then a Devondrick Walker three iced the game for the Hawks.
Final score Bay Hawks 88 - 82 Wellington Saints
Backing up on the Saturday in Wellington, the Saints were carrying some injuries but were still determined to make up for the night before against the Taranaki Mountainairs.
A strong home crowd saw a slow first quarter but better Saints defense as they held the visitors to just 12 points.
Again it was Smith-Milner involved early, as he and captain Prewster got the scoring going.
The second quarter featured scoring from young trio Kael Robinson, Ezra Vaigafa, and Kenneth Tuffin. Kerwin Roach was locked in too, as the home team pushed the lead out past 20 points.
Prewster and Henry extended the lead in the second, while only Tai Wynyard provided any resistance for the visitors.
Halftime score Saints 47 - 28 Airs
Vaigafa and Tuffin continued their strong scoring in the third as the Saints put the game out of reach.
The visitors had better third and fourth quarters, but Coach Zico Coronel was able to rest his starters early with the lead well over 20 points. The young players took it home, as the Saints kept their unbeaten home record alive.
Final score Wellington Saints 89 - Taranaki Mountainairs 63
Key stats from weekend games
Ezra Vaigafa 11 points with 6 rebounds
Kenneth Tuffin 13 points with 6 rebounds
Tohi Smith Milner 15 points with 3 steals and 19 points 7 rebounds and 5 assists
Leon Henry 17 points and 7 rebounds