Samuel, Tuffin lead Wellington to New Zealand NBL playoffs

JR Isaga
Samuel, Tuffin lead Wellington to New Zealand NBL playoffs

LEAGUE-LEADER. The Wellington Saints tighten their hold of the top spot.

Saints Basketball

Former UAAP standouts Taane Samuel and Ken Tuffin power the Wellington Saints to a playoff spot

The Wellington Saints hardly broke a sweat as they blew out the Manawatu Jets on the road, 103-80, to clinch a playoff spot in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NBL) on Saturday, July 10.

With the win, the powerhouse Saints retained their hold atop the league standings with a 13-2 record, while the Jets skidded down to ninth out of 10 teams with a 4-12 slate.

Former La Salle big man Taane Samuel reignited after a subpar 14-point outing in his last game with a team-high 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting while fellow starters Kerwin Roach Jr. and Tohi Smith-Milner added 20 markers apiece.

Fil-Kiwi forward Ken Tuffin, meanwhile, made the most of his 16 minutes on the court with an all-around line of 11 points, 4 steals, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.

Feared for their strong second half spurts, the Saints this time did not wait for halftime to exert dominance.

Off a 31-22 lead after the opening frame, they quickly mounted a 21-point second quarter lead, 47-26, off a 16-4 run capped by a Roach layup at the 6:40 mark.

Wellington then kept this pressure up for the rest of the game as they peaked with a 29-point gap, 100-71, off a late alley-oop dunk by reserve Isaac Miller-Jose with 3:04 left in regulation.

Jets guards Daishon Knight and Jayden Bezzant showed up big time in the losing effort with 30 and 25 points, respectively, as no other Manawatu player even reached double-digit scoring.

Welington only needs one more win to clinch the first seed as the Southland Sharks and Hawke’s Bay Hawks, currently tied at second with identical 12-5 records, each only have one game left.

The Saints can quickly seal that top spot as they are up for action again on Monday, July 12, against the defending champion Otago Nuggets. –

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