The Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs attacked the James Blond Supercity Rangers head on in front of a home crowd last night at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.
In a battle that resembled a rugby game more than a basketball game, bodies were sent flying and at one stage were even stacked up as Rangers’ Reuben Te Rangi flattened Airs’ Derek Albertson.
“On the score sheet we don’t have the biggest line ups and don’t have the biggest names. You look at that team. Anyone of their players can be in the starting five in the country really. We always look to come out and take everybody by surprise and work our arses off. I think we did a pretty good job,” said Albertson.
“We have to take positives out of everything. We only lost to them by 2 last time. We are a young inexperienced team and we are still growing.”
During most of the first quarter the Airs were matching the Rangers. Airs’ Brad Anderson was shooting well from deep while both Aaron Fuller and Dyson King-Hawea had a strong game on defence as well as attack.
Rangers’ Dillon Boucher and Casey Frank quickly made their presence felt resulting in some interesting calls as it finished 31 – 26 at the end of the first.
“Casey and I have played together for years we know each other’s games inside and out. We love being team mates and we are two of the veterans on the team or two of the old guys you could say,” said Boucher.
“For us we just do whatever it takes to get our team across the line if that means we have to knock some people over to get the ball or steal some rebounds and do some stuff then that’s what we do.
“I thought we started the game well. I thought we lost our way in the second quarter and they (Airs) played real well in the second quarter. I felt like in the second half we started good again and we just pushed the lead out.”
Boucher recorded six rebounds, four assists, two turnovers and one steal whilst Frank had six rebounds, two assists, two turnovers and added 14 points to the scoreboard. He also picked up four fouls and talks from the refs for his physical game play.
The second quarter was much the same as the first ending 53 – 51 in favour of the Rangers. The Airs had the chance to make it even but were foiled by a wayward pass. The third quarter saw team battles intensify as they fought it out ending 70 -64.
In the fourth quarter Rangers Coach Je Green and his players constantly questioned the refs’ decisions even more than earlier as tempers rose.
Every time the Rangers thought they were pulling away the Airs came storming back led by their Captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell. It was only in the last few minutes of the third Rangers managed to pull ahead.
The Rangers had the biggest scoring run of nine and the biggest lead of 18 yet the Airs managed to tie the game twice through sheer determination and super teamwork.
Coach Daryn Shaw said the Rangers had a lot of international experience whereas the Airs have lots of potential.
“I think Aunty (Bailey-Nowell) has been outstanding. He just grinds it out and is so strong under the hoop. It’s tough to loose. Nobody is happy about it. It was always going to be a challenge for us. It was a challenge that we wanted to take on.”
Bailey-Nowell notched six rebounds, three assists and shot eight from 11 free throws.
The final quarter the Airs seemed to struggle and within the opening minutes Frank took full advantage scoring easy baskets as he swung on the hoop. The points quickly climbed leaving the Airs behind.
Frank’s physical game was again displayed when he flattened Hagan which was likened to a “David and Goliath” match up. The home crowd watched with concern as Hagan was pulled from the floor as he wasn’t totally fit from a previous injury.
The Airs scored 28 points off the bench compared to the Rangers 14 with the Rangers scoring 12 points from turnovers to the Airs four. Both teams were matched for rebounds with the Airs at 49 and the Rangers 51.
Assistant Coach Willie Banks said he was happy the team was back to where they were a few weeks ago – really competing.
“I think we let ourselves down last game. I think this week we are back competing wise and coming out and scaring some teams. We missed some shots and had a turn over here and there but that could just be experience more than anything. We have to look at it in the positive spin and we are back to where we were. We just have to show we can continue it.”
With 3:52 on the clock Shaw gave all the bench a run. The younger members of the team quickly got to work. At 1:57 Green also cleared his bench.
Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs : 84 – Aaron Fuller : 23, Aaron Bailey-Nowell : 18, Brad Anderson : 14,
Super City Rangers : 99 – Reuben TeRangi : 33, Jason Cadee : 23, Frank Casey : 14