The Augusta Taranaki Mountain Airs played a very competitive home game against the Wellington Saints in their opening game of the season.
They matched the Saints play for play during the first two quarters even though three of their players had 2 fouls early in the first quarter at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.
Saints Coach Cameron Pero said he thinks the Airs will give a lot of teams trouble this season.
“It’s typical Mountain Airs basketball, I have come here and lost before. They played good basketball and we are very, very happy to come away with a win.
“We have had a month to prepare knowing we are going to play each other and we are just unsure what each other runs because on game night not everyone ran their stuff.
“It’s the second year for Streaky (Coach Shaw) and he has come on leaps and bounds. I don’t think he is a new coach any more but has a few games under his belt and it definitely showed tonight.
“I didn’t think we hit our straps. I think we were good in some respects but poor in others. We need to address some obvious issues.
“On saying that, I still commend our guys for coming out of here with a tough win. It was tough, really tough and we were able to just keep ahead of them.”
The Airs made a good strong start winning the first quarter 28 : 23 even with lots of subs as the foul count quickly climbed on Bailey-Nowell, Shaw and Hagen. The Saints hit back in the second ending 50 : 42.
The third quarter was a closely contested battle ending 69 : 70 in the Saints favour.
The lead changed 15 times and the teams were tied eight times with Saints holding the biggest lead of 15 points and making the most of 31 points off the bench compared to the Airs 9.
The Airs were strong on rebounds with 46 compared to the Saints 35 but the Saints got 56 points in the paint compared to the Airs 48 which helped turn the game in their favour.
Airs Coach Daryn Shaw said he feels his team is better than last year in terms of depth but the league is real, real tough this season because of two teams withdrawing.
“Some moments were pretty good but I actually thought we would perform better than that to be honest. We’ve got to draw out every advantage we can. Willie and I will have to go back to the drawing board and review a few things.
“We were doing well and we just dropped the ball offensively in the final quarter. They played really good defence and kind of got us out of our offensive patterns.
“Also we had to sub early in the game because they got people in foul trouble which the young team dealt with brilliantly.
“They kind of got away from us a little bit in the start of the third quarter then we made a good run and came back but they then made a counter run. We just have to keep plugging away at our defence. We just have to keep working hard.”
The Saints frustration showed with fouls being added to the board as the Mountain Airs strong play lead by captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell adding 18 points and 13 rebounds along with the quick hands of Brad Anderson adding 20 points continued into the third quarter.
Airs new import Aaron Fuller also added 22 points, 9 rebounds and four blocks.
“Even though we didn’t get the win today I am proud of how we played. We have to take this loss to heart, improve on certain things and bring it to the next game.
“My biggest stat is that we lost. That is the one that I look at. Individual stats are nice but I would rather get the win.
In the fourth quarter the Saints found their stride with impressive play from Lindsay Tait and Leon Henry pulling their team ahead for the win 103 : 93.
Wellington Saints 102 : Tait Lindsay:22, Craig Torrey:21, Leon Henry: 19, Mauriohooho-Le’afa Izayah:18
Augusta Taranaki Mountain Airs 93 : Aaron Fuller: 22, Brad Anderson: 20, Chris Hagan:19, Aaron Bailey Nowell:18