It was a historic night for the Southern Huskies who made a winning debut in the New Zealand Basketball League following a thrilling 100-99 win against the Manawaut Jets in Palmerston North.
Despite trailing by as may as 13 points in the third term, the Huskies clawed the deficit back before holding on for a thrilling 1 point win. Craig Moller was the standout, amassing 27 points with 17 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals as the travel-weary Huskies ensured a win as the first Australian team to play in a New Zealand national league.
The relief of breaking through for a first win was almost lost by the Huskies in the dying seconds. Leading by 3 points, the Huskies were forced to hold their breath as Jets star Kuran Iverson was fouled shooting a three-point attempt. Missing the first before hitting the second and third, meant the Huskies retained a 1 point lead.
With victory seemingly in their grasp, the Huskies turned the ball over on their last possession, handing the Jets one more chance to steal the win. Wally Ellenson’s last gasp attempt was off the mark, ensuring the Huskies held on to win.
While Moller was brilliant for the Huskies, their other two imports also put on a show to help ensure a victory that will be forever etched in history. Tre Nichols poured in a game high 30 points on an impressive 13-23 shooting with 5 rebounds and 5 assists, and Jalen Billups added 26 points and 8 rebounds. The trio combined for 83 of their 100 points, with just 6 points coming from the bench.
For the Jets, Iverson lef the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Taane Samuels provided solid support with 23 points and 9 rebounds.
The Huskies, they will have little time to celebrate the win in their competition debut, scheduled to take on the Wellington Saints today before completing their road trip on Sunday against the Hawke’s Bay Hawks.
Widely considered one of the championship contenders, the Saints boast a star-studded line-up led by New Zealand Breakers guard Shea Ili. This season he is joined by a trio of Australian NBL stars Nick Kay, Rob Loe and Reuban Te Rangi. Newly signed Cairns Taipan Sunday Dech was also recently added to the roster, so the Huskies can expect to have their work cut out of them in the second leg of a three-game road trip.
You can watch both of the Huskies’ remaining games on their round 2 road trip via The Pick and Roll, including against the Saint on Friday (5pm AEST) and the Hawke’s Bay Hawks on Sunday (1pm AEST).