The Wellington Saints have claimed their ninth NBL title with a 94-82 win over the James Blond Supercity Rangers.
Tai Wesley scored 19 for Wellington, winning back to back titles and also two Finals MVP’s. Torrey Craig added 15, but his major contribution was on the defensive end, managing to hold 2014 MVP Corey Webster to 12 points on 4/18 shooting.
The major X-factor for Wellington was small forward Leon Henry who scored a game high 26 points, and 13 rebounds, now claiming his fourth title.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Jeff Green coached Rangers, who had lost to the Saints all three times in the regular season and were missing league leading scorer Eric Devendorf, who injured his foot in the semi to the Rams the night before.
Lindsay Tait backed up his impressive performance against the Rams the night before, tallying 20 points, six assists and five rebounds against his former side. Shooting guard Brook Ruscoe made the most of his opportunities with Devendorf out, scoring 12.
Reuben Te Rangi and Mika Vukona each added 11 points, but foul trouble plagued the Rangers with Webster, Vukona and Terrence Roberts fouling out.
After defeating the SIT Zerofees Sharks in front of a huge crowd, Wellington were able to back it up against a Rangers side that after dropping their last four games, found some form with a win over the Canterbury Rams in the second semi-final.
Despite Southland missing out on the final, the Invercargill crowd showed up in large numbers for the final in arguably one of the best venues in the country and they showed support for their franchises best player and now Saints coach Kevin Braswell, who became the first rookie coach to win a title since Pero Cameron who did it with the Saints 2010.
Braswell managed to get his troops firing from the beginning, the Saints going on an 18-2 run to start the game. The Rangers did not back down though, battling to within three in the second quarter, trailing only by eight at half time.
A three by Tait got the Rangers to within six, but Wellington were able to push the gap back into double-digit territory for the rest of the third, and despite poor free throw shooting had an 11-point lead heading into the fourth.
Wellington extended their lead to as many as 17 and were able to comfortably hold off the Rangers, claiming their fourth title since 2010, and first on the road since 2003 in Hamilton.
Saturday, June 6, 2015
At ILT Stadium, Invercargill
Wellington Saints 94 (Leon Henry 26, Tai Wesley 19, Torrey Craig 15)
James Blond Supercity Rangers 82 (Lindsay Tait 20, Corey Webster 12, Brook Ruscoe 12)