Win and a loss to start Airs campaign

Monday, May 02 2022

Win and a loss to start Airs campaign

Supplied by: Basketball NZ 

The Taranaki Steelformers Airs have grounded the Jets in Palmerston North on Sunday, with a dominant 78-57 win against a young Manawatu team.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Airs shook off their Saturday loss versus the Auckland Tuatara to pick up the strong win in this one.

Tai Wynyard led the way with 25 points & 9 rebounds for the Airs, often bullying his way around the rim with his size and strength. He received support from fellow Tall Black Richie Rodger (9 points) and Carlin Davison – who had 8 points, 4 steals and 3 blocks in a solid defensive effort. Benji Freeman came off the bench with 10 points and 7 rebounds to help seal the win.

The Jets were led by Jacob Collis, who came off the bench to earn 12 points on a perfect 6-6 shooting. Other contributions came from the Salmon brothers; Klein with 10 points and 4 steals, and Nathaniel registering 8 points and 4 rebounds, and Petelo Leaupepe – who hit a pair of threes late in the game in limited court time.

The game began on a poignant note, with Manawatu holding a moment’s silence for former teammate Jake McKinlay who passed away at the end of last year; Haize Walker also presenting Jake’s whānau with a Jets jersey in the family’s honour.

The Airs rode a dominant first half to go up 41-21; their defence forcing the Jets into 11 first-half turnovers and holding their opponents to 7-25 shooting. By comparison, the Airs shot 48% from the field, including 6-12 for downtown.

The young Jets came out with more confidence in the second half, going on a 15-7 run to open the third and outscoring the Airs 20-15 in the quarter – much to the fan’s delight. Undaunted, the Airs would turn up the heat in the fourth quarter, led by the imposing Wynyard and the defence of Davison.

Despite the loss, the Jets will be buoyed by their play in the third quarter, as well as the contributions of their young players against a more experienced team in Taranaki.

SCORE: Airs 78, Nuggets 57

Airs: Wynyard 25 PTS & 9 REB | Davison 8 PTS & 4 STL & 3 BLK | Rodger 9 PTS

Jets: Collis 12 PTS | K. Salmon 10 PTS & 4 STL | N. Salmon 8 PTS & 4 REB

Full box score HERE

Tuatara too strong in opening match

The Auckland Tuatara proved too strong for the Taranaki Airs on Saturday night, claiming a 92-59 win in their first ever Sal's NBL game.

The Airs jumped out to an early 21-16 advantage after the first quarter, playing sound defence and keeping the Tuatara on the perimeter. The Tuatara, though, bounced back with a strong second quarter, outscoring the Airs 25-13. The Tuatara never looked back from that point, leading the rest of the way en route to a commanding victory. 

Tall Black Rob Loe had himself a debut to remember with 17 points and 15 rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting from the field. In what was a physical matchup downlow against fellow Tall Black Tay Wynyard, Loe went to work in the post and finished with an almost perfect shooting night. 

Import Chris Johnson picked up where he left off last season with a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double in 30 minutes of work, while Taki Fahrensohn showed why he's a name to keep an eye on in 2022 scoring 17 points. Dontae Russo-Nance struggled with his shot in this one (6-of-15) but still managed to be productive with 12 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals.

The Tuatara shot just 7-of-24 from three as a team, but it'll only take some minor adjustments to iron out that area of their game. They certainly made a statement with tonight's big win, and the frontcourt duo of Loe and Johnson looks like a force to be reckoned with.

For the Airs, Tai Wynyard dropped a team-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds in 28 minutes, while Richie Rodger managed nine points in his first game with Taranaki. Veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell contributed 10 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in the loss.

They played some solid defence at times during the contest, so there's certainly positives they can take away. They'll be right back at it tomorrow night against the Manawatu Jets.

SCORE: Tuatara 92, Airs 59

Tuatara: Loe 17 PTS & 15 REB | Johnson 17 PTS & 14 REB | Russo-Nance 12 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL

Airs: Wynyard 16 PTS & 6 REB | Bailey-Nowell 10 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL | Rodger 9 PTS

Full box score HERE.