The Manawatu Jets have recorded the upset of the Sal’s NBL season so far by beating competition heavyweights the Southland Sharks 104-100.
The visitors were ahead on the scoreboard up until the midway point of the fourth quarter, when the game was swung by Wally Ellenson with arguably the best play of the season and propelled the Jets to their first win of the season.
A seven to zero run by the Sharks to start the game looked to spell yet another loss for the Jets, but points to imports Daishon Knight, Kuran Iverson and Ellenson kept the game from getting out of the hand. They would go into the break only trailing by five at 23-18.
The Jets showed greater effort on the defensive end to start the second quarter and forced the Sharks into tough shots. The problem for the hosts was their inability to end the possession after their good defence and they were made to pay with a multitude of second-chance points inside.
Dominique Kelman-Poto was a dominant force for the Southerners in the first half and finished the half with 15 points to lead all scorers. Haize Walker’s extended role this evening saw him score five points in the second, but it was Ellenson who shouldered the bulk of his team’s buckets with 10 at the break.
Play would continue on a similar course to that of the first half in the third, with neither team able to push or reduce lead beyond a two-possession game. For every contested jumper would make at the top of the key, Blanchfield and co would find a way to get to the rim to keep the score at the same margin.
Ellenson made an uber-athletic play when he pinned Jeremy Kindle off the backboard. The block would receive huge applause from the passionate Whanganui crowd and lift his team to finish the quarter on an eight to three run.
It was a six-point ball game going into the fourth and the Jets needed something special to spark a late push for an unlikely win. Ellenson took this responsibility upon himself when he collected an offensive rebound mid-air and slammed the ball back into the basket.
A huge shout for the play of the game, Ellenson would follow the arguably the game’s best work up with another put-back dunk, only this time doing it backward. The indisputable play, let alone, dunk of the year was just what the doctor ordered for the hosts and spurred them on a 10-2 run to take the lead.
The run of big plays saw the Jets come to life in the closing minutes, something they had been without in all of their prior contests. Treys to Knight and Ellenson would push their buffer to eight with just over two to go, but just like that, the Sharks would go on a run of their own through Hyrum Harris and Weeks to have them trail by only one in the final 60 seconds.
Shane Temara made a high arcing lay-up after the visitors failed to make both their free-throws, which would mean they would need a three to tie the game. Kendle’s bomb off a Blanchfield screen would draw iron and be gobbled up by youngster Rangimarie Mita. He made one of two and iced the game at 104-100.
Sal’s MVP went to Knight for his 29 points and control of the Jets’ offence, but just as deserving would have been Ellenson who contributed 33 points and what is sure to be a record this season for highlights in a game. Iverson fooled around and almost had himself a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Walker had his best outing of the season so far with seven points off the bench.
Big man Kelman-Poto was the Sharks best player this evening with 19 points and nine boards, with mentions also being necessary for Blanchfield who notched a double-double with 16 points and rebounds.