Captain Leon Henry has driven his Auckland Huskies to their inaugural NBL Showdown win, but copped a two-game suspension, after tempers flared in their encounter with Taranaki Mountainairs.
Henry compiled a 'double double' of 18 points/14 rebounds, including four three-pointers, as the competition newcomers held on for a 109-93 victory, after three losses to start their campaign.
The South Auckland team were the last to confirm their entry into the revamped, post-coronavirus format at Auckland's Waitakere Trusts Stadium and have struggled for chemistry in their early appearances, especially with the late arrival of top draft pick Izayah Mauriohooho Leafa at point guard.
Leafa led his team with 20 points and seven assists, as they jumped on the Airs during a dominant 34-16 second quarter, extended their lead to 25 points in the final stanza and staved off a late comeback.
But that rivalry spilled over in the third period, when Henry and Taranaki guard Derone Raukawa both hit the floor, and the former lept to his feet to wrap his hands around his rival's neck, before teammates stepped in to separate the players.
Henry was assessed the initial foul, plus an unsportsmanlike foul for his reaction, while Raukawa sank both free throws. After the game, the judicial panel assessed the two-game penalty against Henry, who may still choose to contest that decision.
The Huskies did a great job sharing the ball around, with 23 assists, and shot 51 percent from the field, including 12/26 from the arc. Raukawa and backcourt partner Kenneth Tuffin had 19 points apiece, while Marcel Jones had 14 points/13 rebounds for Taranaki, who slumped to their second consecutive loss after two opening wins.
Auckland Huskies 109 (Izayah Mauriohooho Leafa 20, Leon Henry 18, Tohi Smith-Milner 16, Taine Murray & Nathan Wilson 15, Jaylen Gerrand 11) Taranaki Mountainairs 93 (Derone Raukawa & Kenneth Tuffin 19, Marcel Jones 14, Francis Mulvihill 11)
Meanwhile, Franklin Bulls - the second Auckland expansion franchise - fought back for their second win of the competition, edging out Nelson Giants 75-69.
Shooter Isaac Davidson led a balanced Bulls scoring effort with 15 points, but still without Tall Blacks talisman Mike Vukona, Nelson struggled to consistent production. Centre Mike Karena was the only Giant in double figures, proving particularly potent around the basket for his 26 points.
Franklin squandered a 15-point lead in the second quarter, allowing their opponents to snatch an advantage in the third, before clawing their way back in charge and staving off the Gaint's fouling efforts down the stretch.
Franklin Bulls 75 (Isaac Davidson 15, Nikau McCullough 11, Sam Timmins & Dom Kelman-Poto 10) Nelson Giants 69 (Mike Karena 26)