NBL Showdown: Otago Nuggets rally to beat Manawatu for first national title

Forward Jordan Hunt has led Otago Nuggets to their first National Basketball League title with a nailbiting 79-77 win over Manawatu Jets.

Trailling through most of the first half, the southerners were still three points behind entering the final quarter, but seized momentum with 13 unanswered points and held on down the stretch.

With franchise players Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny limited to a combined 17 points and 8/24 shooting, Hunt paced Nuggets scoring with 21 points, but found support from fellow starters Josh Aitcheson (16 points, including four three-pointers) and Kane Keil (three three-pointers).

For Ngatai, though, it was more a matter of WHEN he scored his points, collecting nine of his 11 in the final period, including two dunks in the closing moments that proved nails in the Jets coffin.

After Aticheson converted a free throw for a two-point lead with 13 seconds remaining, Manawatu had one last chance to steal victory, but guard Nelson Kirksey picked up his dribble just over halfway and had to heave up a hopeful shot from midcourt.

The ball bounced high off the rim and Ngatai snared the defensive rebound, throwing it high into the rafters to celebrate.

League MVP Tom Vodanovich led Manwatu with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while forward Hyrum Harris accumulated 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Jets outscored their rivals by 12 points from close and mid-range, but lost that edge beyond the arc, where they could only convert 6/30 (20 percent).

Otago were rocks and diamonds, dishing 21 assists - Kenny had eight - but committing 23 turnovers - Ngatai eight by himself.

Otago Nuggets 79 (Jordan Hunt 21, Josh Aitcheson 16, Kane Keil 15, Jordan Ngatai 11) Manawatu Jets 77 (Tom Vodanovich 24, Hyrum Harris 19, Nelson Kirksey 11)