American point guard Kevin Braswell did all he could to lead the Southland Sharks to an upset National Basketball League victory over the Wellington Saints in the capital last night, but it proved in vain, in a 91-76 loss.
After what he described as the worst performance of his career against Otago last Sunday, Braswell was superb for the Sharks last night, scoring a franchise record 33 points on 12 of 23 shooting. He scored 22 of those points in the first half and knocked down six of nine three pointers.
The loss to the two-time defending NBL champion Saints drops Southland back to a league worst one win-four loss record and means their season is officially on life support.
Southland appeared to be in big trouble early in the second quarter, when the Saints jumped out to a 28-17 lead, only for the Sharks to fight back with a 9-0 run. Led by the hot hand of Braswell, Southland took a surprising 38-37 lead into the halftime interval.
The Sharks let the game slip away in the third quarter against Otago in their last outing and that again proved to be the case last night.
Wellington started to get hot on the offensive end, and pulled away from Southland with a 19-4 spurt.
American shooting guard Anthony Gurley, who had just three points in the first half, was in sparkling touch with 15 points in the quarter, with former Shark Arthur Trousdell also causing problems in the paint. The Saints outscored Southland 33-18 in the third quarter to build a 14-point buffer entering the final term.
With confidence running through the Saints’ veins, they broke clear from Southland during the last quarter to pick up a much-needed victory, which puts them back to a 2-3 record.
Gurley shot well from the field for the Saints, scoring a team-high 26 points on 8 of 15 shooting. Trousdell was a menace against his old team with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Casey Frank had a wonderful night, with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
Southland held Wellington’s American point guard Jason Crowe to just six points, but he made nine assists.
Sharks coach Richard Dickel would have been fuming with his side’s rebounding effort. Southland were hammered 54-29 on the glass and only pulled down six offensive rebounds, compared with Wellington’s 26.
Larry Abney was workmanlike for the Sharks with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds, with Craig Bradshaw adding 12 points and four rebounds. The Sharks did not receive much else on offence, with the rest of the team picking up 11 points between them.
The Zero Fees sponsored Sharks will need to put the loss out of their minds quickly as they turn their attention to the second leg of their road double-header against the undermanned Nelson Giants tonight.
Wellington Saints 91 (Anthony Gurley 26, Arthur Trousdell 21, Casey Frank 15, Troy McLean Southland Sharks 76 (Kevin Braswell 33, Larry Abney 20, Craig Bradshaw 12) Quarter scores: (Saints first) 19-15, 37-38, 70-56, 91-76