Marcel Jones has hit the game winner to give the Canterbury Rams 91-90 win against an understrength Mike Pero Nelson Giants.
Jones had been quiet for the first three-quarters, but came to play in the fourth quarter, ending the game with 15 points, which included the game winning shot he hit with a second remaining. Jones was fouled on the play but would purposefully miss the free throw, forcing the Giants to heave a miracle shot which would fall shot.
The Rams had to withstand a heroic effort from forward Finn Delany, who shouldered their offense without key scorers Kyle Adnam and Dion Prewster. Delany ended the game with 40 points, eight rebounds and six assists, playing a point forward role which worked a treat as their role players kept the floor spread with accurate shooting.
Nelson started the game off strong taking a six point lead after the first quarter, and would extend it to as many as 11. But gradually the Rams would fight back, and in the fourth quarter they would go up 87-82 with two minutes left thanks to a Jones three.
But the visitors came back after a Tom Ingham three followed by a Sam Dempster three to go up one with 1:20 lead. A Whippy layup put the Rams up one, but again Nelson replied when Dempster found an open lane at the top of the key, hitting a left hand layup to put them up 90-89 with 4.1 seconds left.
After a Rams timeout, Nelson deflected the inbounds, forcing the Rams to inbound from the deep in the baseline corner. Marques Whippy was able to find Jones on the inbound, and he would make an up and under move on Delany to convert the tough layup.
It was the second straight game the Rams were missing point guard McKenzie Moore. Jeremy Kendle scored a team-high 27 points, and sharpshooter Ethan Rusbatch and Marcus Alipate each added 15 for the Rams who win their fourth straight and will have a day break before travelling to Auckland where they will play the James Blond Supercity Rangers, the winner finishing in third spot.
Apart from Delany, the Giants got 21 points from guard Tom Ingham who continues to be an offensive threat, hitting 4-7 from three. Captain, Sam Dempster, added a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Ali Granger scored 18. The loss puts the Giants at 4-13, but with Prewster and Adnam possibly back in the line-up they have a great chance to end the Wellington Saints unbeaten run on Saturday night.
Thursday, June 8
At Cowles Stadium, Christchurch
Canterbury Rams 91 (Jeremy Kendle 21, Ethan Rusbatch 15, Marcel Jones 15, Marcus Alipate 15)
Mike Pero Nelson Giants 90 (Finn Delaney 40, Tom Ingham 21, Ali Granger 11, Sam Dempster 11)