Saints per­fect all the way

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - LIAM HYSLOP

‘‘As long as we're go­ing down as the best team in NBL his­tory, I love hear­ing that.’’

Kevin Braswell’s mes­sage at the start of the fi­nal quar­ter of the Welling­ton Saints’ sea­son was to go out and per­fect the game of bas­ket­ball.

Up 16 against the South­land Sharks in the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball League fi­nal, the ti­tle was es­sen­tially in hand and with it, the first un­de­feated NBL sea­son.

But that wasn’t enough for Braswell. He wanted a show put on and he got one as the Saints poured on 34 points to end with a 108-75 win.

‘‘I said to them af­ter the third quar­ter ‘look, you can let them hang around and bring it back to un­der 10 if you want to, or we can per­fect bas­ket­ball and show the coun­try of New Zealand some of the best bas­ket­ball that they’ve ever seen played’.

‘‘That hap­pened in the fourth quar­ter. These guys went out and just did it.’’

That re­lent­less­ness was the hall­mark of their 20-0 sea­son.

Not since they beat South­land 88-86 in In­ver­cargill in their third game of the sea­son has a team fin­ished within eight points of them in a game.

Their star-stud­ded ros­ter, which won eight of the 11 in­di­vid­ual league awards, helped, but ev­ery team has an off night here and there, and it was Braswell’s job to keep them go­ing through the sea­son.

‘‘I tell you one thing, the Saints have been great to me and my fam­ily since I’ve ar­rived here. They’ve blessed me with some re­ally good teams, great play­ers, and I just helped build a cul­ture where every­one came in and was happy ev­ery day.’’

Now that the sea­son is fin­ished, un­cer­tainty hangs over the fran­chise, with chief ex­ec­u­tive Nick Mills mulling over his fu­ture. That means Braswell doesn’t have a con­tract for next year.

Some ad­vi­sors have told him he should move on to big­ger things, but he said he would love to come back for a three-peat.

‘‘Who knows what will hap­pen, he [Mills] might not have a team next year. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t, but just to close it the way that we did is un­real.

‘‘As long as we’re go­ing down as the best team in NBL his­tory, I love hear­ing that.’’

As for the cel­e­bra­tions, Braswell said the play­ers went up large, but he and as­sis­tant coach Zico Coronel had a rel­a­tively early night.

‘‘I know the guys had a big night, you had to af­ter that. For me, I’m still tired,’’ he said on Sun­day night.

‘‘Zico and I were up all night af­ter we beat Can­ter­bury [in Fri­day’s semi­fi­nal] prepar­ing for South­land.

‘‘He told me to go to sleep at one point be­cause we were fall­ing asleep sit­ting up.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.