The Manawatu Jets came to play – but so did the Mike Pero Nelson Giants’ Australian import Rhys Vague.
Thanks to a standout performance from Vague on Friday, the Giants bounced back from last week’s loss to come away with a thrilling 99-94 win at the Hangar on Friday.
The Giants would survive a third quarter fightback by the Jets to register its second win of the season, Vague finishing with 23 points, five assists and six rebounds.
Vague says the result puts them in good stead, with two wins and a loss for the start of their campaign.
“They came to play, we came out slow in that first half and they made us pay for it.”
He says there are plenty of tough tests ahead, but they will continue to get better.
“I feel it is only upwards from here.”
Having been in Nelson for a few weeks now the 23-year-old says he is loving his time in the region.
“It’s not often you can walk into a team and after a week it feels like home.”
Vague says the side is beginning to gel as it forms new combinations.
“We are a young team and have only been together for a short time so the fact we are 2-1 is a real positive.”
Vague brings six years of top-level experience to the franchise.
He moved to the region from Perth where he played for the Wildcats in the NBL and in 2017 he was named in the 12-man Emerging Boomers squad.
Standing at 6’8” Vague is already averaging 22 points per game for the Giants this season.
On Friday, Manawatu opened the scoring as the Jets sneaked out to a slim lead early, but Nelson would soon find its radar.
Birthday boy and fellow Aussie import Daniel Grida continued his strong start in Giant’s colours. Vague also showed his class with a nonchalant lay up while Grida slammed one home from his partner to square it 12-12.
Vague’s three pointer saw Nelson take the lead as the hosts clung on to a one-point advantage until the Jets stole it with less than a minute remaining in the first period.
Nelson would stretch ahead with more clinical work at the basket from Vague while Ali Granger was making a menace of himself on defence.
The sides continued to trade baskets as Vague took his tally to 19 at halftime with five rebounds. However, Jets swingman Wally Ellenson was not far behind with 17 after he slammed home a spectacular alley-oop to bring them within three at 48-45.
Jordair Jett’s fearless attack and Vague’s pinpoint radar came into play as he took his tally to 20 and allowed Nelson to finally wrestle back the lead after a Granger three.
Granger put the Giants into the nineties before Grida put the icing on the cake with a three which would ultimately prove the pivotal points in the contest.
Vague would stamp his authority on the match with another basket followed by a rebound to seal a thrilling victory.
He says the value from the bench was the key factor in getting them across the line.
“Ali and Tom were just unreal.”