The Mike Pero Nelson Giants couldn’t give returning legend Mika Vukona a happy homecoming as they went down 82-71 to the undefeated Saints at the Trafalgar Centre on Saturday night.
Wellington’s relentless defence proved too much for Nelson and, after a strong start, the shots stopped dropping for the Giants and the top placed side ran away with it in the second half.
The loss sees Nelson’s hopes of play-off basketball ended for 2019.
Jordair Jett would sink the first points of the evening and Rhys Vague the first three as Nelson raced out to an 11-4 lead.
Mika Vukona was introduced after ten and the veteran didn’t take long to make his mark with two lay-ups helping Nelson maintain a slim 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Tom Ingham and Bronson Beri made strong impressions as they were introduced from the pine.
Nelson held their lead throughout the second, Rhys Vague hitting double figures with his second from outside the arc.
Dan Grida’s maximum with less than a minute remaining in the second gave the faithful plenty of confidence with half-time approaching.
However, back to back baskets for the Saints pulled it back before Sunday Dench squared the scores in the dying seconds of the second with a steal and lay-up to see the sides head to the sheds at 34 apiece.
The Saints came out with six unanswered to start the third to take the lead for the first time.
Nelson’s shots stopped dropping while the Saint’s well and truly found its radar in the third.
The Giants would turnover plenty of possession inside the paint as Wellington surged to a ten-point lead.
Nelson’s shooting percentage dipped below 50 landing just four of 16 attempts from outside the arc at the end of the third.
It was much of the same in the fourth as the Saint’s relentless defence ensured Nelson couldn’t close the widening gap.
The Saints’ dominance saw four players hit double figures Nelson would enjoy a late surge, but the damage had been done and its play-off hopes all but dashed.
Saints (Loe 21, Jay 19, Te Rangi 15)
Nelson (Grida 17, Jett 15, Vague 11)