The Wellington Saints are the first team through to the National Basketball League final.
The two-time defending champions defeated the Hawke’s Bay Hawks 99-73 in the first semifinal at TSB Bank Arena in Wellington on Saturday night.
The Southland Sharks and the Nelson Giants meet in the other semifinal later on Saturday night.
The Saints had just six scorers in the win, led by American import guard LJ Peak led the Saints with 31 points. Leon Henry (18 points), Shea Ili (20 points) and Majok Majok (12 points) all contributed strongly.
The Hawks had an even spread of scorers, with Angus Brandt (18 points) and Dion Prewster (14 points) their best.
After a 13-minute delay to fix an incorrect hoop height and a malfunctioning scoreboard, the game started evenly as the Hawks attacked the Saints in the post, but a 9-0 run at the end of the first quarter had the Saints up by eight at the first break.
The second quarter went much the same as the first. The highlight was combative Saints veteran Damien Ekenasio – who came out of retirement mid-season – tangling with Hawks big Angus Brandt on consecutive plays. The first play resulted in a double foul, while the second ended with Ekenasio receiving a technical.
Trailing by eight at halftime, the Hawks started the third quarter well, getting to within five of the Saints midway through, only to fall away again to trail by 11 heading into the final 10 minutes.
Wellington were clinical as they shut the door on any potential comeback, shooting out to a 19-point lead inside the first four minutes of the quarter before closing out the victory.
AT A GLANCE
Wellington Saints 99 (LJ Peak 31 points, Shea Ili 20, Leon Henry 18) Hawke’s Bay Hawks 73 (Angus Brandt 18 points, Dion Prewster 14). Q1: 22-14; HT: 41-33; Q3: 62-51