SOUTHLAND Sharks sent Wellington crashing back to earth, dealing the Saints their first loss in the 2021 NZ NBL season with an 84-70 shocker on Friday at ILT Stadium Southland.
The road game snapped the 2019 champions' six-game win streak to start this year's campaign and proved that there's really no such thing as favorites in the New Zealand semi-professional league.
It was a perfect game on the part of Southland, which saw all five of its starters score in double digits led by Courtney Belger's 19 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and two steals as it stretched its win streak to five.
The Sharks improved to 7-3 while avenging their 95-89 semifinal loss to the Saints in the 2019 season.
Wellington struggled to hit its shots, making only shot 8-of-33 from downtown, a measly 24-percent clip.
Taane Samuel's jumper with 3:34 remaining got the Saints within five points, 74-68, but Belger canned a freebie and drilled a backbreaking three with 2:19 left to push the Sharks' lead back up to nine, 77-68, with 2:19 left.
Dominique Kelman-Poto provided support with a double-double of 17 points, 11 boards, and six assists, while Alonzo Burton drained three treys to wound up with 15 points, five assists, and five steals in the Southland win.
Brayden Inger also poured 14 points, three dimes, two rebounds, and two steals, and Joshua Cunningham got 13 and nine.
Samuel, the former La Salle forward, had 13 points, three dimes, and two boards, but turned the ball over six times, as Dion Prewster was held to just 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, alongside his eight rebounds and four assists.
Fil-Kiwi marksman Ken Tuffin contributed eight points on 2-of-6 shooting from threes, while also hauling down four rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
Wellington will have to make a quick pivot to bounce back from the stinging loss as it plays the second of its back-to-back roadtrip against the Canterbury Rams (4-3) at Cowles Stadium on Saturday.