Rams ready to put all on the line against league’s best

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All the best for the team heading away, especially Marcel Jones, Marcus Alipate, Marques Whippy and Jeremy Kendle!

Posted by Stephen Kennedy on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Author: George Berry

After 13 weeks of grueling basketball, the Canterbury Rams have reached the Final Four tournament, which begins this Friday the 16th of June. Joining them in the playoffs is the Southland Sharks, the Supercity Rangers, and the Wellington Saints, who the Rams will be taking on in their semi-final.

The defending champion Wellington Saints created history by being the first NBL team to go through the regular season unbeaten. The Rams will be seen as the underdog in front of the crowd in Tauranga, but that won’t worry a Rams squad that has plenty of talent on the roster, including last year’s MVP McKenzie Moore, and NZ MVP Marcel Jones.

Coach Mark Dickel, a former teammate of Saints Coach Kevin Braswell, will be very pleased that his team has given him an opportunity to go to yet another Final Four tournament. A statistic that Dickel will find pleasing is since the Final Four format began in 2012, the regular season winner has lost in the semi-final three times, and only once has the regular season winner won the title (Southland – 2015). The luck may rub on Dickel’s side, but the Saints going unbeaten will no doubt have him putting in extra hours drawing up tactics to taming the beast.

The Rams and the Saints share an accolade in this year’s NZNBL season. They both have 6 players each who were awarded player of the week honors, meaning only one other team in the league obtained the award during the season. The caliber of this Friday’s match is reflected through this, with players on both sides expecting to create a tenacious atmosphere.

Both the Saints and Rams are the top two scoring teams in the competition, the Rams have both the second and fourth league leaders in scoring with Jones and American guard, Jeremy Kendle.

Looking deeper into this season’s statistics, the Saints overshadow the Rams in many departments. However, there is one particular aspect known the Rams have the edge over the Saints in that is known to make a big difference in games.

That aspect is offensive rebounds.

The Rams ranked 2nd in the season for the statistic, averaging 14.3 in comparison to the Saints’ 10.5, putting them at 6th in the department. If the Rams can take full advantage of this, there will be more opportunities for second-chance points throughout the match, and a greater chance at taking a lead in the game.

The match-ups for each position will be highly contested. A few to look for in particular will be Mckenzie Moore and Corey Webster. Moore’s impact for the Rams has been huge since his arrival, and it will take all his skill to shut down the leagues leading scorer. Marcel Jones will match up with Saints forward Tai Wesley who has been the Finals MVP for two straight seasons. Jeremy Kendle will take on Shea Ili in the front-court, he leads the league in 3pt% (45.3), second in assists (6.7) and steals (2.3).

The game will tip-off at 5 pm on Friday, and the winner of the match will go on to play in the Grand Final on Saturday.

A live stream will be available and can be found at the Canterbury Rams and NZ Basketball Facebook pages.