ARTICLE by BRENDON EGAN
Two, three or four, Canterbury Rams’ American star McKenzie Moore isn’t too perturbed where they finish up on the National Basketball League ladder.
Canterbury clinched an NBL finals spot for the second consecutive season after toppling the Alex Pledger-less Southland Sharks 79-71 at Cowles Stadium on Saturday night.
Southland’s Tall Black and New Zealand Breakers centre sat out the game as a precaution due to concussion.
Victory took the Rams to 8-7 and means they will join the red-hot Wellington Saints, who are yet to lose this season, Southland and the Super City Rangers in the final four in Tauranga over June 16-17.
Canterbury, Southland and Super City will be eager to rack up wins in their final round games to finish either second or third, so they won’t have to face overwhelming title favourites Wellington in the semi-finals.
Reigning NBL MVP Moore, who starred in the Rams win with a game-high 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, was more concerned they were playing their best basketball come the finals, rather than the opponent.
If Canterbury were to capture their first NBL title since 1992, they would have to knock over two quality sides in back-to-back days at the final four.
“We’re not trying to avoid anybody,” Moore said.
“We’re going to try and win every game, so that’s the goal from here on out – we’re trying to win every game. Whether that be two, three or four, we don’t care. We’re not worried about anyone else.”
Moore briefly hobbled after “coming down funny” on his left foot in the third quarter, but played through it and confirmed he was fine after the game.
Canterbury desperately needed to beat Southland for their own confidence leading into the finals, after previously being just 1-6 against top four sides this season.
Moore said it was a step in the right direction for the Rams, who limited the Sharks to 71 points on 34 per cent shooting. The Rams were conceding 92 points per game, the worst in the league, before the game.
“We’ve been working on pushing the ball, trying to move the ball, make plays for each other and be happy for each other. We’re just all trying to win and trying to do something special here.”
After scoring just 34 points in his first three games since re-joining the Rams after a long season in Greece with Promitheas Patras, Moore has taken his play to another level over the past fortnight.
He recorded a triple double in last week’s win over Hawke’s Bay and was the difference maker against the Sharks, making several crunch plays in the fourth quarter.
Having struggled with fatigue on arrival in New Zealand, he was feeling much more up to speed, thanks to the work of the Rams medical team.
“I’ve played year-round basketball from here to [NBA] summer league to back here. When I got here I was really, really tired. They’re doing a great job here helping me get my body back.”
AT A GLANCE:
Canterbury Rams 79 (McKenzie Moore 25, Marcel Jones 16, Jeremy Kendle 11, Marcus Alipate 10) Southland Sharks 71 (Reuben Te Rangi 17, James Hunter 16, Nick Kay 12, Luke Aston 9) 1Q: 18-16, HT: 40-32, 3Q: 55-52
Full Article here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/basketball/93018024/mckenzie-moore-stars-as-canterbury-rams-topple-southland-sharks