Far Eastern University standout Ken Tuffin contributed nine points as the Steelformers Taranaki Mountainairs earned a place in the Sal’s National Basketball League Showdown semifinals.
NBL 20 All-Star 5 teammates Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones showed the way in the Mountainairs' 99-90 triumph over the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls during their Elimination Game 3 at Trusts Arena last night in Auckland, New Zealand.
Tuffin's three-pointer in the last 52 seconds of the third quarter handed the Airs at 10-point edge, 82-72.
But a turnover by Tuffin almost cost them the lead, after the Bulls moved to within five points.
But big games from Raukawa, Shane Temara and Tai Wynyard in the closing minutes saved the day for the Airs.
Marcel Jones powered the Airs with 31 points,10 rebounds and seven assists, while Raukawa had 28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals, and Wynyard had 11 points and nine boards.
Tuffin earlier went scoreless against the Bulls during their last elims' game, but he made up for this the following game.
“It was just a physical game. It’s the playoffs so that’s to be expected,” said Tuffin in an online statement.
After getting banged in the third period, Tuffin said their win will have the squad looking forward to the semis.
“I’m just happy that we came away with the win as a team and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s game,” added Tuffin.
The Airs moved out of range off Temara's rebound and layup and Tai's split charity in the last 3:10, 93-85.
The Bulls leaned on Dom Kelman-Poto (31 points) and Isaac Davidson (24 points).
It was Tuffin's corner three that gave the Air a 48-45 half time lead.
Jones took charge of the closing minutes of the third and the Airs were 72-64 ahead.
The Airs will now have a semifinal matchup against the Manawatu Jets on Thursday evening at 7.30 p.m.
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