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Taranaki Mountain Airs enter NZ NBL semis

Ken Tuffin bounced back from a scoreless outing as he scored the eventual dagger for the Mountain Airs. Nina Carezon (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--The Taranaki Mountain Airs, featuring Far Eastern University star Ken Tuffin, booked a place in the New Zealand National Basketball League semifinals after edging the Franklin Bulls, 99-90, at the Trusts Arena in Auckland on Wednesday.

Taranaki held fort its defense in the third quarter after Franklin came alive in the second quarter to knock its opponent out of the playoffs.

The Airs were solid in the first quarter, opening a 26-18 lead and were on track of bludgeoning the Bulls early on.

Franklin, however, slightly bounced back in the second quarter and trimmed Taranaki's lead down to just three, 48-45, at halftime.

The Airs recovered after the intermission and held the Bulls to just 19 points in the third quarter before holding them off in the end.

Marcel Jones fired 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting including a perfect 6-for-6 from inside the arc with 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks for Mountain Airs, who will now face the Manuwatu Jets in the next round on Thursday.

Derone Raukawa added 28 points also on 11-for-19 from the field, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

Held scoreless in their last meeting with Franklin, Tuffin got nine points including a booming triple that virtually sealed the victory for Taranaki with two rebounds and one steal.

Dominique Kelman-Poto paced the Bulls with 31 markers, 10 boards, four dimes, and three steals, while Isaac Davidson came up with 24 points but on 10-of-26 shooting.

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