It’s win or go home time for Ken Tuffin and Taranaki in the New Zealand-National Basketball League.
Tomorrow at 3:30pm (Manila time), the fourth-seeded Mountainairs — who compiled an 8-6 record in the elimination round — face the 7-7 five-seed Franklin Bulls in a knockout match for the right to advance to the semifinals of the seven-team league.
Momentum will not be on the side of Tuffin and Taranaki, though. They have lost three of their last four games, including a 65-92 rout at the hands of Franklin to cap their elims campaign last July 23.
The same goes for Tuffin. He averaged 10.78 points on 51.47-percent shooting and 5.67 rebounds in his first nine games with Taranaki, but dipped to norms of 6.5 markers on 32.14-percent shooting and 4.0 boards in their last four outings.
“I think the teams are starting to pay a lot of attention to me. I was a part of the other team’s scouting report, trying to deny me and take me out of the game,” admitted the 6-foot-4 Fil-Kiwi swingman, an incoming super senior in Far Eastern University. “I came into this competition quite unknown, so it was more of the fact that when I started to play more, they were able to figure out who I was and what I was capable of. I think it’s just a credit to that.
“You know, games are always going to be like that. You have your good games and your bad games. Just looking forward to another opportunity tomorrow to bounce back, and hopefully we can get it done.”
In support of Tuffin and Taranaki, Filipinos can watch and cheer the Mountainairs live as SMART Communications Inc. will bring the games on its social media platforms and One Sports HD.
The knockout game will air live on One Sports, while SMART Sports will also stream the game live along with a pre-game, halftime, and post-game show hosted by 2OT’s Carlo Pamintuan and Magoo Marjon.
“It’s awesome! Hearing about that makes me want to give that extra, knowing that people will be watching and supporting from the Philippines,” expressed the 23-year-old Tuffin.
“Obviously, all around the world as well with my friends and family from other countries. It’s great that basketball is being played this moment, obviously with the NBA in the Philippines back as well. People have an opportunity to watch basketball. That’s the thing. Hopefully, we can put on a show tomorrow.”
Besides Tuffin, leading Taranaki are Derone Raukawa, who averages league-leading numbers of 22.8 points and 7.6 assists per contest; and burly big man Marcel Jones, who is the NZ-NBL’s leading rebounder at 13.4 caroms per game.
On the other hand, Franklin — who fell to Taranaki in the first round of elims 107-85 — is led by the duo of Dominique Kelman-Poto (16.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Isaac Davidson (15.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg).
Tuffin vows that he is ready to regain his lost touch come Wednesday.
“We’ve come up with a few things. Tomorrow is another opportunity to bounce back in that area and contribute more to the team that is more than just my defensive rebounding, and put some points on the board as well. I feel like when I play well, the team reflects off my energy as well.”