Ken Tuffin’s debut season in New Zealand’s National Basketball League came to an end after the Taranaki Mountainairs fell 105-95 to the Manawatu Jets in Thursday’s semifinal at the Trusts Arena in Auckland.
The Fil-Kiwi standout of Far Eastern University was held to six points on 2-of-7 shooting as the Mountainairs’ title bid was foiled after the Jets, who finished second in the regular season, took over in the fourth quarter.
Ironically, a former UAAP rival helped finish Tuffin’s maiden NBL campaign.
Taane Samuel, who played for La Salle in 2018, scored 13 of his 23 points in the payoff period to lead Manawatu to Saturday’s Grand Final against the top seed Otago Nuggets.
“I just think we could have executed better,” Tuffin said after their semifinal game was aired in the Philippines via Smart Sports’ Facebook live. “The Jets are a tough squad, they have a lot of good players. Maybe our defense let us down a little bit.”
Tuffin finished his first NBL season with averages of 9.2 points on 45-percent shooting with 4.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 15 games with the Mountainairs.
He opted to play in the NBL despite having one more year left to play for the Tamaraws in the UAAP.
But the 23-year-old Tuffin can still suit up for FEU in the UAAP since he was drafted as an “amateur without compensation” by the Mountainairs.
His performance with Taranaki caught the attention of the New Zealand national team which named Tuffin to the pool for future competitions such as the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics.