Hawks soar into Final 6 with OT thriller

IT was the most fitting of circumstances, as Hawke’s Bay Hawks knocked off Canterbury Rams to book their place in the Final 6 last night. In front of home fans at Pettigrew Green Arena, the Hawks were able to bravely hold on against a Rams outfit giving as much as it got, and with a terrific fourth quarter burst set up an all-square game and overtime scenario. From there, the Hawks took their game to another level and funnily enough won by the equal largest margin of the game, eight points (95-87).

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS 22 | 16 | 23 | 21 | 13 (95)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 19 | 25 | 16 | 5 (87)

Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Canterbury Rams both came into the clash with just a win separating them, and effectively a Rams triumph would mean a Hawks Final 6 spot, and vice-versa. The opening quarter could not have been tighter and was symbolic of the game as both sides finished on 22 points apiece. With double-digit lead chances just in the opening 10 minutes, it was a hot game and still a long away from finding out the winner. All the stars were firing as the crowed had hoped, with Sunday Dech (eight points) the most of any player, while Hyrum Harris and Ethan Rusbatch managed the seven apiece.

In the second tern, the Rams began to put more pressure on the Hawks shooters, and denied them long-range attempts which allowed the visitors to take a three-point lead into half-time. Dech was flying in the second, so the Hawks put more work into the versatile shooter in the third and that helped, with the Hawks hitting the front with an early run in the term, only for the Hawks to again grab the lead and move out to a seven-point advantage. An important last basket for the Hawks cut it down to five. from there, the last 10 minutes of the match were hectic. The teams again kept trading blows after the Hawks caught the Rams.

When Taylor Britt answered a Rusbatch triple with a layup of his own with 2:41 on the clock, scores were all level at 77 points apiece. Tajuan Agee only scored one of two from the charity stripe 30 seconds later, with Matthew Moyer‘s pair of free throws shortly after both landing, and Britt draining a three-pointer for a four-point lead and 1:28 on the clock. Harris got the to the basket to cut the deficit to two, with Walter Brown missing a chance via a Agee block and then Jarrod Kenny pulled down the rebound for Harris to tie the game up the other end. Back-to-back chances or the Rams in the dying seconds off the hands of Moyer and Dech could not go and the teams had to finish 40 minutes at 82-82.

The five minutes of overtime started in a blaze of glory with Larry Austin scoring a layup 11 seconds in, only to be countered by a Jordan Hunt triple. Austin had a chance at the line not long after but only scored one of two, then off a Rusbatch miss and Dech rebound, Austin ran down to secure the layup and help the Rams to a two-point lead. Unfortunately for the visitors, that layup at the last 2:36 would be the final score for the Rams, as Harris tied the game 42 seconds later, Kennedy made an important basket and then Hunt secure the win with a layup off a Moyer turnover. Fouled on the way up, Hunt put up the And-On. Rushed plays and misses from the Rams cost them, and the Hawks would close out the game with three more points, securing the 95-87 victory.

Harris would produce a double-double performance of 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and two steals in the critical match, while Hunt off the bench chipped in with 18 points and nine rebounds. Rusbatch (19 points, six rebounds), Kenny (12 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Agee (11 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks) all contributed strongly. For the Rams, Moyer helped himself to a double-double of 25 points and 11 rebounds, while Dech (15 points, nine rebounds), Britt (11 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Austin (12 points, five rebounds and two assists) also tried hard.

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