Hawks swoop in one-point nail-biter

ONE extra free throw was all it took for Hawke’s Bay Hawks to do something that no side before it had managed to do in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) – defeat Auckland Tuatara. In an enthralling contest of two halves, the Hawks needed the full 40 minutes to scrape over the line by a solitary point, 75-74. The Tuatara lead for most of the first half, but a third term blitz by the visitors saw them take control, then fend off the Tuatara in a nail-biting finish to the Round 4 match.

AUCKLAND TUATARA 21 | 17 | 14 | 22 (74)
HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS 17 | 16 | 23 | 19 (75)

Billed as a match to watch, it lived up to all expectations, as defensive pressure and big men off the boards clashed to keep scores relatively low throughout the night at Eventfinda Stadium. The Tuatara unveiled recruit Siler Schneider who went straight into the starting lineup alongside the in-form pairing of Chris Johnson and Robert Loe. Johnson in particular started to cause headaches for the Hawks in the first half. The Tuatara won the first term by four, and extended the lead to five at the main break, with Johnson tallying 15 points.

The second half started with the Hawks stepping up in the opening two minutes with Hyrum Harris, Derone Raukawa and Jordan Hunt piling on 19 of the first 21 points in the term to go from 38-33 at half-time to 52-40 in half a quarter. Harris (11 points) and Raukawa (six) were the key architects, as Schneider hit a vital three-pointer with just over four minutes left in the term to break the streak. After Jack Exeter put the Hawks up by 11 points with a response, the Tuatara found a response of their own, as they scored the next nine points – including a triple from Loe – to draw within two points and two minutes on the clock. The 23-14 term in favour of the Hawks saw the visitors leading by four points after only one more basket was scored in the last two minutes.

The teams traded baskets early in the final term with Nick Barrow busy for the home side and Hunt stepping up for the visitors. A run of nine straight points for the Hawks pushed the lead out to double-digits again with just under seven minutes remaining. At one stage it went as much as 13 points, before the Tuatara started to claw their way back. Loe and Johnson both scored, and though the lead was double-digits with three and a half minutes left, 12 of the next 15 points were set to go to the home team.

Johnson nailed a two-point hookshot, then back-to-back triples and with 42 seconds left on the clock, scores were level. Ethan Rusbatch earned a fouled with 18 seconds on the clock and nailed both free throws to break the Hawks’ drought and put them two points up. Keeping the ball in their possession to try and get a last second bucket, the Tuatara got it to Chris McIntosh who was fouled and sent to the line. Unfortunately for the home crowd, he missed his first shot, before sinking his second, but it would not be enough, going down by that point, 74-75.

In the end it was the Hawks’ ability to convert in the paint, with 46 points to 28 which was the difference. The Tuatara had more assists (17-13) and blocks (7-2), but were beaten in the rebounds for the first time (44-47). It was the work of Harris (16 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks) who almost picked up a triple-double, along with Hunt (18 points, eight rebounds), Rusbatch (12 points, 10 rebounds and four steals) and Raukawa (18 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) who did all the damage. For the Tuatara, it was largely left up to Johnson who packed a punch with 29 points – 11 of 19 from the field – 10 rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Schneider (12 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) was handy, whilst Loe only manage the seven points – three of 10 from the field – but picked up 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks take on Canterbury Rams on May 26, with Auckland Tuatara next playing on May 28 up against Franklin Bulls.

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