AFTER a slow start, Hawke’s Bay Hawks found the answers against Southland Sharks to make it back-to-back wins in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 2022 season. After dropping their opening game of the year, the Hawks have steadied to win their past two, symbolic of their Round 3 win over the Hawks on Thursday night. Trailing by five points at the first break, the Hawks stepped up in the second term to regain the lead, then went from strength to strength after that to record a 19-point victory, 87-68.
SOUTHLAND SHARKS 21 | 13 | 20 | 14 (68)
HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS 16 | 21 | 26 | 24 (87)
Hawke’s Bay Hawks came into the match off the back of their first win against Taranaki Airs, whilst the Southland Sharks had an inconsistent start to the NZNBL season, winning two and losing one, but were coming off off a win over the struggling Manawatu Jets. It was the home side that got off to a strong start at ILT Stadium, racking out to a five-goal lead after being in front by as much as seven late in the first tern.
The Hawks hit back in the second quarter, taking the lead early, building their own advantage before the Sharks chewed into the deficit. Southland hit the front after being as much as seven points down themselves in the quarter, but after Dom Kelman-Poto‘s five consecutive points in the last two minutes for them to regain the upper hand, Jordan Hunt and Ethan Rusbatch both made shots – Rusbatch’s being a buzzer-beater – to lead by three at half-time.
Southland kept pushing hard in the third to try and reduce the deficit, finding a way to keep within arms-length of the Hawks, and only trailing by four points with two and a half minutes left credit to an Alonzo Burton long-range jumper. Both he and Brayden Inger were contributing strongly, whilst Rusbatch was having himself a game, and Derone Raukawa was heating up. With Rusbatch and Hunt cooking, the Hawks took a nine-point lead into the final break, only reduced to single digits after a Jaylen Gerrand jump shot in the final 30 seconds.
After an even start to the fourth quarter where the Sharks had maintained touch with the Hawks to be 58-67 down, the visitors put the foot on the gas to pile on 20-10 in the final eight minutes to secure the 87-68 win. Jack Exeter had a particularly productive final term, with support from Hunt, Raukawa and even Hyrum Harris stepped up in a big way. Capping off the game with an exclamation mark, the Hawks scored seven of the last 10 points to run out comfortable winners.
Hawke’s Bay were far more deadly in the shooting category, with the Hawks ahead, 44 to 32 per cent from the field. They also went to the line for seven more shots and nailed 21 to 12 of them, as well as an additional four three-points. Though the Sharks lead the rebounds (46-44), the Hawks were on top in the assists (20-11) and steals (10-6). There was plenty to take out of the game for the Sharks who halved their turnovers (13) from their previous loss to the Bulls, and scored 15-7 points from turnovers.
Rusbatch earned the full 10 Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes for a 30-point, four-rebound, two-assist and two-steal game, which featured five three-pointers. Hunt (19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks) picked up a double-double, whilst Raukawa (15 points, nine assists, three rebounds and two steals) came close to one himself. Harris (eight points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks) was also close to a double-double, while Exeter’s big final quarter resulted in nine points, five rebounds and two assists for the match.
Kelman-Poto was the pick of the Sharks thanks to his double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds. Burton (15 points, five rebounds) tried hard of the boards, whilst Mojave King (11 points, seven rebounds and four assists) was quieter on the scoring front shooting at just 35 per cent from the field, but still contributed.
Hawke’s Bay Hawks front up again tomorrow with a chance to add another win to their name, taking on Otago Nuggets, whilst the Southland Sharks will rest up ahead of a clash with the Taranaki Airs on Saturday, May 21.