Hawks win for the Agee(s) against Rams

A SENSATIONAL fadeaway baseline jumper from Hawke’s Bay Hawks debutant Tajuan Agee has sunk the Canterbury Rams in a thrilling contest last night. The battle between two New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) contenders lived up to expectations, with the game needing until the very last shot to decide the result. It was a topsy turvy game that saw both teams trading leads at breaks before eventually being level heading into the last stanza, for the Hawks to take away the points thanks to a 73-71 victory at Cowles Stadium.

CANTERBURY RAMS 19 | 17 | 16 | 19 (71)
HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS 21 | 11 | 20 | 21 (73)

In what was Hawks coach Mick Downer’s first return to Cowles Stadium to face his former Rams side, he was keen to get his chargers off to a good start and silence the crowd. That was the way it went early – albeit by a narrow margin – heading into quarter time with a two-point advantage, 21-19. That soon changed in the second term however, as the Rams piled on 15 of the first 17 points to storm to an 11-point lead, 34-23 with four minutes left on the clock. Taylor Britt and Max Darling had been particularly impressive in the early stages of the term, before the Hawks reeled the Rams back with nine of the last 11 points to end the half and cut the half-time deficit to four points.

The comeback was off the work of Ethan Rusbatch, Jordan Hunt and Derone Raukawa who were determined to get the Hawks across the line. Hunt in particular scored his side’s first seven points of the third term to hand them a one-point lead with five and a half minutes on the clock. The teams traded blows over the next couple of minutes as the Rams kept drawing level, including from a Matur Maker floater with three and half minutes on the clock. Joe Cook-Green nailed back-to-back triples to give the rams a bit of a buffer, but Rusbatch and Agee hit back to level the scores at 52-apiece with a quarter to play.

It was the Rams, who through Darling and Sunday Dech started the final term strongly, scoring the first five points of the term. The Hawks quickly recovered that deficit with Hyrum Harris fouled from long-range and made two of his three attempts from the charity stripe before Everard Bartlett levelled the scores with a triple of his own. The lead continued to change hands with no more than two points for the rest of the quarter, leading to a frantic final minute. Harris was only able to nail one of two free throws with 53 seconds on the clock, tying the scores at 69-apiece.

Britt’s driving layup in the 12 seconds remaining caused much celebration amongst the home crowd, but then a Hawks timeout caused them to reset. Hunt nailed a levelling layup for the Hawks with just two seconds on the clock, and it was the Rams turn to call a timeout. Then Dech attempted to thump the ball to the opposite baseline towards Britt but it went over his hands and out, critically turning the ball over to Hawks hands. Harris had the inbound pass and when Agee made his move between two opponents, grabbed it cleanly and hit off the fadeaway jumper before Dech could close him out, sealing a memorable first game for the visitors.

Hunt earned the maximum 10 Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes for his 21 points – eight of 15 from the field – seven rebounds, five steals and two blocks. He was well supported by Rusbatch (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Harris (10 points, six rebounds and six assists), while Agee made a memorable impact off 17 minutes, picking up eight points – ironically only two of eight from the field with one of those counting in a big way – as well as four assists and two steals. For the Rams, Britt tried his best with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, working well with Darling who had 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Dech and Maker both scored 11 points apiece, with Maker also pulling down nine rebounds.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks next take on Nelson Giants tomorrow on the road, while Canterbury Rams have a longer break before locking horns with Wellington Saints next round.

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