Tuatara clip Hawks’ wings in NZNBL win

AFTER losing to the Hawke’s Bay Hawks just two rounds earlier, Auckland Tuatara were able to exact revenge on their opponents, posting an 11-point win last night. The New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) title favourites were able to push past a gallant Hawks outfit on the back of a dominant performance from bigman Chris Johnson and fellow import Siler Schneider, both of whom almost recorded triple-doubles in the 99-88 victory.

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS 25 | 18 | 27 | 18 (88)
AUCKLAND TUATARA 25 | 28 | 18 | 28 (99)

Billed as one of the matches of the round, it was clear from the opening term at least, the game was going to be neck-and-neck. Both sides had 25 points on the board by the first break, shooting well and with consistency. The second term looked to be the same, with the sides trading blows, and when Derek Albertsen hit a three-pointer at the four and a half minute mark of the quarter, the Hawks lead 37-36. Piling on 17 of the next 23 points – including six to young gun Dontae Russo-Nance – the Tuatara regained the lead, and the momentum to build a double-digit advantage at the main break.

Some handy three-point shooting from guard Derone Raukawa got he Hawks back into it, with Jordan Hunt and Quintin Bailey joining the long-range shootaround. The big combination that has troubled teams all year in Johnson and Robert Loe put pressure on the Hawks’ defence to lead by five with 1:41 on the clock, only for Jarrod Kenny and Ethan Rusbatch to cut it back to one point (70-71) at the final break.

The game was over in the first five minutes of the final term, with Auckland piling on 15-0, as Hawke’s Bay shot at zero for six, while the Tuatara managed six out of eight in those five minutes. Johnson (six points) and Loe (five) were the key scorers, as they blew the lead out to 15 points (85-70). Johnson came off for a well-earned break, with Raukawa scoring his side’s first basket of the final term after six minutes and eight seconds. The Hawks did manage to reduce the deficit back to 11 by the final buzzer but the first five minutes of the term ultimately killed the contest.

Auckland shot at an impressive 51 per cent from the field, including 62 per cent from two-point range, and 18 of 26 from the charity stripe. The Hawks hit 10 triples to the Tuatara’s seven to keep things interesting, whilst also recording more assists (20-18) and second chance points (7-4). But the ladder leaders won the rebound count (44-38), as well as blocks (9-7) and points in the paint (46-42) and from turnovers (17-11).

Johnson had seven blocks by himself to go with his 21 points – seven of 12 from the field – eight rebounds and three assists, while Schneider picked up 20 points – 10 of 16 from the field – nine rebounds and seven assists. Loe picked up a double-double of 20 points – seven of 13 from the field – 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, while Russo-Nance helped with 21 points, three assists and four steals.

Raukawa was deadly from long-range hitting five of eight from beyond the arc on his way to 19 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals. Hunt (17 points, five rebounds and two steals) and Rusbatch (10 points, six rebounds and three assists) were other started to hit double-figure points, while Kenny (12 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Bailey (12 points, five rebounds) contributed strongly off the bench.

Auckland Tuatara next play last placed Manawatu Jets tomorrow, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks have a break until Thursday, when they take on Southland Sharks.

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