The Southland Sharks are relying on teamwork to give them a shot at the 2017 National Basketball League title.
The Judd Flavell-coached side sits second on the NBL ladder heading into the business end of the season, with seven wins and three losses from their 10 games.
They now face the fifth-placed Bay Hawks at Stadium Southland on Thursday night, before a short turnaround against the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch on Sunday,
Southland Sharks coach Judd Flavell talks to the team during a break against the Canterbury Rams earlier this season.
"It is good, you ask the players, it means less practices, they get to play," Flavell said.
"That is the good thing about our squad, we have got a lot of depth and a lot of guys that want to get out there and play, that is a good position to be in when you are the coach."
Both teams are looking to continue winning streaks, with the Sharks circling for their fifth win in-a-row, while the improving Hawks will be hunting their third victory on-the-trot after starting the season with four straight losses.
"We look forward to the Hawks in what should be a tough game, a change of coach and probably some enthusiasm in their camp right now and I am sure they are going to present their own challenges," Flavell said.
The Sharks will take plenty of confidence into the round nine opener after a hard fought 105-94 victory over the Rams in Invercargill last Friday night, with seven of the home team's rotation contributing double figure points, with guard Derone Raukawa securing a team high 18 points off the bench.
"I have said it from day one, we don't have one guy we just throw the ball to and he goes and gets us 20 points a game, we score by committee and we have a number of guys that in their own way have their own strengths of putting the ball in the hoop," Flavell said.
"It is good to see someone like Derone came off the bench and really got the momentum going our way."
According to Flavell, strength down the defensive end also helped the Sharks restrict the highly regarded Canterbury offence.
"I think if we are able to keep teams in the half-court, I think it is a game that is suited to our tempo and our style," he said.
"That was going to be a challenge with Canterbury, because they are a team that get out in the lanes and they run and they score a lot of easy points off transition so I thought for the most part we were able to keep that under control."
"When it is a game when the tempo suits us, we are always going to be in good shape."
Sharks captain Duane Bailey played 14 minutes off the bench as one of nine Southland players to take the court against the Rams, as he continues to battle a leg injury.
Veteran guard Hayden Allen is still in doubt with a groin injury heading into Thursday's match against the Hawks.
"Duane [Bailey] is the heart and soul of this team, so it kills him when he is sitting on the sideline, it will be a bit of a bumpy ride for him over the next couple of weeks as we keep on track with managing his progress," Flavell said.
At a glance
What: Sharks vs Hawks
When: Thursday, 7pm
Where: ILT Stadium Southland
Article and image courtesy of The Southland Times