Coming off their best performance of the season, the Taranaki Mountain Airs are heading south with a chip on their shoulder.
The side, who dropped 10 games on the trot before last weekend to fall to a 4-11 record, hit the road for a tough double-header against the Southland Sharks on Friday and the Canterbury Rams on Saturday.
Now, with a point to prove, Taranaki captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell said the team were looking forward to the opportunity to halting the momentum of their opposition.
"It's quite painful to think the season's gone by and we've been unlucky with injuries," Bailey-Nowell said.
"But now it's 'can we be the spoiling team?' We have an opportunity to show people we're better than our record suggests."
Both Southland and Canterbury have clinched a top-four finish, along with the Wellington Saints and Super City Rangers, however the final seedings were still up for grabs.
The Augusta Mountain Airs claimed a win over Southland in their first encounter this season before falling to a 30-point loss in their second meeting.
Coming into the match on the back of a 101-point performance against Hawke's Bay, Bailey-Nowell said the side would be looking to build on what the team achieved in that game.
"It was about getting the ball inside and opening up the outside shooters. For us, the shots won't always fall but we can make things easier for our shooters by working the ball inside."
It's a similar way to how the Sharks play. Both Nick Kay and Alex Pledger are strong in the paint and are very good at getting their touches to free up their shooters on the wings.
While Pledger was held out of the Sharks' last match, the Mountain Airs were preparing for him to take the floor against them on Friday.
"We have to make sure we take care of him rolling on the rim," Bailey-Nowell said.
He said the challenge for the Taranaki side through the final three games were to match their opposition's physicality.
"The teams winning the games are holding teams accountable when it comes to physicality. They look to get a bit of niggle in.
"I've said to the guys if you want to play in this league, matching that physicality will get you court time."
After facing Southland on Friday, they Taranaki side go on to Canterbury to meet the Rams.
For the Canterbury side, forwards Marcel Jones and McKenzie Moore have continued their dynamic tandem from a season ago.
While the Mountain Airs dealt well with Jones the last time the teams met, they would need to lock down on Moore as well, as both pose high-octane scoring threats.
However, Mountain Airs forward Tylor Ongwae has proven to be effective against the Rams, scoring 33 and 24 in their last two meetings.
A win on the road trip for the Mountain Airs would not only allow them to continue to build confidence and momentum, but would also pull them further away from the possibility of collecting the wooden spoon.
As the table stands, the Mountain Airs sit above the last-placed Hawks, who they play in their final match of the season, by one win. However, the Hawks have a game in hand.
At a glance
Southland Sharks v Taranaki Mountain Airs, ITL Stadium, Invercargill. Friday June 2, 7pm.
Canterbury Rams v Taranaki Mountain Airs, Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, Saturday June 2, 7pm.
Article and image courtesy of Stuff.co.nz