The Southland Sharks head into Friday's National Basketball League semifinals on the back of a win - but only just.
The Sharks pipped Hawke's Bay in an intense 89-86 showdown which went down to the last possession at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill on Sunday afternoon.
The game didn't have anything riding on it in terms of the make of the playoffs with Friday night's semifinals sorted when the Super City Rangers beat the Canterbury Rams on Saturday.
The 18-0 Wellington Saints will play the Canterbury Rams in one semifinal at 5pm in Tauranga on Friday night followed by the Southland Sharks Super City Rangers game at 7pm.
But despite this both Southland and Hawke's Bay showed plenty of desire to bank the win in Invercargill.
Southland went up 20-12 in the first-quarter before Hawke's Bay chipped in with five points to reduce the first quarter gap to 20-17.
Six minutes into the second quarter Hawke's Bay hit the lead at 35-34 but it was short lived as Duane Bailey hit a three and Nick Kay followed up with an impressive dunk, before a long James Hunter two pointer.
But there was no let up from Hawke's Bay as Southland struggled to kick clear and went into halftime just one point up at 43-42.
Kay was the key figure in Southland's first half effort with his 11 points, five rebounds, four assist haul.
The two teams continued to trade points through the third quarter and with a minute left in the period Hawke's Bay levelled it up at 62-62 with an Everard Bartlett three.
But again it was short lived with Southland heading into the final quarter with a 67-62 lead.
Right throughout the game there was a feeling Southland would pull away but it never happened.
With 1min 30sec to play in the game, Hawke's Bay held a one point lead and the Sharks had to delve into their bag of tricks to finish it off.
They pushed out to the 89-86 lead but Hawke's Bay had the final possession in an attempt to level it up.
Jarrod Kenny tried a rushed three-point shot but to no success and Southland were able to grab the ball and wind down the remaining seconds.
Kay finished with yet a double-double with his 17 points and 10 rebounds and also chipped in with six assists.
Despite Hawke's Bay being out numbered in the rebound department Amir Williams latched on to 16 rebounds to go with his 14 points.
Southland Sharks 89 (Nick Kay 17, Derone Raukawa 14, Reuben Te Rangi 11, James Hunter 11), Hawke's Bay 86 (Jarrod Kenny 25, Everard Bartlett 17, Amir Williams 14, Joshua Fox 11, Tony Tolovae 10).
1stQ: 20-17, HT: 43-42, 3rdQ: 67-62.
Article and image courtesy of The Southland Times