Make no mistake, the Hawke's Bay Hawks are the real deal in season 2019 of the Sal's NBL and their recent run of high-scoring and hot shooting suggests they are starting to believe they have a genuine shot at winning a title in late July.
Up against a Sharks outfit desperate for redemption after a horror weekend in Round 6, which included losses to the Rams and Saints, you could have been mistaken for thinking the home team was on track to clip the Hawks over the early going.
Leading by as much as 9pts during a hard-nosed start, the Sharks got plenty out of Alex Pledger and Todd Blanchfield in the first quarter, the star pair dropping 18pts between them. However, by the time the opening period had finished the Hawks had steadied and got back to a 29-32 deficit.
A knock to the head late in the first quarter sidelined Pledger for a good six minutes with a cut above his eye, his absence working to the favour of the Hawks as they started to gather momentum during the second term, particularly as they found their aim from long range.
By half-time the Hawks had established a 6pt lead, but as they have done on numerous times in recent weeks the visitors dropped the hammer in the third quarter (27-17) and blew the game open.
During the last period the Hawks led by as much as 21pts as EJ Singler, Ethan Rusbatch and Dion Prewster all powered away, the depth of the Hawks shining through once more as six players scored 13pts or more.
The star of the show was Daniel Kickert, his sublime skills at both ends of the court earning him the Sal's Pizza MVP award.
The win pushes the Hawks to a 7-2 record, while the Sharks sit at 5-5.
Emphasising their continued dominance from beyond the arc, the Hawks continued to land triples at an incredible rate, going for 17/33 at 51%, while a further 23 assists reinforces their thirst for a team-first mentality.
When the Sharks meet early in the new week to dissect the game they will see many good and improved things, but the one thing that will haunt them is the continued lapses at the defensive end that need to be fixed quickly if they hope to make the top four this season.
Southland Sharks 105 lost to Hawke's Bay Hawks 119
Sharks - Alex Pledger 24pts, Todd Blanchfield 23pts, Jarrad Weeks 19pts.
Hawks - Kickert 32pts, Singler 24pts, Prewster 22pts, Kenny 13pts & 9ast.
Stats That Matter - it's becoming a broken record, but 17 triples at 51% is always going to position you well for a win.
Sal's Pizza MVP - Daniel Kickert (Hawks) with 32pts @ 73%, 7rbs, 2ast, 1st, 1blk, 5 treys.
TAB MVP Votes Daniel Kickert (Hawks) 10 Dion Prewster (Hawks) 6 Todd Blanchfield (Sharks) 6 EJ Singler (Hawks) 4 Jarrod Kenny (Hawks) 2 Alex Pledger (Sharks) 1 Jarrad Weeks (Sharks) 1