The Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks are back to winning ways with tonight's 102-97 win over the visiting SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks.
Brandon Lucas opened the scoring in what was a pulsating first half of basketball. Both the Hawks and Sharks found ways to get points on the board early, with only a three-pointer separating the pair at the midway point of the opening half.
The hosts shot out to an eight-point lead at the latter end of the period thanks to scoring from EJ Singler and Ethan Rusbatch, but a 6-0 run from the Sharks cut the deficit and saw them only finish the quarter down five at 28-23.
Hawks Head Coach Zico Coronel only made his first substitution two minutes into the second quarter and it paid dividends. His team scored 13 unanswered points and affirmed their place in the driver's seat.
Hyrum Harris and Todd Blanchfield took matters into their own hands for the visitors and saved their team from what could have been an ugly scoreline. Their efforts rallied the troops and had the Sharks only down 10 going into the half.
The third quarter was the most conservative of the contest, with both teams not running the floor at quite the same pace as what took place in the opening 20 minutes.
Brandon Bowman continued to pour in the buckets after already accumulating 16 and nine at the half, hitting 26 and 13 by the end of the period.
The majority of his scoring was through mismatches inside, thanks in large part to the three-point shooting from those around him. The Hawks showed no let up in shooting from the perimeter and pushed their lead out to 13 going into the fourth.
A big fourth quarter was needed from the Sharks if they were to win this contest and came out of the break the aggressor. The Sharks battled their way back to within six by the seven-minute mark but showed signs of fatigue as the period carried on.
The game looked to be dead and buried when the Hawks were up 13 with less than three minutes to go, but a 9-0 run from the Sharks cut the Hawks buffer to four. The visitors fouled the Hawks in the hope of some free throw misses, but the hosts converted on the freebies to see out the game.
Hawke's Bay Hawks 102 defeated Southland Sharks 97
Hawks - Brandon Bowman 30pts, 16rbs, 5ast, Dion Prewster 21pts, 5rbs, 4ast, Ethan Rusbatch 20pts & 4ast.
Sharks - Hyrum Harris 26pts, 9rbs, 8ast, Todd Blanchfield 27pts & 9rbs, Brandon Lucas 19 pts & 7rbs.
Stats That Matter - the Hawks only shot 37% from deep but put up a staggering 54 attempts. In fact, over 60% of their field goals were shot from three - 54 from 86.
TAB MVP Votes - Brandon Bowman (Hawks) 10, Hyrum Harris (Sharks) 8, Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) 6, Brandon Lucas (Sharks) 3, EJ Singler (Hawks) 2, Dion Prewster (Hawks) 1.
An extra weeks rest was all Brandon Bowman needed to get back to his surreal form. The big man was a dominant force on both ends of the court and provided a scoring touch whenever his team needed one. He and Singler are key figures in their side and are bound to feature prominently in the last two weeks of the season as they build towards the Final 4.
The Sharks were without star guard Jarrad Weeks tonight and still managed to push the Hawks for the whole 40 minutes. At this very moment, the Sharks haven't shown they're capable of toppling the top three sides, which is worrying sign only two weeks out from the postseason. There's no prize for peaking early, but the Southland faithful will be hoping their side has something up their sleeve for the visit to Horncastle in July.
Load management doesn't seem to be a concern for Hawks Head Coach Zico Coronel, who chose not to sub any of his starters out until the nine-minute mark in the second quarter. While this is sure to change in the coming weeks, running your starters into the ground early in a match may not bold well in a semi-final/final.