The Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks have picked up a big 87-68 road win over the Southland Sharks on Thursday night in Invercargill.
It took the Hawks a quarter to settle down, trailing 21-16 after 10 minutes, but they found their footing in the second quarter on both ends of the floor. Their feisty defence caused problems for the Sharks and it led to offence at the other end for Hawke's Bay.
Ethan Rusbatch had 12 points at the half, including a mid-range jumper over some tight defence to beat the buzzer. He would finish with 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-13 from three to lead the Hawks. It was another tremendous offensive display from the captain, who scored in a variety of ways to keep the defence guessing.
Dom Kelman-Poto was a force in the first half, tallying 17 points and eight rebounds with a pair of 3-pointers. His physicality is a lot to manage for any team, but the Hawks have struggled through the early rounds with opposing physical big men. That changed in the second half of this game, though, as Kelman-Poto was held to just two points. The Hawks forced the ball into the hands of other players, and when Kelman-Poto did get the ball, he was met with physical defence from Hyrum Harris - something he does better than anybody in the Sal's NBL.
The Sharks seemed to lack a sense of urgency in this one, but they did take better care of the ball with just 13 turnovers compared to last week's 26 they had against the Franklin Bulls. They shot just 32 percent from the field and 21 percent on 3-pointers (6-of-28), in what would have been another frustrating outing for head coach Rob Beveridge.
The Hawks had a relatively cruisy second half, outscoring the Sharks 50-34 to win by 19 overall. They'll be encouraged with this road win heading into another road outing on Saturday night against the Otago Nuggets in Dunedin.
SCORE: Sharks 68, Hawks 87
Sharks: Kelman-Poto 19 PTS, 13 REB| Burton 15 PTS, 3 3PM | King 11 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
Hawks: Rusbatch 30 PTS, 4 REB, 5 3PM| Hunt 19 PTS, 10 REB, 2 BLK | Raukawa 15 PTS, 9 AST
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 10 votes
Jordan Hunt (Hawks) - 8 votes
Dom Kelman-Poto (Sharks) - 5 votes
Hyrum Harris (Hawks) - 3 votes
Alonzo Burton (Sharks) - 2 votes
Derone Raukawa (Hawks) - 2 votes
Sharks - May 21 @ Taranaki Airs
Hawks - May 13 @ Otago Nuggets