HBS Bank Hawks Back on Top
Hawks have put themselves in a good position to win their first ever regular season, as they came back from a 15 point third quarter deficit to take home the 86-83 win.
After losing two straight, the Hawks ended the Pirates nine game winning streak, thanks to Paora Winitana who had a game high 26 points.
It is the first time in franchise history the Hawks have remained unbeaten at home, and if they win their two remaining road games then they will finish top for the first time as well.
The loss for the Pirates maybe the shot in the arm they needed as they have been cruising in their nine game winning streak.
After three straight games over 100 points, Auckland shot 38% from the field for 83 points which is their lowest total since the 16th of March when they lost to the Jets 80-90.
Lindsay Tait was again the leading scorer for the Pirates with 19, while in his first start Alex Pledger was one rebound shy of a double double, as he was the next best scorer at 14.
A 25-15 second period by Auckland gave them a 50-40 lead at the break, which quickly extended to 60-45 from a Ron Dorsey three with seven minutes left in the third.
But that would be the last time the Pirates would make a field goal for the rest of the period, as the Hawks went on an incredible 21-1 run, giving them a four point lead.
A dunk from Ismail Muhammad to start the fourth finally got the Pirates out of their field goal drought.
Auckland claimed back their lead during the mid points of the fourth, but a technical foul called on Pledger, gifted Winitana two made free throws, which was followed by a field goal from Galen Young to give the Hawks a one point lead with 2:23 to go.
From there on the Hawks would keep their lead for the rest of the contest, as they knuckled down on defense and converted their free throws.
But they put together a strong second half, outscoring the Giants 53-30 to put their record to 9-6, which gives them their play off berth after the Good Home Mountain Airs (7-8) suffered a shock 81-78 loss to the OceanaGold Nuggets.
Jason Crowe was again the top scorer for the Saints with 21 points, also adding seven assists and four steals.
Nelson will be disappointed they could get the win, which puts a severe dent in their playoff hopes as they need to win the remainder of their games and hope certain results fall in their favour.
Mika Vukona led the home side with 16, but as a team the Giants struggled offensively, in particular Phill Jones who failed to reach double figure for the first time this season, held to seven points.
Crowe and Jeremy Kench seemed to cause the Giants guards difficulties, in particular the second half. Kench continued his form from the previous night collecting 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Wellington Saints have clinched a spot in the Final Four, defeating the Fico Finance Giants 88-71. It was going to be a tough ask for the two time defending champs, who were out of the top four the week before, and had a gruelling schedule playing three games in the last four days.
Nelson was only trailing 67-63 with over six minutes to go, but Saints would score eight unanswered points to push their lead up to 12.
Giants got to within eight and had an opportunity to close the gap to six with still two minutes to go, but a turnover from Vukona followed by a three from Troy McLean (15 points), put Wellington’s lead back over double digits, which would be for good.
Wellington joins the Hawks and Pirates as the three teams who have clipped their tickets to the TAB Final Four.
Another team who is one step closer to a playoff berth is the Telecom Business Hub Jets who have routed the Zero Fees Sharks 111-68 which is one point shy of their worst loss in franchise history.
A thirteen point lead at half time turned into a 34 point lead, after the Jets outscored the Sharks 40-19.
Americans’ Josh Pace and Chris Hagan combined for 52 points, while Nick Horvath had 16 points and 19 rebounds.
Jets (8-5) are now only one win away from clinching a Final Four spot, which can be done tomorrow when they play the Giants in Nelson.
It was an absolutely terrible effort from the Sharks in front of their home crowd, in both defense and offense which were both season worst’s in points allowed and scored.
Manawatu really took it to the Sharks on the boards, out rebounding them 48-24, Jeremiah Trueman also grabbing double digit rebound’s alongside Horvath.
Sharks (4-11) are now in a fight with the LZ Harbour Heat (3-10) to avoid the wooden spoon, after the Nuggets had a big 81-78 road win over the Mountain Airs.
What a difference a couple of weeks make as the Airs have gone from third place to placing themselves in serious jeopardy of not making the Final Four.
Leon Henry rebounded from a scoreless game against the Saints the previous night, to top score for the Nuggets (5-10) with 26, also adding 11 rebounds.
Amercians’ Antoine Tisby (19/12) and Akeem Wright (12/12) also added double doubles in points and rebounds.
Jack Leasure did his best for Taranaki (7-8) with a game high 28, but fellow import Darryl Hudson struggled from the field shooting 8/22 for his 22.
Taranaki’s poor free throw shooting was arguably the difference in a close contest converting on only half of their attempts (11/22).
A turning point in the game was when the Nuggets went on a 12-2 spurt which took them from 69-71 to 81-73 with under three minutes to go.
A miss from Wright with 14 seconds left, gave the Airs an opportunity to put the game into an extra period, but Hudson was unable to convert.
After a three game winning streak on the road, the Airs have dropped two straight at home and will play their final game of the regular season in Palmerston next Friday.
Saturday, May 12
At TSB Stadium, New Plymouth
The Good Home Mountain Airs 78 (Jack Leasure 28, Darryl Hudson 22, Link Abrams 12) OceanaGold Nuggets 81 (Leon Henry 26, Antoine Tisby 19, Riki Buckrell 16), Final
At Pettigrew Green Arena, Taradale
HBS Bank Hawks 86 (Paora Winitana 26, Kareem Johnson 17, Galen Young 11) James Blond Auckland Pirates 83 (Lindsay Tait 19, Alex Pledger 14, Ismail Muhammad 12), Final
At Trafalgar Centre, Nelson
Fico Finance Giants 71 (Mika Vukona 16, Michael Harrison 14, Josh Bloxham 13, Darryl Jones 13) Wellington Saints 88 (Jason Crowe 21, Casey Frank 19, Troy McLean 15), Final
At Southland Stadium (Velodrome), Invercargill