The Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks have ended their four-game losing skid with an 80-70 win over the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls in Pukekohe.
It was a physical battle from the get go at The Stockyard. Bulls big man Anzac Rissetto had one of his best games of the season in their first meeting with the Hawks and he started strong again here with seven points in the first quarter. At the other end it was Tajuan Agee doing damage for the Hawks with 10 points and he helped his team to an advantage on the glass, too.
The Hawks grabbed six offensive rebounds in the first which was key because they shot just 5-for-16 from the field and their work on the glass enabled them to gain a 20-15 lead heading into the second.
It was much of the same in the second quarter but the Bulls were getting solid contributions from 3x3 Tall Blacks guard Jayden Bezzant with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and Christian Martin with seven. Franklin were probably lucky to only be down by six points at the half considering they were shooting just 35%, had nine turnovers and gave up 11 offensive rebounds to the Hawks. However, they were grinding at the other end playing physical defence. At times, though, they were probably a little too physical as they were called for 16 first half fouls.
The Hawks shot 18-of-24 from the free throw line as a result of all the fouls, with Tajuan Agee leading the way going 10-of-11 for 16 points. Jack Salt was feeding off the physicality inside, posting 10 points and seven boards through the first 20 minutes of play. His tip shot to beat the halftime buzzer pushed the Hawks lead to 43-37.
The Bulls were the aggressors to start the third quarter with a 15-2 run over the first five minutes, leading to a Hawks timeout. Corey Webster started to find his rhythm and had worked his way up to 10 points at that point.
The timeout spurred the Hawks into a 7-0 run to tie the game at 52 with just over three minutes to play in the third. Franklin would take a 20-15 advantage in the quarter but the Hawks reclaimed the lead with 14 seconds to play via an Ethan Rusbatch running floater.
It was a 13-0 run for the Hawks to open the fourth quarter on the back of some solid work down low by Jack Salt. The Bulls weren't done, though, as they responded with a 6-0 run to cut the lead the eight with just under five minutes to play.
All five starters for the Hawks came together and shut the door on the Bulls over the closing minutes. It was desperate times for the Hawks, who had lost four in a row coming in and needed a win to save their season. They outscored Franklin 22-13 in the fourth to hold on for the 10 point win, and importantly claim the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bulls in the standings.
The Hawks head home for a monster rematch with the Saints. The Saints need to keep winning to put themselves in the Final 6 mix, but the Hawks are sitting at 8 wins and don't want to drop off the pace. That'll be on Thursday night.
The Bulls and the Tuatara will meet in the second Auckland derby of the season. This time it'll in Pukekohe and the faithful will need to get out in force, as the Bulls could slide quickly if they don't find a way to win.
SCORE: Bulls 70, Hawks 80
Bulls: Webster 19 PTS, 5 AST, 4 STL | Bezzant 12 PTS | Henry 8 PTS, 11 REB
Hawks: Harris 12 PTS, 12 REB, 2 STL, 3 BLK | Salt 16 PTS, 9 REB | Rusbatch 16 PTS | Agee 20 PTs
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Tajuan Agee (Hawks) - 9 votes
Corey Webster (Bulls) - 7 votes
Hyrum Harris (Hawks) - 7 votes
Jack Salt (Hawks) - 4 votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 2 votes
Jayden Bezzant (Bulls) - 1 vote
Bulls - July 24 vs. Auckland Tuatara
Hawks – July 21 vs. Wellington Saints
Round 12 Sal's NBL Schedule