The Taylor Hawkes Bay Hawks solidified their top-4 spot on the Sal’s NBL ladder with a 100-89 home win against Taranaki Steelformers Airs at Pettigrew Green Arena on Saturday night.
Heading into the contest the Airs, riding a 3 from 4 win streak, looked a dangerous proposition for the high flying Hawks. Factor in the scoring prowess of Anthony Hilliard (31.8ppg) and Taranaki were a banana skin the 6-3 Hawks wished to sidestep.
When the Airs closed to within two points early in the second half a slip-up looked on the cards. However, led by 22 points from Hyrum Harris, the Hawks took charge of proceedings and at one stage in the final period had built an 18-point lead.
Perhaps affected by travel delays the Airs made a sluggish start to the contest falling behind by 10 points in the opening five minutes.
The pace and aggression of both teams resulted in 18 free-throws in the opening ten minutes – the Hawks ahead 29-23 at the quarter mark.
Derone Raukawa’s second three of the game meant he was the first player in double figures and the Hawks were back out to a double advantage.
New Airs import Shaun Willett made a strong impression in the opening half but his team were behind 52-43 at the main break.
Hilliard had been kept relatively quiet in the first half but he scored 5 points in the opening minutes of the third as the Airs closed to within two points at 56-54.
Jordan Hunt’s deft footwork in the paint resulted in points for the Hawks big man, Harris also scored inside and the home side were back to a 10-point lead.
Ethan Rusbatch brought the home crowd to their feet with a baseline drive and dunk, however Carlin Davison replied with a flush at the opposite end – the Hawks with a 72-63 advantage.
Tajuan Agee’s power gained him inside points and when Rusbatch and Harris scored in transition the Hawks were in full flight and 88-70 ahead.
The Airs responded with a 5-0 run but the Hawks, and Harris in particular, had most the answers in the closing stages to close out a seventh win of the season.
Both teams will be back in action with home fixtures on Saturday June 25.
SCORE: Hawks 100, Airs 89
Hawks: Harris 22 PTS, 8 REB, 4 AST 11-14 FG | Agee 15 PTs, 11 REB, 5 AST | Rusbatch 17 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST |
Airs: Hilliard 22 PTS, 5 REB, 8 AST | Douglas 15 PTS, 7 REB, 6 BLK | Willett 18 PTS, 10 REB | Jones 15 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Hyrum Harris (Hawks) - 10 votes
Tajuan Agee (Hawks) - 6 votes
Anthony Hilliard (Airs) - 6 votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 4 votes
Javonte Douglas (Airs) - 3 votes
Shaun Willett (Airs) - 1 vote
Hawks – June 25 vs. Canterbury Rams
Airs – June 25 v. Manawatu Jets
Round 8 Sal's NBL Schedule