The EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls defeated last season’s Sal’s NBL runners-up the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks 74-70 in a hard fought encounter at Pettigrew Green Arena on Sunday afternoon.
The away victory, was achieved courtesy of major contributions from Denhym Brooke (13 points and 5 rebounds), Isaac Davidson (12 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals), Jayden Bezzant (12 points and 7 assists), Leon Henry (2 points and 12 rebounds) and in particular Anzac Rissetto.
The former Nelson Giant scored a team-high 20 points and claimed 11 rebounds in arguably the best performance of his fledgling NBL career.
Rissetto’s heavyweight contest with Hawks centre Jordan Hunt (13 points and 11 rebounds) was an intriguing affair, with the Bull just shading the contest on a split decision!
Ethan Rusbatch scored a game-high 22 points for the hosts, Derone Raukawa was his usual busy self with 16 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds while Jack Exeter and Quintin Bailey scored 8 points apiece.
In a contest between the only two side with all-Kiwi rosters it was the Hawks that made marginally the better start as they established a 20-17 lead – 9 points for Ethan Rusbatch in the spell.
An entertaining first half ended with Raukawa nailing a pair of free throws to trim the Bulls advantage to four points at the interval (39-35), the visitors probably ruing the fact they had made only 5 of 12 free throws at that point.
A one-handed flush from Brooke gave the Bulls a double figure advantage but a Jack Exeter triple, in the shadows of three-quarter time, trimmed that lead to just 5 points with ten minutes to play.
The Hawks only trailed by four points with five minutes to play but every time they threatened to wipe the Bulls advantage the visitors found a way to respond. A classy finish from Bezzant and Henry’s only basket of the game sealed the deal.
When the two teams meet again in mid-June some serous firepower will have been added to both rosters. Tall Blacks Jarrod Kenny, Hyrum Harris and Jack Salt will be in the Hawks line-up and fellow international Corey Webster will have linked up with the Bulls.
For now the Bulls rookie head coach Morgan Maskell can celebrate his first Sal’s NBL victory.
SCORE: Hawks 70, Bulls 74
Hawks: Rusbatch 22 PTS |Raukawa 16 PTS & 7 AST | Hunt 13 PTS & 11 REBS
Bulls: Rissetto 20 PTS & 11 REBS | Brooke 13 PTS, 3-5 3PT | Davidson 12 PTS & 5 STL | Bezzant 12 PTS & 7 AST
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Anzac Rissetto (Bulls) - 9 votes
Jayden Bezzant (Bulls) - 7 votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 6 votes
Denhym Brooke (Bulls) - 4 votes
Derone Raukawa (Hawks) - 3 votes
Leon Henry (Bulls) - 1 vote
Hawks - May 5 @ Taranaki Airs
Bulls - May 7 vs. Southland Sharks
Round 2 Sal's NBL Schedule