The Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks survived a major scare to avoid one of the biggest upsets of the SalsNBL to earn a 95-90 win over the EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls at Pettigrew Green Arena Saturday night.
The much-vaunted Hawks’ offense was forced to work extremely hard to earn the win and but for a couple of clutch plays late by their key players they may well have had their pants pulled down.
Skipper Ethan Rusbatch had 21 points and three assists while Devondrick Walker also had 21 points to go with a whopping seven steals.
Kyrin Galloway had 20 points and 13 rebounds while Isaac Davidson had 21 points for the Bulls.
The Bulls grabbed the early initiative and powered to a 28-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. Joseph Nunag and Davidson each hit back-to-back threes to open up the gap and give the visitors some belief.
Davidson had his best game of the season as he found his range from distance.
The Hawks fought back in the second quarter, but coach Jamie Reddish got plenty out of some of his fringe players. Adam Dunston, Jett Thompson and Jaylen Gerrard were stand outs, hitting some big shots to protect the lead.
The home side did draw to within a point however as their shooters started to heat up.
They found the form that saw them power to the top of the SalsNBL standings once they returned from the locker room.
Walker started the second half in red hot fashion as he smashed down three successive three-pointers to push the home side in front for the first time on the back of a 15-0 run.
From being down by as much as five early in the quarter the Hawks ended the third spell up by seven.
But just when you thought the Bulls had the cue in the rack, they made a cracking start to the final quarter and edged themselves in front within the first three minutes of the final stanza.
The Hawks struggled to find good shots as the clock wound down and they took rushed attempts.
But just as it looked to be slipping away Rusbatch and Walker secured successive and-one plays to take back the initiative as the Bulls turned the ball over when it counted most.
Hawke’s Bay Hawks 95 defeated Franklin Bulls 90 - BOXSCORE
Hawks: Ethan Rusbatch 21 points & 3 assists, Devondrick Walker 21pts & 7 steals, Hyrum Harris 1-pts & 9 rebounds.
Bulls: Kyrin Galloway 20 points & 13 rebounds, Isaac Davidson 21 points, Jett Thompson 12 points & 4 assists
(Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ)