Basketball: Hawks do it tough as Giants put up shutters

By Anendra Singh

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Kareem Johnson
Kareem Johnson

Many former Hawks basketball coaches have mentioned how hard it is to return from Nelson with a win.

Last night was no different as the IMS Payroll-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise ground out a 82-77 victory over the Fico Finance Nelson Giants at Saxton Stadium, winning their sixth game on the trot.

"It was a tough game. They [Giants] didn't have any quit in them," coach Tab Baldwin said as his troops chalked up another win on the road to the playoffs in Wellington on July 4-5.

The Hawks are on the top rung of the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) table with a record of 10-2 with both defeats coming on the road in overtime.

The Paora Winitana-captained side have yet to lose a game at home this season.

Last night nothing separated the sides in the first quarter, 19-19, but the Hawks mirrored that effort in the second spell while the hosts fell three points shy, 35-38, as they headed for the locker rooms.

Baldwin lamented a first-half offensive effort that was "not very well organised".

"Credit to Nelson who made some tough shots and played intelligently."

However, he lauded the Hawks' defence which kept its structure into the second spell.

"In the second half our offence was smarter and the defence better."

Pivotal to the discipline was staying away from trouble with just US import centre Dustin Scott requiring some management.

"We didn't bring our game in terms of skill and execution."

The Liam Flynn-coached Nelson were equally adept at defence as they won the points-in-the-paint department 48-28.

"It isn't typical for us so credit to the Giants' defence," Baldwin said.

The three-point shooting stats didn't flatter either party, but the Hawks nailed that 33-24 per cent.

Baldwin saluted Kareem Johnson for his defence as the import forward collected a double-double 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"Just as Kareem did with Matthew Rogers [Rams import centre], he kept [Giants import centre] Jamal Boykin quiet."

Ditto Winitana who didn't just score six points but kept ex-Hawk Josh Pace to 17 points.

He said they hadn't shut down Nelson but had kept them in check with aplomb.

Everard Bartlett scored a game-high 20 points. Scott and Darryl Jones added 14 each and Jarrod Kenny 12.

Baldwin said Nelson forward Finn Delany would make a great Tall Black in the future after his 19 points and six rebounds.

"I tried to get him to play for the Bay but he's committed to Nelson," he said of the 2m tall teenager who is jetting off to the US on a scholarship.

Baldwin was surprised to hear the Final Four (Friday and Saturday) will be staged in the capital after hearing rumours Auckland was a favourite.

"It's good for the game that Wellington will put up the money. If you put up the money then you should get it ... so congratulations to them because they do put up a good show."

He did think, though, it would be difficult for the non-Wellington qualifiers.

The Hawks have stumbled in Wellington several times in the playoffs.

NBL chairman Sam Rossiter-Stead said: "Wellington is the most cost-effective venue for us with its central location, particularly with teams from both the North and South Islands currently occupying the top four positions."

Defending champions the Southland Sharks last night beat the Waikato Pistons 92-88.

The Hawks will now host the Giants at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, in their next outing on Saturday, May 31.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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