Jets 74 Hawks 71
RED WINE is the preferred poison for Manawatu Jets coach Mike Kalavros but last night he was simply happy to sip on some diet fizzy while catching up with his good mate Tab Baldwin.
"We have another game tomorrow night," a delighted Kalavros said as he and HBS Hawks coach Tab Baldwin exchanged pleasantries before the Jets tip off away against the Nelson Giants at 7pm tonight and the Hawks host South Sharks in Napier tomorrow at 3pm.
Kalavros is in his new coaching job with the Jets after Baldwin, also in his debut for the Hawks, recommended the Greek coach for the job.
But friendships were saved for the aftermatch dinner as the ride through the Manawatu Gorge has again puit them against a traditional bogey team for the Hawks whose 74-71 loss last night at Arena Manawatu will go down in history as one more to add to their rash of defeats there under previous regimes.
The visitors, with Paora Winitana leading the charge, didn't have the best start, trailing 19-26 in the first quarter before narrowing the margin with a 14-11 second spell for a timely pep talk from Baldwin in the locker room.
"The first quarter was tough because we didn't play well and we didn't open them up well in defence, either," Baldwin lamented.
"We didn't execute some of our systems so Palmerston North came out with a lot of confidence," he said as Perth Wildcat Nick Horvath, import Chris Hagan and Troy Mclean created havoc with 19, 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Centre Horvath registered a double-double with 14 rebounds while point guard Hagan added nine assists and four rebounds.
Baldwin lauded their interim American import, Garrius Holloman, who is replacing Marcel Jones until the latter finishes his league campaign in Romania in almost three weeks.
"I still don't know his name [Holloman] but they might want to have a rethink about him because he's a pretty useful player."
However, Kalavros immediately ruled out any chance of that happening.
"I'm a man of my word and I'll be keeping it.
"Even though he's got a contract there's no way I'll be letting Marcel go," said the man who has coached Hawks new import Darko Cohadarevic in the Greek league.
Baldwin said his troops adjusted a little in the second quarter to earn some plaudits from him for their defence.
"But we missed a lot of easy shots," said the country's most successful basketball coach who returned to the NBL after several years of plying his trade abroad following a memorable stint with the Tall Blacks.
"We were one point down with about 120 seconds remaining on the clock in the last quarter and we again missed an easy shot but we did create a lot of chances."
A philosophical Baldwin reconciled the defeat with how sometimes a season starts.
Loathe to single out players, he felt the team would bounce back and face "the reality we won't go unbeaten this season".
"It was a great game and the result didn't go our way but we're thankful we have another game in two days."
Bay swingman Brian Greene shone with 22 points, five assists and just as many rebounds while fellow import Cohadarevic added 15 points and six rebounds to the collective.
Skipper Winitana chimed in with 13 points and four assists.
A circumspect Kalavros said it was a nailbiting game "but we also got lucky".
Having made a rash of mistakes the hosts found their plan towards the end by "reacting with some maturity" in the last few seconds.
In Invercargill, the Paul Henare-coached Sharks beat Waitakere Rangers 91-74 before playing the Hawks tomorrow in Napier.
The Rangers were competitive in the first half trailing only by six, but a 14-0 run by the Sharks to start the third quarter pushed their lead up to as many as 22.
Waitakere managed to close within 13 at the end of the third, but behind last year's rookie of the year Reuben Te Rangi (20 points) the Sharks would be too strong.
Americans Kevin Braswell and Brian Conklin each added 17 points. Point guard Luke Martin made a welcomed return to Southland collecting 11 points and seven assists.
Rangers play the OceanaGold Nuggets' in their opener in Dunedin.
Last year's runners up the Wellington Saints had to come back from a nine-point first quarter deficit to defeat Taranaki Mountain Airs 85-74.
Lindsay Tait scored a game-high 28 points (12/14 FT), as the Saints would win the last three quarters.
NZ Breaker Dillon Boucher grabbed 15 rebounds off the bench on debut for Wellington.
Wellington play arch rivals Waikato Pistons in Hamilton next.
At Southland Stadium, Invercargill: Southland Sharks 91 (Reuben Te Rangi 20, Brian Conkin 17, Kevin Braswell 17) Waitakere Rangers 74 (Jack Salt 16, Carl Buck 13, Houston O'Riley 13).
1Q: 17-16. HT: 44-38 (27-22). 3Q: 70-57 (26-19). FT: 91-74 (21-17).
At TSB Stadium, New Plymouth: Taranaki Mountain Airs 74 (Kenny Gabriel 21, Brad Anderson 13, Jack Leasure 12) Wellington Saints 85 (Lindsay Tait 28, Andrew Warren 21, Casey Frank 13).
1Q: 23-14. HT: 38-35 (15-21). 3Q: 56-58 (18-23). FT: 74-85 (18-27).