Basketball: Hawks juggernaut keeps on rolling

By Anendra Singh

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Marco Alexander was outstanding last night. Photo/File
Marco Alexander was outstanding last night. Photo/File

No one did anything exceptional and yet an anaemic-looking Hawks last night came away with a comfortable victory in New Plymouth.

If anything, it is a testament to a basketball team who are making all the right noises about breaking the drought of their maiden Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) title in 2006.

"The guys had to be in key roles and they stepped up to do a great job so I'm very proud of them for accepting the responsibility," the coach of the IMS Payroll-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise team, Tab Baldwin, said last night from New Plymouth after the Hawks beat the Good Home Taranaki Mountainairs, 81-64.

The Hawks, who last weekend became minor premiership champions of the NBL this season, were last night without the services of captain Paora Winitana (religious beliefs), shooting guard Everard Bartlett (personal issues) and Anamata Haku (bereavement).

"Marco [Alexander] had a great game and Matt De Marcus and Darryl Jones played well," Baldwin said, after the apprentice point guard relished his preferred shooting guard role to post 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Hawks US imports Kareem Johnson and Dustin Scott claimed double-doubles of 19 points, 10 rebounds and 13 points, 12 rebounds and three steals, respectively, in a stellar season.

Stand-in skipper Jarrod Kenny contributed 13 points and four assists to the cause.

Naki US import Suleiman Braimoh claimed a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds while Brad Anderson added 19 points and seven rebounds.

The visitors, who last week were the first to secure a final four playoff berth in Wellington in a fortnight, found out Fico Finance Giants, Pacific Jewellers Saints and the Zerofees Sharks had qualified but the order of semifinal matches (No1 v No4 and No2 v No3) won't be decided until the final round this weekend.

"We don't even know who the second-placed team is until the last round so it speaks volumes about the league this year," Baldwin said.

With the three qualifiers in a 20-point bottleneck, the Advice First Pistons and the OceanaGold Nuggets needed wins at the weekend to keep their hopes alive.

The Pero Cameron-coached Pistons succumbed 85-74 to the Breakers Manawatu Jets, while the Nuggets suffered an agonising overtime, 90-87, loss to the Canterbury Rams.

The Hawks host the Nuggets at home in the last round of the NBL this Saturday in a 7pm tipoff and will add to another "wow" if they win because that'll seal a season of undefeated matches at home in what is believed to be a first.

They have lost three games on the road - in overtime to the Saints and and the Nuggets as well as slipping on the proverbial banana skin against the Jets the previous weekend.

"We don't have any preferences because the preferences will be made for us, but we want to know as soon as possible what the final placings are so we can begin our preparations [for the final four]," Baldwin said.

Last night schoolboy swingman Wilfred Dickson scored a basket and collected a rebound on his NBL debut.

"It wasn't an easy win because we were seven points up with five minutes to go," Baldwin said, adding the Hawks out-rebounded and out-shot the hosts with 13 turnovers.

It's also good news on the Bartlett home front in Perth.

"Everard's family situation is much better with his wife going through a rough patch so he's jetting back tomorrow [today] from Perth.

"He needed to bring in the doctors because of some health issues with the kids," said Baldwin, emphasising he had experienced similar problems and it was hard to focus on the job in such circumstances.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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