Basketball: Hawks' little general will add spark in bid to end winless streak

By Anendra Singh

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South Africa-born Hawks import centre Grant Fiorentinos cries foul as Rams forward Tohi Smith-Milner puts up a wall in his path in Napier yesterday. PHOTO/Warren Buckland
South Africa-born Hawks import centre Grant Fiorentinos cries foul as Rams forward Tohi Smith-Milner puts up a wall in his path in Napier yesterday. PHOTO/Warren Buckland

After a winless winter last year it's fair to say it's not a matter of if, but when, the Hawks will end their drought this season.

The Taylor Hawks showed glimpses of what they are capable of when the sun starts aligning with the stars and moon in the galaxy of the National Basketball League, in Napier, yesterday.

It was hammer and tongs for coach Kirstin Daly-Taylor's troops in their first outing at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, but victory proved to be elusive for the Hawke's Bay franchise whose barren patch dates back to 2015.

They conceded, 99-87, in overtime to the Mark Dickel-coached Canterbury Rams, after the sides could not be separated, 83-83, in regulation four quarters.

Co-captain Everard Bartlett did his best with rookie starting point guard Mataeus Marsh but the visitors brought a different intensity in the final five minutes, with a don't-argue 16-4 statement.

"It's an improvement although we're not happy with the result," lamented Bartlett who had, after the 107-84 away loss to the Wellington Saints on Friday night, emphasised the significance of turning the PG Arena back to "fortress" status.

South African-born import centre Grant Fiorentinos, only here until American import Amir Williams arrives early next month, top scored with 25 points and was three shy off the boards for a double-double.

But Daly-Taylor benched US import Lamar Roberson in 9:33 after he picked up three fouls although a couple of them seemed harsh as the power forward looked at the referees in bewilderment.

But that is a problem most imports face. He'll have to be brought up to speed if the franchise wishes to extract the most out of its overseas workhorse.

Bartlett, who added 23 points to the cause and matched Fiorentinos in rebounds, said Fiji-born, US-based Joshua Fox also showed what he could do. Forward Fox added 12 points while guard Tony Tolovae showed his versatility with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

In the huddle before the overtime, the Hawks oozed confidence in their ability to do the job but it was the Rams who got the game by the scruff of its neck.

"I think they just came out first when it should have been us. That's what we wanted to do but they hit first and we were caught on the back foot in that entire overtime," Bartlett said, lauding opposition shooters in Marcel Jones and Jeremy Kendle.

Jones was the assassin with a double-double 33 points and 10 rebounds while Kendle showed his worth with 31 points and four assists.

Veteran Marques Whippy's presence was undeniable, especially in the dying minutes, with eight rebounds.

The Hawks desperately need Tall Black Jarrod Kenny at the helm but the returning point guard was celebrating the ANBL victory with his Perth Wildcats franchise on Saturday and doesn't arrive until Thursday. He should be in charge as co-skipper for the next game against Augusta (Taranaki) Mountainairs in a 3pm tip off at PG Arena this Sunday.

"We broke down on a couple of game-plan situations there and there was a lack of concentration from our players' perspective so that allowed them to score 16 points in overtime in five minutes - that's a lot to come back from," said Bartlett, adding the Hawks became stagnant and were guilty of trying to do too much in overtime.

Dickel said it was never easy because every team had signed up quality unknown quantities.

"You want to think you can go into a game playing in a certain way but the game doesn't go that way so you've got to adjust and, for the most part, I think we did that today."

Dickel said Jones was superb in sharing the ball but in defence they tightened up a few flaws and, luckily, the Hawks lost traction with the rim to give the Rams a look in.

"The key for us is to play tighter throughout the game so that we don't need overtime every game."

MATCH STATISTICSHawks figures first:

Field goals: 34/71 (47.9%); 35/72 (48.6%).

3 pointers: 9/23 (39.1%); 7/27 (25.9%).

Free throws: 10/16 (62.5%); 22/29 (75.9%).

Rebounds: 34; 30.

Assists: 24; 11.

Steals: 7; 8.

Blocks: 0; 3.

Turnovers: 12/12.

Fouls (fouls on): 23 (17); 17 (22).

Points in the paint: 34; 48.

2nd chance pts: 11; 9.

Pts off turnovers: 16; 22.

Pts off bench: 43; 16.

Result: IMS Payroll Bank Hawks 87 (Grant Fiorentinos 25pts, 7 reb; Everard Bartlett 23pts, 7 reb; Joshua Fox 12pts; Tony Tolovae 10pts, 7 reb, 4 ast) Canterbury Rams 99 (Marcel Jones 33pts, 10 reb; Jeremy Kendle 31pts, 4 ast; Tohi Smith-Milner 10pts, 5 reb).

Quarters (Hawks first), 1st: 26-22. 2nd: 42-48 (16-26). 3rd: 67-68 (25-20). Final: 83-83 (16-15).

OT: 87-99 (4-16).

- Hawkes Bay Today

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