Just when the Hawks were beginning to find some wind beneath their wings their National Basketball League campaign ran into some turbulent patch yesterday.
Not only did the Indigo Hawks succumb to their fifth straight loss on the trot at home but they also lost their American import and co-captain Chris Porter to a season-ending hamstring injury.
"In the last two games he's had a double-double ... tonight he's hamstring's done so he'll be flying home on Tuesday," lamented coach Kirstin Daly-Taylor after the power forward didn't play at all last night in the 101-87 defeat to the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks.
Furthermore, the Hawks' No 2 starting guard Alonzo Burton copped a blow from the Sharks' big men during a screen, which meant he only got on the court for 8.40 minutes.
"To lose two men - and I know this sounds ridiculous - I'm happy pretty happy with the score," Daly-Taylor said although she was miffed that in the dying seconds they were denied a three-pointer that would have pushed the score out to 90.
"We tried to protect our T, beat up [Alex] Pledger and Nick [Kay] so we knew we were going to give up some threes but 13 is a little bit too many but I'm really proud of them."
So the burning question was are the the Hawks flying in a new import?
"That's a good question. Watch that space. Call me on Wednesday," she replied.
Daly-Taylor felt the Judd Flavell-coached defending champions' 13 three-pointers had scuttled the Hawks everytime they tried to soar.
Now the Aidan Daly-captained Hawks will have to see if their luck changes on the road in the double-header next round against the Wellington Saints in a 7pm tip off on Friday and the Mike Pero Nelson Giants the following day at the same tip-off time.
Last night, the visitors brought some hustle in the third quarter to lead the Hawks 77-58 in what proved to be the turning point in the game although the Hawks won the final spell 29-24.
The hosts came back from a 25-14 first-quarter deficit to trail by 47-40 at halftime.
However, in the third spell the visitors went into overdrive with a 30-18 statement that the Hawks had few answers for.
US import forward Kareem Johnson top scored for the Hawks with 21 points while Hawks Bay-born forward Arthur Trousdell offered 18 points and collected six rebounds. Matt Te Huna scored 14 points and made three assists while fellow guard Luke Aston added 15 points.
The Hawks won the second quarter 36-22.
For the Southerners, Australian import swingman Kay claimed a double-double 29 points and a dozen rebounds, seven defensively.
It's hard to imagine pint-sized guard Derone Raukawa made his first start for the defending champions but who would argue with 24 points, Centre Pledger bullied his way to 13 points and eight rebounds. Bay-born Everard Bartlett added 20 points and made seven assists.
Perhaps what stuck out most was Hawks teenager Wilfred Dickson scoring four points in 10 minutes of court time despite running into a Pledger block.
Johnson said they were developing but the Hawks needed to work on the third-quarter meltdown.
"The guys are working hard and binding to the system," he said, adding they would miss Porter but thanked the fans for lifting their spirits.
Sharks general Hayden Allen said it was a good win against a team whose backs were against the wall.
Allen said coach Flavell told them at halftime to look after the ball and try to get three stops to dent the Hawks' confidence.
"We have guys like Nick and Alex in the middle so they have to put up shots over seven footers," he said, adding their import, Jordair Jett, had injured his knee.
"It gave young guys like Derone and Ana [ex-Hawk Anamata Haku] chance to step up and they were outstanding."