Venting one's spleen at the opposition is often the best therapy on the heels of a loss, especially if it's a season opener.
That is, more or less, what the Taylor Corporation Hawks did when they overwhelmed 2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers in the second leg of their Sal's Pizza National Basketballl League double header in Napier tonight.
The Zico Coronel-mentored Hawks beat the Rangers 98-86, after coming off a don't-argue 106-79 defeat at the hands of powerhouses Cigna Wellington Saints in the capital city last night.
No doubt, when Coronel musters his men for a white-board session next week they will filter through the rougher edges from tonight's clash against the Aucklanders, as one would filling in a colouring book.
The visitors were notably bigger on the court but that didn't faze captain Jarrod Kenny and his battlers who had clinically won the first three quarters before managing the final spell with 20-23 deficit.
"[They were bigger] but we have bigger hearts, though" a grinning Tall Black swingman, Ethan Rusbatch, aptly summed up after claiming a match-high 34 points and coming up two rebounds shy of a double-double.
"We've still got lots to work on but we can't dwell too much on the last game," said Rusbatch of the baptism of the Saints who they had struggled against in size and speed.
The 26-year-old from Christchurch felt a victory on the rebound, as it were, was cathartic in putting them smartly on track of the NBL campaign in round one.
The Hawks did the job without the services of Australian import centre Daniel Kickert with veteran forward Darryl Jones absorbing the hits from the wrecking ball with some nous. He has returned to the fold after a couple of seasons away with the Manawatu Jets. Temporary US import Shaquille Thomas also was rested after jetting in on Thursday.
"He's just sorting a few things out with his body a little bit so we managed to pull it off without him and with some great support from the bench," he said of former Boomer Kickert who is on his debut stint with the hosts.
The half-full arena had observed a minute's silence as a mark of respect to the Muslim victims of the Christchurch shootings at two mosques.
The first half had the razzle-dazzle of trading shots with captain Jarrod Kenny and Rusbatch scoring from a field shot and a three-pointer, respectively, but the Rangers eclipsed that minutes later.
The visitors had taken a 17-12 lead with just under four minutes left. Perhaps what stuck out most was the reluctance of the hosts to work their way into the driving lane, instead chancing their arm for three pointers with little love from the rim.
However, a reloaded three-point attempt from swingman Dion Prewster levelled the scores at 17-all.
It was a Rusbatch three-pointer from the top of the 'D' that clinched the quarter, 22-20, for the Hawks.
The second half was of a similar ilk to the opening stanza but, definitely, more profitable as the Hawks established a halftime lead of 50-41 (28-21).
From a Hawks' perspective, it was worrying to see veteran Everard Bartlett not finding much love from the rim, something he would deliver in the blionk of an eye in previous seasons as a clutch-basket shooter. His repertoire of passes with American import small forward EJ Singler signified how shot Bartlett's confidence to pull the trigger in the lost possession.
For the Rangers, Australian import small forward Venkatesha Jois and fellow American signings Nnanna Egwu and Timothy Quarterman were making all the right noises in trying to stay in touch with the Hawks.
The third spell only accentuated Quarterman's unbridled emotions in the second quarter when he got in the face of Kenny. This time, with the Hawks leading 69-51 on the 4m 27s mark, the import was guilty of shoving Rusbatch in the back in a bid to deny him a basket.
The irate Hawk, who should be in Tall Black coach Paul Henare's equation to the Fiba World Cup if his performance tonight is anything to go by, gathered himself from the cardboard hoardings to pursue Quarterman but cooler heads from both sides intervened. Green banished the offender to the bench.
Just as the Hawks had done in the second quarter, they had adroitly put up the shutters to post an imposing lead of 78-63 (28-22) to close that chapter on the Aucklanders.
Predictably the Green army came back hard in the final quarter and the Hawks gave them a sniff when they narrowed the deficit to 84-77 with four minutes left but two minutes later the hosts had pushed it out to 89-79.
"We knew it was going to be a dogfight because we are little but the boys managed to find some shots once they started changing up things to open up down the stretch so we got the win and we can be happy about that," Rusbatch said.
Singler showed his worth with a double-double - 26 points and a dozen rebounds while Prewster added 15 and fellow Tall Black point guard Kenny chimed in with 12 points and seven assists to the collective cause.
For the Aucklanders, Jois top scored with 26 points and pulled off 14 rebounds while power forward Egwu joined the double-double party with 18 points and 11 off the boards. Quarterman added 19 points to a lost cause and will rue his ill discipline.
"We didn't play smart at all with our size advantage and didn't capitalise on it," lamented Green of the Reuben Fitzgerald-skippered side.
The wily campaigner said it didn't help that the Saints had left the Hawks a little battered and bruised last night so the latter weren't going to let two consecutive losses define the start to their campaign.
"It was their first game on their home court and we were well aware of that so I think that's one that got away from us," he said.
Green said whipped out the soothing gel in Quarterman's corner, agreeing the import was frustrated but emphasising he needed to adjust to the refereeing in the country because it was totally different from Europe and the States.
"He'll learn," he said. "That was one small incident but that wasn't the major issue because we just didn't play smart.
For what it was worth in the stats department, the Hawks claimed the three-point game 42 per cent to 29; rebounds (48/42) and assists (20/15).
They were on the wrong side of the ledger on field goals ((43-46), two pointers (45/50), steals (4/12) and, staggeringly, gifted 16 turnovers to nine handed back to them.
In the other game tonight, Mike Pero Nelson Giants beat Taranaki Mountainairs 93-78.