Hawks 73 Sharks 88 PG Arena, Napier
He hobbled off the court in Napier but Suleiman Braimoh didn't give up the fighting talk in the face of yet another defeat.
"I like to believe anything is possible. I think with a little more work on our hands we can put ourselves in a better position to make the playoffs," Braimoh said, adding a couple of wins could see the IMS Payroll Hawks sneak into the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) Final Four next month.
The Liam Flynn-coached Hawks slumped to an 88-73 defeat to the Zerofees Southland Sharks at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, on Saturday night to sit 4-7 in the NBL.
The Paul Henare-coached Southlanders chalked up their seventh win on the trot, three in a row on the road, to bolster the top-four peloton breaking away in the race to the playoffs.
Braimoh struggled to put his finger on specifics when asked what didn't go the way of the Hawks on Saturday night.
"We as a team, including myself, have to do a better job on defence and rebounding as well as a better job of communicating."
The Nigerian import was among the poor 42 per cent off the free-throw line.
Kenny shone with four from five shots while Anamata Haku managed one from two. The Sharks shot 89 per cent from the charity line.
"I will be back in the gym working on that. It won't happen again," said Braimoh but, the truth be told, it's a communal affliction.
The power forward, who again spearheaded the hosts' drive with 20 points and five rebounds, thanked the smattering of PG Arena faithful and reassured them they would toil to beat the Breakers Manawatu Jets here in the 3pm tip-off today to keep their fast-evaporating playoff hopes alive.
Starting point guard Kenny, for once, didn't feature in the assists department as Tai Wesley got the better of him.
Braimoh felt overall it was a tough game although the Hawks did a respectable job of getting inside the congested driving lanes in the first half and in patches of the second spell.
"I think, generally, offensively we did what he had to do but on the defensive end we needed to pick it up a little bit more."
He bit his tongue when asked about the frustration of accepting decisions he, and quite often teammates, debated amid animated discussions with the referees.
"Refereeing is a very hard job so I'm not going to just generally say they did a bad job or anything like that."
However, Braimoh believed the officials could have been "more even" in their calls.
The first quarter on Saturday promised a royal battle with the Sharks prevailing 23-21.
It was a spell of two-point trading but neither side were shy to chance their arms from downtown when they got a look in.
The second quarter separated the men from the boys with Aussie import Todd Blanchfield and veteran Adrian Majstrovich showing their worth for Southland.
It was Wesley's turn to pirouette twice before inspirational point guard Kevin Braswell joined the riot to help open a 42-29 margin.
Braimoh lost his cool with 3:43 to go, grabbing a player to impress on referee Tim Brown that he had missed a blatant foul.
Seconds later, Hawks guard Alonzo Burton succumbed to gravity as referee Gareth Teahan singled out someone on the Southland bench.
A hobbling Braimoh claimed a basket and drew a fruit-less one as the Hawks trailed 52-41 at halftime, losing the spell 29-20.
US import Zack Atkinson started the third spell venomously, dunking on Wesley, who appealed from the floor only for referee Shane Nikora to urge him to get up.
With Southland leading 57-46, the bad blood festered between Atkinson and Wesley but coach Henare kept a pokerface.
Braimoh nailed a three-pointer then added a basket to close the gap to 59-53.
The argy-bargy continued with Henare confronting Nikora for a please explain as Southland's lead shrunk to 66-61.
The Hawks won that quarter, 20-19, but trailed 71-61.
With the Hawks lagging 78-63 with about five minutes remaining, Kenny tried to go up for a basket twice but Wesley swatted him away.
Haku and Luke Aston triggered off a blitz from outside the arc but it was too little, too late.
The stats sheet also painted a grim picture for the hosts in rebounding (40-30) and assists (22-14).
Blanchfield scored a game-high 24 points while Braswell added 22 and nine assists for the Sharks who joined the eight-win club with Nelson Giants, Waitakere Rangers and Wellington Saints.
Majstrovich scored 18 points and nine rebounds while Wesley added 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Sharks face a tougher assignment on the road against the Saints today.
Saints assistant coach Zico Coronel was at the PG Arena on Saturday to do some homework for coach Pero Cameron.