Hawks 73 Jets 79 PG Arena, Napier
The writing was already ... well, on the song sheet of the melancholic Anna Pierard and Prima Volta's rendition of Time To Say Goodbye at halftime in Napier last night.
A smattering of Pettigrew-Green Arena faithful cheered and clapped in Taradale as the opera ensemble captured the mood but there was little fanfare at the final hooter of the basketball match as the IMS Payroll Hawks crashed to a 79-73 defeat at the hands of the Breakers Manawatu Jets.
It was the Liam Flynn-coached Hawks' second loss at the weekend, coming in almost a similar vein to the one against the frenzied Southland Sharks attack (88-73) on Saturday night.
The Paora Winitana and Jarrod Kenny co-skippered side had wilted in two quarters, edging the Jets by a point in the first and third spells.
"It feels like home court here right now because we can't seem to get one at home right now so we're looking forward to playing them again on Saturday in Palmy because they'll come out firing," a grinning Jets skipper Jeremiah Trueman said of his troops who had prescribed a double-dose of bitter pills (two losses in their three-match series) to the hapless Hawks.
A wistful Kenny responded when told of Trueman's remarks: "Yeah, that's pretty much an accurate summary, really."
The Hawks are now 4-8 and need a miracle to make the Final Four but the astute would argue it would be better to start gifting more time to the young and restless with an eye to next season.
Recovering from influenza and not taking the court as a starting five, Kenny felt they had played much better than their first loss to the Jets here.
"We managed to keep them pretty quiet in the first half and even in the second half where we let them get away from us at the end."
He was not going to play at all last night but hailed Alonzo Burton for his stint as court general, sympathising with the shooting guard who had rolled his ankle after 15:25 of court time.
While unsure of the permutations of making the playoffs, the former Tall Black said: "We'll still fight for every game.
"We'll still train for pride and playing for Hawke's Bay, even if the season's lost in terms of playoff aspirations.
"If that's the case, we definitely want to come fifth and not seventh or eighth."
It was an out-of-sorts first quarter, the Hawks trailing 6-0 within 2m 45s with basic mistakes costing them possession.
Kenny, who had a poor game in the loss to the Sharks, made an immediate impact when he took the floor after almost five minutes had elapsed.
The Hawks did well to claw their way back, thanks to some clutch shots from Luke Aston, to end that spell 20-19 ahead.
The shot clock had little patience for the Hawks in the second quarter as the Jets nudged ahead.
Nevertheless, Anamata Haku and imports Zack Atkinson and Suleiman Braimoh gave the fans something to cheer about with dunks, fast breaks and elementary manoeuvres. A Burton three-pointer from the bottom of the D brought the roof down as the Hawks nudged ahead 37-36.
But that joy was short-lived as Brook Ruscoe, import Dion Harris and captain Jeremiah Trueman kept the hosts honest to the locker room with a 41-37 lead.
Flynn's men showed some ticker in the third spell, scrapping every shred of possession and putting their bodies on the line.
The chatter was up as Kenny drove deep into the lane to flick the ball back to Darryl Jones to drop one from downtown to close the quarter, 22-21, in favour of the Hawks.
A relatively passive Winitana signalled the Hawks' intentions in the final quarter with a three-pointer to surge ahead, 65-62.
It was time for the Jets to trip on travelling violations, turnovers and grapple with the charity-line jitters.
With five to go, Harris dropped a three-point silencer and Trueman burgled as the Jets snuck ahead, 70-67.
At the height of the battle, Atkinson walked off covering his face. It was free-for-all foul time as the Jets protected a healthy lead to a 17-14 profit statement.
Atkinson top scored with 18 points but double-double merchant Braimoh found scant love from the hoops or glass. Aston scored 12 points.
The game-high 26 points went to fox terrier Ruscoe with Harris a point behind to make up for a quiet night in the first outing here.
Trueman, who claimed a double-double, said it was good to win a game that went to the wire after missing out on two.
"It wasn't always pretty but we're happy with the win," said the Australian power forward, accepting their playoff chances were also dashed after losing their series to Canterbury Rams, Nelson Giants and the Sharks.
"We're aiming 500 right now so we'll take a game at a time," he said, echoing Kenny's sentiments on a season to forget but going out with pride.
James Hunter has replaced an injured Nick Horvath although they were big boots to fill.
"Nick's irreplaceable but James come straight out of college into his first professional gig so he's going to be good."
He put the win down to rebounding and improving "on the shooting down the stretch" which had not always been crash hot.
Elsewhere, the Southland Sharks beat the Wellington Saints yesterday in the capital to make it eight wins on the trot for coach Paul Henare's men to consolidate the playoff berths.