The Indigo Hawks offered blood, sweat and tears but still came up agonisingly shy of collecting their first victory of the season in Napier today.
The hosts were locked 90-90 after the regulation 40 minutes against the Canterbury Rams in their fourth consecutive National Basketball League match at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, before going down 99-96 to the Canterbury Rams in overtime.
Co-captain Aidan Daly dropped a three-point bomb in regulation time to lock the scores with six seconds remaining to keep the Hawks' hopes alive but it was to no avail.
Both sides had exchanged clutch baskets from downtown in the final quarter before Daly had the crowd in ruptures but the Southerners showed tenacity to claw their way back from a mediocre first quarter for an emphatic victory.
The third quarter was always going to be a defining moment but the Hawks seem to have weathered the storm to lead 63-57.
The hosts had a few wobbles early in the spell in moving the ball around but eventually found some cohesiveness despite losing the quarter, 33-27.
Canterbury playmaker Ethan Rusbatch claimed a match-high 30 points, six rebounds and four assists for the visitors while fellow guard Marcel Jones chimed in with a double-double 29 points and 12 rebounds.
Captain/forward Marques Whippy and point guard Marcus Alipate contributed 11 points each while forward Gareth Dawson added 10 to the cause.
For the embattled hosts, US import Chris Porter registered a back-to-back double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds while guard Alonzo Burton was just shy of one, managing 16 points and nine rebounds.
Guard Matt Te Huna scored 14 points and made four assists while veterans Paora Winitana and co-skipper Aidan Daly added 11 points each with Kareem Johnson adding nine.
However, after the first five minutes of extra time, only three points separated the two sides amid a frenzy of helter-skelter stuff that saw bodies slammed and players sprawling in what turned out to be an arm wrestle as the Rams nudged ahead.
Having made a great start, it was time for the the Hawks to play for 40 minutes after leading the Cantabrians 52-39 at halftime.
In their defeat to SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks on Thursday, the Hawks were guilty of straying from the halftime blueprint coach Kirstin Daly-Taylor laid out for them in the locker room.
Today her troops kept the foot on the throat of the visitors but perhaps there was scrutiny on how faithful they were in their commitment to the big D.
Conversely, the Rams had been banking a lot on former Manawatu Jets guard Jones and it paid off but what cannot be missed is Rusbatch putting up his hand to be counted.
The Hawks won the first quarter 30-12 but the shellshocked Rams bounced back to win the second 27-22 and the third, 18-11.
Perhaps the biggest change in the first half, compared with their previous three losses to the Wellington Saints, Mike Pero Nelson Giants and Sharks was the Hawks' ability to move the ball arouind the court in a high-tempo shift today.
Also impressive in the first quarter was the stifling defence from the Hawks who caught the visitors on the shot clock once and forced them to chance their arms from outside the arc rather than driving through the lanes of contention.
"It feels like there's only four of you on the court and holes," Canterbury coach Mark Dickel barked as he substituted guard Shou Nisbet and continued venting his spleen into the following two spells.
The last-placed Hawks are the only winless franchise in the NBL while the Rams move to higher rungs of the ladder with three wins from five matches.