To fleece Aidan Daly's words, it's not just the monkey the Hawks need to chuck off their backs but what must now feel more like a gorilla.
Daly shared the emotions of his tormented teammates after the Indigo-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise succumbed to their fourth consecutive defeat in the National Basketball League in Napier yesterday to remain winless this season.
"There's pressure to win in every game but we know where we are at the moment and what we have to do next realistically so it's more of a gorilla on the back rather than the monkey we have to throw off to move forward a little bit," said the veteran co-skipper as the Hawks lost 99-96 in overtime to the Canterbury Rams at the Pettigrew-Green Arena in Taradale.
While it may come across as scant consolation right now the nail-biting encounter had the PG Arena faithful on their feet, clapping, chanting and supporting the hapless Hawks.
"If you have the backing of the crowd anything can happen so we were in it pretty much the whole way but you know, realistically, we were up so much we should hold on to that lead and build on it," the schoolteacher lamented, in the face of statistical evidence that the Hawks led the game all the way bar a shade under five minutes. The crowd's euphoric moment, often reserved for winning teams, came from point guard Daly who had dropped a three-point bomb in regulation time to lock the scores at 90-90 with six seconds remaining to take the game into five minutes of overtime.
"Yeah, it was one of those shots I thought might have hooked us to the end there but it didn't come down to it," said the 37-year-old who scored 11 points and made three assists and as many rebounds in 27 minutes of court time.
"It probably came down to a few things in the third quarter but we came back into it."
The Hawks again had drifted a little from some of their game-plan principles, something he felt was indicative in Canterbury's reprisal as the visitors admirably bounced back from a 30-12 first-quarter deficit to win the remaining three spells 27-22, 18-11 and 33-27, respectively.
Yet again the hosts were bullied in the key, conceding 52 points in the paint although they had "manned up" to win the rebounds 40-33.
Those few defensive lapses, Daly said, had enabled Rams swingman Marcel Jones and guard Ethan Rusbatch to post 29 and 30 points, respectively, with the former claiming a double-double with 12 rebounds, mostly defensively.
"They made the difference in the end so we have to go back to the drawing board to look at our defence and go from there."
Logic suggests the visitors also were guilty of similar transgressions on court and that endorsement came from coach Mark Dickel venting his spleen in every quarter.
For the Hawks, US import Chris Porter claimed 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 added 11 points and US import Kareem Johnson nine.
Having lost to the SIT Zerofees Sharks last Thursday, they had watched video of the Rams play "2-3 zones" against the defending champions in Christchurch where Southland "had no answer".
"I think we may adopt that and zone up a little more on the outside to create more rebounding opportunities for us," he said of a new outfit of predominantly old hands.
However, Daly felt the Hawks showed some frailties in the offensive department as well.
"We were a little stagnant and we weren't too free flowing as we'd like so I think we just need to get out there to push the ball around a little bit more in broken play to get to the bucket a little quicker rather than relying on too much half-court stuff."
Coach Kirstin Daly-Taylor will expect her troops to be wiser for it when they roll out the red carpet for the Sharks again this Sunday in a 5pm tip off at the arena.
"We'll again look at how Canterbury played them and pack in to take care of the key to make sure it doesn't allow them to score so easily," Daly said.