A sloppy final quarter saw Hawke's Bay record their first loss in the National Basketball League tonight.
"We became very stagnant," Taylor Hawks head coach Zico Coronel said after his team's 93-85 loss to Cigna Saints in Wellington's TSB Stadium.
"We had advantages and we did a good job of exploiting some of them. They made adjustments and we got too stagnant. We are still learning and we will improve when we exploit better and display better movement ... our players are still learning when to play the right shots and put the right players in the right positions."
Coronel agreed Tall Blacks point guard Shea Ili was superb in the final quarter for the hosts on the way to finishing the match with 26 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
"At times we did a good job on him. It was still less than he has been scoring."
"This was one of those games we should have won and lost. Last weekend we won against Taranaki when we should have lost."
The defending champions led 47-43 at halftime and 25-19 after the first quarter. The Hawks American power forward Jamie Skeen had 12 points. Hawks captain and point guard Jarrod Kenny scored 10 points while his Saints counterpart and fellow Tall Black Shea Ili had 14 going into the third quarter.
When quizzed at halftime what his team needed to improve upon in the second half Hawks shooting guard Dion Prewster said rebounding. The visitors also struggled from the three point mark in the first half with a 25 per cent success rate.
Three consecutive three pointers from Skeen was influential in the Hawks estalishing a 70-65 lead in the third quarter. Numerous missed baskets proved costly for the Hawks in the fourth quarter.
Skeen top scored for the Hawks wth 29, Kenny scored 17 and Aussie centre Angus Brandt 16.
Saints import LJ Peak was almost as authorative as Ili during the final quarter. Peak finished with 22 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Aussie Shaun Bruce scored 18 points off the bench for the hosts including some crucial three pointers in the final quarter.
Saints head coach Kevin Braswell told fans Coronel had done a hell of a job with the Hawks.
"Our team showed me how much guts we have ... they showed me we are growing."
Prewster played for the Nelson Giants last year and will take on his former team for the first time at Taradale's Pettigrew-Green Arena tomorrow night. Once again plenty will be asked of Kenny on defence when he marks Kyle Adnam who had a career best 32 points against the Sharks last week.
Coronel said there were no major injury concerns in the Hawks camp in the countdown to tomorrow night's clash..