The National Basketball League Final Four is all but locked in as the Supercity Rangers defeated the Bay Hawks in a contest that was high on emotion but low on execution.
Despite three fouls in the first quarter chaining him to the pine for most the first half, star Rangers guard Lindsay Tait exploded to the tune of 20 second half points to put away almost all doubt over the league's fourth playoff side.
As he so often does in big games, Tait imposed his will on the encounter through his intensity and willingness to push the ball. The mercurial point guard had 12 third quarter points to quell the hometown Hawks resistance and effectively end their season.
Tait's foul trouble could have easily been a death knell for the Rangers - who were already without backup guard Brook Ruscoe due to injury - but through a combination of sloppy play from the Hawks and an unlikely burst from reserve big man Nick Barrow, the Rangers went to the major break with a halftime lead.
That lead may ultimately have been what cost the hometown Hawks as they were unable to make the visitors pay with Supercity's emotional leader on the bench and though they clawed their way to a five-point advantage in the fourth quarter, the Rangers experienced starting five cranked up the defensive pressure late to leave the men from the Bay wondering what could have been.
In a touching moment of camaraderie between the two sides at half time, with Paora Winitana honoured with a haka after having his jersey retired. The haka involved members of the Hawks both past and present along with Rangers head coach Jeff Green in a full suit and tie.
The Rangers victory sees them jump to 7-5 and even the season series with the Hawks at 1-1, with the Hawks now three full games out of the playoffs at 3-8.