Dion Prewster had dwelled on his debut stint with the Hawks in 2013 and how it was time for him and three other players to right the wrong.

Well, Prewster walked the talk tonight as he spearheaded the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise team to a 92-84 upset victory over the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks in Napier to signal an electric start to the Sal's National Basketball League (NBL) season.

The 28-year-old was named the player of the match after scoring a game-high 23 points, six rebounds and an assist and block each.

"We've come in with a focus. We know we have a pretty solid group so to get a whole lot of people here tonight was great so, hopefully, we can keep it going," said the Wellington player in his second stint with the Hawks after a forgettable season with coach Tab Baldwin in 2013.


Prewster said Southland centre Alex Pledger was one of the best rebounders in the game
so it had been impressed on the Hawks that they needed to keep him and others off the boards.

"We stuck to what we do best so, fortunately, we managed to get a win," he said after Pledger claimed the only double-double of the clash with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Jarrod Kenny-led Hawks brought back memories of days of a powerhouse region as a former coach of both the Hawks and the Sharks sides, outgoing New Zealand Breakers coach and current Tall Blacks mentor Paul Henare, watched the humdinger of a match at the Pettigrew-Green Arena in Taradale.

The visitors had to be the favourites as the NBL's losing grand finalists last season but someone forgot to tell that to the Hawks, who are under the tutelage of Hawks rookie NBL head coach Zico Coronel.

The beaming smile from Hawks board chairman Keith Price required no interpretation.

"It's a great start," Price said as he shook hands with well wishers.

Befittingly Prewster started the match with a three-pointer and then added another from the charity stripe before Breakers and Tall Blacks centre Pledger dropped a basket.

Fellow Tall Black Ethan Rusbatch also dropped one from the car park for the Hawks to take it to 10-7 before the first timeout was called.

The hosts close the account 24-22 up in the first quarter although the southerners had the last say.

The PG Arena faithful savour a tense moment in the game tonight. Photo/Photosport
The PG Arena faithful savour a tense moment in the game tonight. Photo/Photosport

Swingman Prewster top scored with 11 and Rusbatch six for the Hawks in that quarter while Australian import guard Jarrad Weeks, the latest New Zealand Breakers signing, led the charge for the Sharks with eight points and point guard Dion Raukawa added six.

Predictably the two centres, Hawks Aussie import Angus Brandt and Pledger, dominated the boards.

The surprise turnout for the Hawks was 36-year-old power forward Oscar Forman from Adelaide, a former Breaker and ANBL campaigner who wore the shirt of David Barlow who had returned to Adelaide four days after arriving in Napier.

Last year's grand finalists Southland made a move in the second spell, opening a 10-point as the Hawks were guilty of making a few unforced errors and finding little love from the rim.

However, they chipped away, Forman signing off with a three-pointer to reduce the deficit to 39-44 (15-22) at halftime.

Prewster (13 points) with Rusbatch (8) and guard Hyrum Harris (7) were the main contributors while Raukawa and Weeks shared that role for the Sharks with 10 points each. Pledger added eight points and collected seven rebounds as he ominously headed for a double-double.

The Bay Batucada group entertained the 75 per cent-full PG Arena with the booming sounds of the Brazilian samba drums.

Whatever Coronel said at halftime his men had responded in the third quarter to lock the scores at 55-all with two minutes left on the clock.

When play resumed, homeboy Everard Bartlett dropped a three-pointer way out from the arc to loud cheers.

By the time the clock ran out of juice, Bartlett had dropped another bomb and captain Kenny signed off, as the Hawks bench did the yo-yo act, for a resounding 67-58 (28-14) third-quarter, don't-argue statement.

Hawks forward Ethan Rusbatch drives as teammate Mitch Newton watches while Sharks power forward James Hunter (left) and import Jarrad Weeks defend. Photo/Warren Buckland
Hawks forward Ethan Rusbatch drives as teammate Mitch Newton watches while Sharks power forward James Hunter (left) and import Jarrad Weeks defend. Photo/Warren Buckland

Bartlett, who Coronel had used sparingly from the bench until then, had come to life with 11 points, behind Prewster's 17 and Rusbatch's 12.

Kenny and Bartlett shared the assists honours with four each while Prewster, Rusbatch and Forman collected five rebounds each.

The final quarter saw the sides trade blows with the Hawks leading 87-73 with four minutes on the clock.

But the gritty Sharks gnawed away to reduce that margin to 83-80 with 1:43 to go.

Prewster brought the house down with a three-pointer to show the Hawks had come to play this season, as the hosts opened a healthy 88-80 lead again with 1:05 remaining.

It was Southland coach Judd Flavell's turn to wear the worried expression on his face as Coronel cut a striking figure, rooted in his chair as the rest of his bench boys stood up with 32.1s left and the lead unchanged.

When play resumed after a timeout, Hawks went up 90-80 before Weeks scored a basket to make it 92-82 (25-26), courtesy of two Kenny points from the free-throw line.

Kenny finished with 16pts and six assists while Rusbatch scored 13 and claimed six rebounds.

Shooting guard Bartlett contributed 11 points and made four assists while Mitch Newton added seven points.

However, newbies Harris and Nick Fee impressed with whatever game time they collected while, without doubt, Aussie big men Brandt (six rebounds) and Forman (five) will bring more to the court as the season picks up.

For the visitors, Weeks top scored with 19, and Raukawa added 13. So did import Orlando Coleman who also added five rebounds. James Hunter scored 10 points and claimed seven off the boards.

The Sharks close their account with another basket but it was the Hawks and their jubilant fans who rejoiced.