Ticking boxes against teams below you on the ladder is like stepping across a lounge floor strewn with discarded toys, thinking its child's play.

The propensity to do oneself some serious injury, akin to tripping over Lego blocks, is pretty high.

Consequently it'll pay for the Taylor Corporation Hawks to take heed of that when they host the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams in Napier in a 7pm tip-off to start week 12 of games today.

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The visitors, under the tutelage of former Tall Black point guard Mark Dickel, won't need any incentive because they lost their fourth place to the Hawks after three losses on the trot in the Sal's Pizza National Basketball League.

For the fourth-placed Hawks counterpart Zico Coronel, it'll be about working smarter not harder.

With five games to go and on equal 14 points with Canterbury, for Coronel it'll be a time to reap, not sow.

Hawks swingman Ethan Rusbatch endorses that edict whereby winning should become a byproduct of work ethics, accountability, efficiency, team chemistry and the scope to adjust.

Put another way, it means losing games in May should create a modicum of efficiency as the playoffs beckon early next month.

"It's not a matter of changing things or doing things differently but fine-tuning things we've been doing at the start of the season," explains Rusbatch, qualifying the squad has been together a lot longer than the actual season so that's an even stronger reason to have a more potent chemistry.

No doubt, peaking at the right time also is vital.

The 25-year-old from Christchurch brushes off suggestions that sticking to the same system in the face of a 7-6 record, a shade above 50 per cent, is in some respects the definition of insanity.


The Hawks' mantra, he reveals, is about polishing aspects of play not to be just okay at them but striving for a sense of perfection.

"If we can be perfect at everything then all the things will turn to progress."

While the Final Four is in the back of their minds, it's simply a case of teeing up each game for the best possible platform to eke out a victory.

Rusbatch believes every player is capable of bringing myriad attributes to the court on any given night and that's what makes the Hawks pliable and unpredictable.

Hawks swingman Ethan Rusbatch (right) questions the pedigree of Rams player Winston Shepard III at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, on June 1. Photo / Photosport
Hawks swingman Ethan Rusbatch (right) questions the pedigree of Rams player Winston Shepard III at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, on June 1. Photo / Photosport

The Jarrod Kenny-captained Hawks beat the Rams 91-76 in a tempestuous affair at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, on June 1 in the two sides' only match before tonight this winter.

"I always look at it as another game," says Rusbatch, looking forward to another challenge from his former team.

It's not lost on the ex-Rams co-skipper, who is on debut here, that the Hawks have displaced the Rams from the top four rungs.

Rusbatch reckons it'll be a different challenge for Canterbury at the PG Arena because the vocal support from Cowles Stadium will not be there.

The Christchurch clash was a vital one with Coronel considering it one to define the parameters of the Final Four with no love lost on either side. The Rams, he had said, had got "a little bit sulky", something they needed to be if they were going to change the nature of the game.

Ironically the Hawks had displaced the Rams from fourth to fifth rung of the NBL ladder in that match as well.

In keeping with the pinch and a punch for the first day of the month, Kenny and swingman Dion Prewster had put Rams' leading points scorer, Xavier Thames, on a leash.

Tonight they won't have to worry about Thames because he is reportedly on leave to exchange wedding vows.

Ray Cowells III, who played for Mike Pero Nelson Giants and made the All Star 5 two seasons ago, has assumed the mantle of little general after making his debut in their 102-91 loss to the Giants in Christchurch last Saturday.

Of course, trying to stop the bloke who's come here from competing in the top league in France will be another item on the agenda, considering he averaged 25.7 points a game in 2016.

But winning on one's home turf is never a given and the Hawks won't need to be reminded.

That invoice came on June 23 when the Alonzo Burton-skippered Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs came here, pushed the envelope into extra time after they were locked 83-83 before putting on a don't-argue fend for a 90-84 victory.

While Australian import centre Angus Brandt was away in Boomers' duty across the ditch that day, Rusbatch doesn't think that's why the Hawks had succumbed.

He was in Jamie Skeen's corner, echoing the sentiments of the American import forward that it was criminal to scrimmage well during the week but take one's foot off the throat of the opposition when the points were there to be taken.

" ... if we somehow lost a game that we shouldn't lose then it can become a big thing at the end of the season."

How referees Dallas Pickering, Sam Pan and Rhys Hamilton conduct their affairs is anyone's guess but the Hawks will be mindful to remain composed when the opposition start reaching for the knuckle-dusters in the lanes of contention.

Ethan Rusbatch touches down at Cowles Stadium after dropping a three-point bomb against the Rams in Christchurch on June 1. Photo / Photosport
Ethan Rusbatch touches down at Cowles Stadium after dropping a three-point bomb against the Rams in Christchurch on June 1. Photo / Photosport

Rusbatch, who was playing against his former side in Christchurch for the first time in Hawks tribal colours, had enjoyed some "home fan" support there but tonight the PG Arena faithful will give him enough fuel to strive for a player of the week stint in round six when he scored 22 points and made nine assists.

The former New Zealand Under-18 captain, who stands at 1.96m, has won national crowns in 2009 and 2011 in age-group teams for Canterbury.

The ex-Cashmere High School pupil was a development player with the New Zealand Breakers during the 2016-17 Australian NBL but the franchise didn't retain him after he reached the age threshold last year.

He began his career in 2012 with the Southland Sharks after a year studying and playing for Lincoln Trail College in the United States in 2010-11. He spent a year with the Mountainairs before settling with the Rams from 2014.

Rusbatch made an extended 23-man Tall Blacks squad for their Fiba World Cup qualifier against South Korea in Wellington last November but missed out on the trip away overseas with New Zealand coach Paul Henare.

While Rusbatch is disappointed again in missing out on the Tall Blacks' World Championship-qualifying campaign a fortnight ago he sees it as another opportunity to revisit his template.

However, he says Henare and his stable had justified their selections with the wins.

"I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't make it but I thought I'll just have to put myself in a better situation to make it."

Rusbatch says he had discussions with Henare on what things to work on so when the next window of opportunity beckons it'll be a good time to put his hand up again.