It was always about becoming the architects of their Final Four ambitions and the Hawks didn't stray from coach Zico Coronel's blueprint in Napier tonight.

Captain Jarrod Kenny, claiming the player of the match honours, led the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke's Bay to a composed 84-78 victory against the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, in week 12 of the Sal's Pizza National Basketball League match.

"It shows a lot of good signs for our team because obviously it was must-win game for us which gives us the split on Canterbury," said Australian import Angus Brandt in a game where the physicality stakes didn't boil over as it did in Christchurch.

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Brandt said he found the physicality in the NBL here tough at first but was slowly becoming accustomed to it.

"I'm used to it now so there's no surprises there," he said after returning from Boomers' international duty in the Philippines where the game has come under scrutiny and Fiba's ruling is pending next week.

The centre, who cannot talk about the international game, revealed he struggled with the officiating in the NBL here in his debut season.

"The refs put away the whistle for a lot of physical stuff, which is fine, but I've just got adjust to it," he said. "I think I'm doing a better job now that I'm back."

Brandt said the Hawks had improved so much because only a month ago to close out a game like tonight wasn't easy with all the runs and ebbs and flows.

He felt the win tonight would make their run to the playoffs early next month much easier but resting on their laurels wasn't an option.

'We have to go out next weekend to make sure we get the job done because we have a double header so we basically need to win to get there so we can rest."

Brandt singled out bench player Hyrum Harris in a game where he felt everyone stepped to make a contribution.

"Dion [Prewster] came in with big guns, JK [Kenny] came in big but Hyrum, I thought, had a great game off the bench and Jamie [Skeen] was doing good things so collectively it was a great team effort and win.

"It shows how far we've come towards the end of the season and, hopefully, towards the playoffs."

The Hawks started with some zest and intent from the tip-off, something that wasn't a given in their previous two games at home, on the platform of solid defence.

They set the pace but the Rams levelled with two minutes on the clock before pushing ahead from the charity line and a three-pointer from US import Julian Williams-Washburn to close the account in the visitors' favour, 22-18, in the first quarter.

Neither Coronel nor Rams counterpart Mark Dickel saw the need to call a timeout.

Ex-Ram Ethan Rusbatch shot from downtown to help narrow the deficit when play resumed with the Southerners streaking ahead before the sides were locked 25-25, 7:30 into the second spell.

Canterbury captain Tony Tolovae, a former Hawk, was in the thick of everything as the sides were locked 29-29 again with 4:30 left on the clock.

Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny calls the shots on the way to claiming the player of the match award in Napier tonight. Photo / Duncan Brown
Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny calls the shots on the way to claiming the player of the match award in Napier tonight. Photo / Duncan Brown

While veteran shooting guard Everard Bartlett surfaced as the go-to man for the hosts with a successive basket and three-pointer but rebounding also emerged as a key factor for both sides.

Harris also was making his presence felt as the Hawks surged to a 38-31 lead with a minute to go.

Dickel scratched his head in frustration and it was time for a second huddle in the quarter. But the coaches weren't done. With six seconds remaining it was another timeout.

The sides went into the locker rooms with the Hawks 39-38 ahead after Rams guard Tomas Higgins dropped one from the carpark.

The third quarter began with more fervour. The Rams bench were up and down like yo-yos, clapping and cheering every basket, block and error from the Hawks.

With 4:35 to go, Dickel gave his skipper a pat on the back as the Rams led 51-45.

Kenny dropped a bomb from the bottom of the D and Bartlett intercepted and it was game on as the Hawks narrowed the gap to trail 50-51.

As the Hawks nudged ahead 52-51 Prewster and Winston Shepard III engaged in the first body check but, to the delight of the PG Arena faithful, the call went the way of the hosts.

With one minute to go, Harris hustled like a farmer at the Stortford Lodge salesyard in defence to help regain possession but Kenny squandered only for Rams terrier Taylor Britt to punish the hosts.

However, the Hawks ended the spell 59-56 ahead.

The final quarter opened with some solid defence from the Hawks with Brandt showing why he is the envy of any NBL coach.

It was a miss (Bartlett), hit (Kenny), miss (Bartlett) that set the tone for a 64-61 lead as the sides went to their benches for another pep talk with 6:37 to go.

Swingman Dion Prewster top scored for the Hawks tonight. Photo / Duncan Brown
Swingman Dion Prewster top scored for the Hawks tonight. Photo / Duncan Brown

A Rusbatch three-pointer had Dickel shaking his head in disbelief but the Rams replied with two quick baskets to close the gulf to 67-65.

It became a little caustic again as Shepard III and Harris had a heated exchange.

It was time for the Hawks bench to pump and jam as Brandt thwarted an attack, prompting the Rams to call a timeout with 4:14 left on the clock and the Hawks leading 69-67.

Williams-Washburn dropped a bomb, turned to the bench and expressed himself as referee Dallas Pickering stopped play to call Coronel to caution his bench.

A Tolovae dunk helped the visitors to nudge ahead 72-71.

Sensing the urgency, the Hawks snatched back the lead before Prewster landed a shot from downtown for a 78-74 buffer with 1:11 left.


Result: Taylor Corp Hawks 84 (Dion Prewster 22pts, 5 reb, 4 asts; Angus Brandt 16pt, 9 reb; Ethan Rusbatch 15pts, 5 reb; Jarrod Kenny 15pts) Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams 78 (Julian Williams-Washburn 28pts, 9 reb; Michael Karena 15pts, 7 reb; Ray Cowels 13pts; Winston Shepard III 10pts, 11 reb, 11 asts).

Quarters (Hawks first): 1st 18-22. 2nd 39-38 (21-16). 3rd 59-56 (20-18). 4th 84-78 (25-22).