Two things were never in doubt when the Hawks played their final game of the regular season in Napier tonight.
Firstly, the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise were going to beat the Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs resoundingly, which they did, 105-72.
Secondly, you can never understate the significance of a big man in the mould of Angus Brandt in the Sal's Pizza National Basketball League.
Taranaki coach Trent Adams and his co-assistants, David Bublitz and Andrew Green, did everything, including applying pressure on referees Yalla Edwards, Tayla Ammunson and
Sherhon Martin, but to no avail.
Minus Boomer centre Brandt, tonight the relatively same team turned up but with a different attitude to the one that had lost 90-87 in overtime here on May 4.
In fairness to the Mountainairs, they were missing two American imports, Javonte Douglas, who had injured his knee, and Roger Woods, recovering from concussion.
However, all that doesn't detract from the fact that another victory would have been beyond the visitors although the score perhaps wouldn't have been a blow out against the Final Four-bound Hawks.
It also was a resounding endorsement that Hawks coach Zico Coronel, in his debut as head coach in the NBL, loves playing cat-and-mouse games.
Veteran shooting guard Everard Bartlett also showed he was hitting boiling point when he claimed a game-high 30 points, including 10 out of 14 baskets from downtown (71 per cent).
"That's pretty decent, isn't it?" said Bartlett when told of his statistics. "Look, whatever I was throwing in tonight was going in but I just hope that goes on to the next game where it really matters."
The grinning former Tall Black, who was playing his 201st NBL game tonight, said he should have scored his game-high points in the 200th one when they beat the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams 85-76 in Christchurch last night.
"Yeah, it's a milestone that [I] have achieved and I'm fortunate to have done that in a career that spans 10 or 11 years so I'm hoping I can continue playing in the next couple of years."
Fourth qualifiers Hawks play 2018 premiership and defending champions Cigna Wellington Saints in the first semifinal at TSB Bank Arena in the capital city in the 5pm tip-off on Saturday next week before the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks and Mike Pero Nelson Giants decide who will be in the 5pm final a day later.
"Next week is all about which team is performing at that time. It's one-game elimination so we want to be peaking at that time," said Bartlett, after the Hawks ended their regular season with a 12-6 record to make a playoffs comeback for the first time since 2014.
The 32-year-old Bay-born said they had all week to prepare for the semifinal.
Bartlett was a player in the 2006 Shawn Dennis-coached Hawks team who have won the only NBL crown and he yearned for nothing more than another NBL title next weekend.
"That'll be the icing on the cake for me. That's what I want, more than anything," he said selflessly.
Hyrum Harris contributed 18 points for the victors to offer snapshot of the depth on the bench, which yielded 58 points.
Brandt added another double-double 16 points and 11 rebounds within an 18-minute stint to show why Coronel had signed up the Australian National Basketball League champion on his NZNBL debut.
It took 90 seconds before Airs skipper Alonzo Burton posted the first points of the game on the electronic scoreboard.
The visitors set the pace until two minutes to go when the hosts nudged ahead 18-17 before finishing 22-19 for the quarter.
Soon after eclipsing the halfway mark in the second spell, the Hawks had opened a 10-point gulf to show why they are Final Four contenders.
Hawks player Mitchell Newton, seconds later, showed why, when you have a look in, you must pull the trigger and not be in two minds. He lost possession in the driving lane after hesitating.
However, the Hawks went into the locker room 52-36 ahead, the 30-17 statement showing they were peaking.
Hawks skipper Jarrod Kenny and his men came out slow at the start of the third quarter as Taranaki closed the deficit to 10 points midway through.
But they regathered after a timeout and, with four minutes to go, swingman Ethan Rusbatch had the PG Arena faithful in a euphoric state with a one-handed dunk.
It was a false dawn for the visitors as the Hawks put an end to any rot setting in with a 77-51 (25-15) lead to end the 10-minute spell.
With five minutes left on the clock in the final quarter, the Hawks had passed the 100-point mark to a roof-lifting roar from a bomb dropped from the carpark.
The last two minutes were gifted to all the bench boys for some razzle-dazzle stuff before lodging a final statement of 28-21.
"For a lot of our players tonight it was their first introduction to the NBL so going in trying to play a playoffs team was always going to be tough but I'm really proud of the boys," said Taranaki skipper Burton, of Napier.
"It's not really a reflection of the score but I love the effort they gave so being the captain this year I couldn't have asked for anything more," Burton said.
Lone US import Xavier Smith top scored with 18 for Taranaki, with Dane Brooks adding 17 and Burton 14 as they notched up their seventh consecutive loss to finish their season on a three win, 15 defeat record.
They face the ignominy of finishing as cellar dwellers for the second consecutive winter unless 2 Cheap Supercity Rangers beat Go Media Jets tomorrow.