How the cat is skinned is ultimately the prerogative of those waving the scalpel on a basketball court so it's fair to say the Hawks got a little cute when they opted for a novel route in gutting the opposition in Napier tonight.

You can argue the Taylor Corporation Hawke's Bay franchise team had toyed with the Taranaki Mountainairs in the first half before ending up as the game victors, 101-75, in almost Harlem Globetrotters fashion in round eight of the National Basketball League clash at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale.

It was a stray from tradition — that is, amass points before releasing the fringe players for a frenzied finish against a side they had already beaten home and away. This time it was Hawks coach Zico Coronel injecting bench players intermittently throughout the game although the Airs have to be lauded for prompting him to revert to the starting five when the game started slipping away.

However, it did raise the question of why it was the third time the men in yellow were facing the Hawks who racked up their sixth win on the trot?

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You could be forgiven for thinking captain Jarrod Kenny and his men, sitting second on the NBL ladder, must have felt like the Black Caps who had tamed Sri Lanka at the ICC World Cup in Wales.

"It was good to get the bench out when we get games like this to reward them for their hard work through trainings and the pre-season," said veteran shooting guard Everard Bartlett who dropped four out of six three-pointers for his 14 points, four rebounds and three steals.

A grinning Bartlett said the PG Arena was freezing so it was good to warm his 33-year-old muscles and joints although the ergo bike next to the bench helped immensely.

He saluted the visitors for "putting it all out there on the court".

Bartlett said it didn't bother him how much game time he got because he was sold on the collective mantra of trying to secure the playoffs next month. He said sometimes he was hot and sometimes not but that was part of the territory of coming off the bench.

Within two minutes of the tip off, the scores were locked at 2-all but the signs were ominous for Taranaki. Forward Thane O'Leary had registered an air shot from downtown while the rim had spurned the advances from captain Alonzo Burton from under the rim, not once but twice. All that didn't stop import Christopher Early from trying his luck from the car park.

Hawks bench player Jamal Mkaio looks for a way out as he comes under some attention from Alonzo Burton and Christopher Early in Napier tonight. Photo/Photosport
Hawks bench player Jamal Mkaio looks for a way out as he comes under some attention from Alonzo Burton and Christopher Early in Napier tonight. Photo/Photosport

Were the visitors getting sucked into trying to outplay the Hawks at their own three-point game?

"I thought we did a good job in containing them to make them play half court in the first half and the score reflected that," said Airs coach David Bublitz after Taranaki who were coming off a 114-90 loss to the Southern Huskies from Tasmania, albeit on the back of two successive victories before that.

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Coronel started with his five but broke injected bench boys Darryl Jones, James Levings and Bartlett while ensuring two regulars stayed in the frame. Dion Prewster started in the absence of Australian import centre Daniel Kickert who was predictably rested as they closed the first quarter 31-24.

The Mountainairs did well to keep up with the play, trailing 38-37 midway through the second quarter before levelling 40-all with four minutes remaining.

Hawks small forward EJ Singler made the unimaginable look probable while fellow American import power forward Brandon Bowman employed his vision and incisive passes to shred any optimism the Mountainairs may have tanked up on at the break.

However, it was a harsh reminder that all it took was a momentary lapse of concentration for the opposition to score baskets. A wayward Airs pass, a steal and two blocks later the teams went into the changing rooms with the Hawks leading 50-46 (19-22) and Bublitz satisfied.

Hawks swing man Ethan Rusbatch comes away with the spoils in this tangle with Airs skipper Alonzo Burton. Photo/Photosport
Hawks swing man Ethan Rusbatch comes away with the spoils in this tangle with Airs skipper Alonzo Burton. Photo/Photosport

Not surprisingly the razzle-dazzle returned in the third quarter with the starting five piling on nine unanswered points, within three minutes of play resuming, before the visitors managed to score a basket. Five minutes into the spell, the Hawks had surged to a 66-48 lead.

Burton was a ray of hope with a defensive rebound before threading his way through the spine of the court for a basket but, indubitably it's a team game.

The hosts closed that chapter on a don't-argue, roof-raising, half-court bomb off the board from Bowman to the tune of an 86-53 (36-7) statement on the buzzer.

By the half way stage of the last quarter, the hosts had established a triple-figure score (101-66) and were happy to give the mostly younger players, such as Geoffrey Heather and Jamal Mkaio, some minutes to wind down the clock for a 15-22 spell.

Bublitz agreed the third spell showed the Hawks' class even though the Airs had shots "but missed a lot of bunnies around the rim which led to their transition game".

"Once they got going we kind of fell into that trap ... and playing fast against the guys is not smart," he said, stressing the Airs were missing two point guards, including injured Derone Raukawa who was averaging 19 points a game for them.

"In losing that offensive edge and two floor generals so ... all in all, I think the effort of the boys was awesome."

Bublitz said the hosts were a classy outfit who were playing an amazing brand of basketball for their fans.

He put their third outing against the Hawks as "it is what it is", juxtaposing it with perhaps facing favourites and undefeated Wellington Saints instead.

"I don't mind playing three times against the best and I really believe the Hawks have a good shot at taking the whole thing out, in particular if they continue to play in that way," he said.

Bowman claimed a match-high 27 points and added six rebounds and assists each. Singler claimed a double-double 21 points and 10 rebounds while Ethan Rusbatch added 14 points and Prewster 11.

For the Airs, Burton scored 17 points, Justin Cousin 15 while Oscar Robertson and Dane Brooks chimed in with 11 each, and Early 10.

Hawks bench guard James Levings tries to manoeuvre past Taranaki player Christopher Early at the PG Arena, Napier, tonight. Photo/Photosport
Hawks bench guard James Levings tries to manoeuvre past Taranaki player Christopher Early at the PG Arena, Napier, tonight. Photo/Photosport