They come in different shapes, sizes and shades — underdogs, that is — and world heavyweight boxing upstart Anthony Ruiz Jnr had lent credence to that only last weekend.

Not that coach Zico Coronel and his Taylor Corporation Hawks needed any reminding after Manawatu Jets counterpart Tim McTamney let his emotionally wounded species out of the dog house in Napier tonight.

The Daishon Knight-captained Jets had stunned the hosts, emphatically taking the first quarter 25-17 just to remind them they had nothing to lose.

The visitors were, after all, coming off a 92-75 victory over the Taranaki Mountainairs in Palmerston North the night before to pick themselves off the canvas as the last-placed team in the National Basketball League (NBL) campaign.

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Frankly Manawatu, coming back from the dead, have had a reputation as the slippery banana-skin side for the Hawks over the years. It's a smaller provincial mentality that the green army from the other side of the now defunct gorge wear like a badge of honour.

Coronel had predicted the Jets were the best of the last-placed sides and, if nothing, the visitors brought out the razzle-dazzle aspects to perhaps expose a nail-biting system more than the Hawks would have liked before the Final Four in Christchurch next month.

That mark of respect came a shade under two minutes remaining in the game when Coronel rolled out seasoned bench boys Everard Bartlett and Darryl Jones with Jamal Mikaio, James Levings, Nick Fee and Dominic McGovern in the 106-79 victory that didn't reflect the entertainment value the 70 per cent-packed arena lapped up.

However, the Jarrod Kenny-led Hawks had no choice but to come out to play in the second spell as both sides traded blows at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, in round nine of the NBL.

Man-of-the-match Ethan Rusbatch echoed Coronel's sentiments that they never intended to let their guards down.

"They've had close games against quality teams and beat Southland so we didn't come into it thinking we were going to blow them over straight away," Rusbatch said, adding while it took longer to get into the act they did in the second half and stuck to their guns.

"As long as we look at the scoreboard at the end of the match and get the result we want then we've done a good job," said the Tall Black, happy to send the PG Arena faithful away with another victory.

What other playoff contenders will note is that, again, the Hawks did the job without Australian import centre Daniel Kickert.

Hawks swingman Dion Prewster goes up for a basket as Manawatu Jets point guard Daishon Knight tries to defend in Napier tonight. Photo / Paul Taylor
Hawks swingman Dion Prewster goes up for a basket as Manawatu Jets point guard Daishon Knight tries to defend in Napier tonight. Photo / Paul Taylor

"We all feed off each other so it gives us all a bit of energy and excitement," said Rusbatch, who claimed a match-high 29 points and six rebounds.

While the marquee players harboured a desire to play the entire game, the intention was always to use the bench.

"They're definitely playing a part in the game without being on the court," he said.

On the account of some incisive plays from the big boys, Kenny simply flicked on the switches although the three-point, fast-paced brand of basketball Coronel is adopting has to make allowances for some road kill.

It's one thing to roll over when pressure mounts and another to keep throwing punches when the knuckle dusters come out. To their credit, the Jets didn't flinch for the most part.

The Hawks claimed the second spell 29-16, going into the changing rooms for a sobering huddle and a 46-41 lead.

The third quarter had more sparks with power forward Brandon Bowman adding to a rash of dunks and fellow US import small forward EJ Singler weaving his way inside the driving lanes for baskets.

Rusbatch and Dion Prewster were ideal cogs in the wheel, turning transition plays into a boot camp for Manawatu as the Hawks wrapped up that spell 24-20 to extend the lead to 70-61.

With that breathing space, the Hawks blew some feathers into the propellers of the Jets who were fast losing altitude in the final quarter, going down 36-18.

Hawks power forward Brandon Bowman puts his head down for some purchase in the driving lane as Manawatu Jets player Taane Samuels defends in Napier tonight. Photo / Paul Taylor
Hawks power forward Brandon Bowman puts his head down for some purchase in the driving lane as Manawatu Jets player Taane Samuels defends in Napier tonight. Photo / Paul Taylor

Bowman claimed a double-double 25 points, 16 rebounds and five assists while Singler matched him with 23 points, a dozen off the boards and five assists.

For the Jets, Knight claimed 21 points while Wallace Ellenson joined the double-double club with 17 points and 10 rebounds and forward Shane Temara added 10 points.

It was hard to ignore the Hawks' 40.5 per cent success from outside the arc while the Jets came up shy with 16.7 in a game where the lead changed 11 times and the scores were tied four times.

McTamney said things were getting a bit out of hand for his troops at the end of the third spell, considering they had played the night before.

"It took its toll. We ran out of steam in the fourth so there's no questions about that and they piled up a few points," he said, adding he wasn't disappointed considering the Hawks played that brand all the time.

"We stayed with them for a long time, probably more than most teams would especially under the circumstances.

"The bottom line is you have to make shots against them otherwise they're rebounding and running."

McTamney lamented his men missing too many look-ins for threes, suspecting fatigue was a factor for his young guns.

"By the fourth, I think, we'd lost our legs a little bit and they put the points on us so it's a little disappointing."

Manawatu Jets coach Tim McTamney says the refereeing at the PG Arena, Napier, left him confused, just as it had done the night before in the win over Taranaki Mountainairs. Photo / Photosport
Manawatu Jets coach Tim McTamney says the refereeing at the PG Arena, Napier, left him confused, just as it had done the night before in the win over Taranaki Mountainairs. Photo / Photosport

However, McTamney said the refereeing — Dallas Pickering, Sherhon Martin, Duran Whiu — still confused him.

"Every coach in the league will say the same," he said. "Even last night, when we won easily, I still couldn't understand half of what went on. I just want to know what the hell they're trying to do because it's getting messy and they get easily flustered."

McTamney said that perhaps smacked of inexperience which meant coaches had to let them go away and grow into the portfolios.

He gave the Hawks a big thumbs-up.

"I like them a lot and I'm rooting for them," McTamney said with a grin.

The Hawks, who have only lost to leaders Wellington Saints and the Canterbury Rams, host the Nelson Giants in a 7pm tip off on Thursday next week.