Oppositions playing the Hawks on their turf in the National Basketball League must feel like the good buggers in a horror movie this season.

Just as they look like they're moving out of harm's way, the villains start popping out of every nook and cranny to heap untold misery on them and, ultimately, death at the end of the 40 minutes of orchestrated torment.

That was the plot again in the theatre of basketball dreams in Napier when the Taylor Corporation Hawks beat the Nelson Giants 98-90 tonight although it wasn't Friday but Thursday the 13th.

The scenes were reminiscent of a yesteryear when crowds rode the emotional roller coaster and tonight was no exception for those who braved the inclement weather to savour the highs and lows that will hone into their deepest and innermost fears.


Consequently Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny and his cast are unbeaten at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, this season, losing only twice on the road — to the Wellington Saints and the Canterbury Rams.

That, of course, will be put to a litmus test when coach Zico Coronel's men host title favourites Wellington on Saturday next week but, for now, this award-nominated winter series has all the key ingredients for a season finale that should do better than the Game of Thrones.

Riveted to their seats, the PG Arena faithful lapped up their protagonists' performance at every turning point in what is already a safe passage to the Final Four in Christchurch late next month so a loss to the Saints or the Rams (Thursday, July 11) shouldn't rob the second-placed contenders of their believable factor.

Giants captain Samuel Dempster and his men's path is a rocky one but they did themselves proud in a do-or-die like stint in round 10 although, predictably, it was macabre at times.

The teams were tied seven times and the lead changed hands six times although excruciatingly painful for Nelson who held it for 19:34 minutes (to the Hawks' 16:36) and still unable to pull it off.

The knuckle dusters were definitely out. American import small forward EJ Singler was left pinching his nose with just 30 seconds left in the first quarter and bench swingman Dion Prewster either checking a fat lip or trying to ensure his tooth wasn't too loose from an elbow sandwich in a hustle in the third quarter.

But then you come to expect that when Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona comes off the bench to drive through the lanes. He also had ruffled the feather of sharpshooter Ethan Rusbatch who scored just 13 points tonight.

The hosts had responded, rolling stocky forward Darryl Jones off the bench in the dying seconds of the first spell which culminated in Nelson guard Thomas Ingham finding himself under a corporate table next to the hoop.


The Hawks had their trademark slow start, down 7-0 before US import power forward Brandon Bowman brought the house down with a three from the top of the D after two minutes into the first quarter to trail 22-28 at the buzzer.

"We always start out slow so that's something we've got to work on but, for the most part, as the game progresses we get more under ourselves to get our lanes going," said Bowman who finished with a match-high 32 points and took 11 rebounds for yet another double-double.

With 4:53 left on the clock in the second quarter, the Hawks had levelled 32-32.

The defining moment was Nelson coach Mike Fitchett, hands up in a defensive stance, giving umpire Ryan Jones some grief over a decision that went against the Giants only to find minutes later Singler putting up the burglar bars on import guard Daniel Grida for a turnover under the hoop.

However, towering Tyrell Harrison got a high five from Bowman for hanging tough on the hoop to fix it after putting it out of alignment after a dunk.

That spell went to the Hawks, 21-13, as the sides headed into the changing rooms with the hosts leading 43-41.

Bowman said Nelson was a good team, way better than their record showed with just one win since the Hawks had beaten them at Trafalgar Centre.

"They've got heaps better so it was a good test for us," he said, feeling the Giants' "championship qualities" had brought out the character in the Hawks as well.

"They had something on the line [playoffs] so we knew that coming into the game," he said. "I'm glad we ended up [winning] and the guys are happy about that so we've just got to come out to play like that next week."

It's a case of who dares win with Hawks point guard Jarrod Kenny and Giants counterpart Jordair Jett at the PG Arena, Napier, tonight. Photo/Photosport
It's a case of who dares win with Hawks point guard Jarrod Kenny and Giants counterpart Jordair Jett at the PG Arena, Napier, tonight. Photo/Photosport

The third quarter had a scary look about the first one — the visitors surged ahead but a Bowman dunk put the Hawks back level to 60-all before closing that account on the right side of the ledger with a 22-20 statement and a profit margin of 65-61.

But that wasn't before Fitchett challenged referee Apai Apai and Coronel emulated his counterpart at the other end after it seemed as if the Bay whistle blower was trying to keep both parties happy.

However, the final spell saw the Hawks stretch the lead to 74-68 as Fitchett called a timeout.

It didn't help that Vukona had hobbled off clutching his ankle after two minutes and Fitchett didn't inject him until three minutes were left on the clock.

Bowman said the see-saw game was too long for the Hawks to panic.

"We have guys in our team who have played all over the globe so we're taking our collective IQs to get to know how to play alongside one another in making the best of each situation on the court."

Bowman revealed he had some bruises as well and he had a fair idea of what forward Vukona was capable of when the American had plied his trade for the title-winning Saints.

"He's very physical, big body so we knew what we were getting into and it was going to be a big test for us."

Singler reinforced his quality and consistency with 21 points and seven rebounds while Australia import centre Daniel Kickert looked rusty but still added 20 points to the cause.

"Look, this guy is one of the best I've ever played with," said Bowman who was the only Hawk to clock 40 minutes. "We have three excellent shooters who are at the top of my list of people I've ever played with and I've played [alongside] many."

Kickert, he said, was rested after a niggly back injury but had returned with aplomb once he found his rhythm for 24 minutes of court time.

Nelson forward Tyrell Harrison tries to barge his way past the imposing frame of Hawks centre Daniel Kickert at the PG Arena, Napier, tonight. Photo/Photosport
Nelson forward Tyrell Harrison tries to barge his way past the imposing frame of Hawks centre Daniel Kickert at the PG Arena, Napier, tonight. Photo/Photosport

Vukona said the last fortnight had been a Final Four for the Giants with a must-win tone to their campaign.

"Look, when you've got a guy like Bowman open and he was hot so we just didn't jump quick enough," said the former New Zealand Breakers ANBL title-winning skipper.

"Kickert's class and the way JK's [Tall Black point guard Kenny] running everything right now it's a good team, mate."

Vukona said the Hawks were looking like the NBL favourites right now.

Nelson was a powerful and proud franchise and intended to finish their season the right way.

Putting his injury tonight to "just a tweak", the 37-year-old Brisbane Bullet said he was priming up for the Fiba World Cup tipping off in China in August.

Hawks 98 (Brandon Bowman 32pts, 11 reb; EJ Singler 21pts, 7reb; Daniel Kickert 20pts; Ethan Rusbatch 13pts) Nelson Giants 90 (Rhys Vague 16pts, 14 reb; Tyrell Harrison 15pts; Daniel Grida 14pts; Jordair Jett 14pts; Mika Vukona 13pts, 7reb).

Quarters (Hawks first), 1st: 22-28. 2nd: 43-41 (21-13). 3rd: 65-61 (22-20). Final: 98-90 (33-29).