The Taylor Bay Hawks have booked their spot in next week's Final 6 with a thrilling 95-87 win over the Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams in overtime.
There was nothing to separate the two teams after the first quarter with the score knotted at 22. The Hawks shot just 7-of-21 from the field in the quarter but hit 3-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc which enabled them to keep pace with the Rams. Tall Blacks Ethan Rusbatch and Hyrum Harris each had seven points in the first, and import Sunday Dech had eight to lead Canterbury.
Another factor in the Hawks sticking with the Rams despite the poor shooting was their work on the offensive glass, reeling in five offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.
The Rams did a good job of taking away the 3-point shot of the Hawks in the second, limiting them to just one attempt in the quarter (a miss) and it enabled them to hold a narrow 41-38 lead at the half. The Hawks had a 13-of-36 clip from the field in the half as their shooting struggles continued to hold them back.
Dech was putting pressure on the defence with 13 first half points and the Rams as a team had just two turnovers, which not only meant good things for their offence but it meant the Hawks weren't able to push the pace and attack in transition - something they've done a good job of this season.
The third quarter saw an uptick in offensive production on both sides but especially for the Hawks, as they managed to increase their shooting percentage to 41% and the Rams shifted down to 38% with an underwhelming shooting effort. Dech managed just two points in the quarter for the Rams, but Matthew Moyer chipped in to keep the score ticking over and had 16 points with one quarter to play.
Rusbatch and Harris continued to lead the scoring for the Hawks with 16 and 15 points, but they were still trailing 66-61 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hawks finally made some inroads in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Rams 21-16 and forcing the first overtime game of the season with the score tied at 82 after 40 minutes of play. It was bucket-for-bucket down the stretch and the Rams had two looks at the hoop in the dying seconds, but the hustle and effort of the Hawks made those looks difficult.
It was the Rams that scored first in overtime, but from that point they really struggled to get consistent buckets and the Hawks made shots when it mattered. They outscored the Rams 13-5 in overtime to seal a spot in the Final 6 next week.
Hyrum Harris was sensational for the Hawks with 25 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and four blocks on 10-of-15 shooting from the field. Ethan Rusbatch scored 19 and Jordan Hunt dropped 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench. The Hawks, despite their struggles in recent weeks, are a legitimate threat to contend for the title and will be heading to Auckland confident after a gritty win.
The Rams shot just 36% in the game and 8-of-31 from outside. Their lack of shot making in the second half really hurt them, and that became magnified in overtime when shot making is even more crucial. American big man Matthew Moyer has been stellar over recent weeks for the Rams and he turned in another solid line with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Sunday Dech didn't score in the fourth or overtime for the Rams, finishing with 15.
All six teams have now been determined for the Final 6 - the Airs, Giants, Tuatara, Saints, Hawks & Nuggets - with seeding still to be determined over the remaining two games of Round 15.
SCORE: Hawks 95, Rams 87
Hawks: Harris 25 PTS, 11 REB, 4 BLK | Rusbatch 19 PTS | Hunt 18 PTS, 9 REB
Rams: Moyer 25 PTS, 11 REB | Dech 15 PTS | Austin Jr. 12 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Hyrum Harris (Hawks) - 10 votes
Jordan Hunt (Hawks) - 7 votes
Matthew Moyer (Rams) - 6 votes
Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) - 4 votes
Sunday Dech (Rams) - 3 votes
Round 15 Sal's NBL Schedule