Auckland Tuatara extended their advantage at the top of the Sal’s NBL ladder after defeating the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks 99-88 at Pettigrew Green Arena on Saturday evening.
When the two teams met in Round 4 last month the Hawks inflicted on the Tuatara their only defeat of the season to date. On the back of dominant displays from big man Chris Johnson (21 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocks) and point guard Siler Schneider the Auckland outfit were able to turn the tables on their hosts.
Schneider had his most impactful game of the season, threatening a triple-double with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Teenage guard Dontae Russo-Nance tallied 20 points, his best return of the season, and Rob Loe 20.
After suffering early foul trouble Derone Raukawa led the Hawks effort with 19 points (5 from 8 threes) and Jordan Hunt totaled 17 but the Hawks will rue a dreadful start to the fourth quarter when they failed to score for five minutes. In that time the visitors stretched a one point advantage to fifteen, too big a margin for the Hawks to claw back.
The feature of the opening quarter was the match up between opposing import centres Johnson and Tajuan Agee. Johnson had 9 points at the first break and Agee 6 points as the two teams were locked at 25 points each.
Hunt scored the first 7 points of the second frame for the Hawks but their transition defence was found wanting as the Tuatara ran in nine unanswered points to move out to a 45-37 lead.
The play of the first half came in the final five seconds before the buzzer – a typically penetrative Hyrum Harris drive was rejected at the ring by Johnson for his fifth block of the contest.
Derek Albertsen was a spark off the bench for the home team but opposing guards Schneider and Russo-Nance had 15 points and 14 respectively as the Tuatara led 53-42 headed to the locker room.
Harris, held to a single point in the opening twenty minutes, scored the first Hawks points after the restart and with Derone Raukawa making back to back triples the Tuatara lead was reduced to 6 points.
The Hawks defensive intensity was troubling the Tuatara and when Quinton Bailey dropped a corner three the difference was a single point - still the difference at three-quarter time (71-70).
With the Hawks enduring that five minute scoring drought, the Tuatara took advantage by scoring 14 unanswered points - capped by a Loe triple.
Raukawa finally broke the duck but Loe broke Hawks hearts with a trey from NBA range. Five quick points from the Hawks made it 90-77 with three minutes to play to prompt a Tuatara timeout.
There was time for Raukawa to make his fifth triple of the game but the visitors had little trouble holding their double digit lead and claim a sixth win of the season ahead of a Queens Birthday home encounter with the Jets.
The Hawks (5-3) have five days off before hosting the struggling Sharks (2-5).
SCORE: Hawks 88, Tuatara 99
Hawks: Raukawa 19 PTS & 4 ASSISTS | Hunt 17 PTS | Bailey 12 PTS | Kenny 12 PTS | Rusbatch 10 PTS
Tuatara: Johnson 21 PTS, 8 REBS & 7 BLOCKS | Russo-Nance 21 PTS | Schneider 20 PTS, 9 REBS & 7 ASSISTS | LOE 20 PTS | Fahrensohn 10 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Chris Johnson (Tuatara) - 9 votes
Siler Schneider (Tuatara) - 8 votes
Dontae Russo-Nance (Tuatara) - 5 votes
Hyrum Harris (Hawks) - 4 votes
Jordan Hunt (Hawks) - 2 votes
Derone Raukawa (Hawks) - 2 votes
Hawks – June 9 vs. Southland Sharks
Tuatara – June 6 vs. Manawatu Jets
Round 6 Sal's NBL Schedule