The Taylor Hawks have furthered their playoff hopes with a gritty 84-78 win over the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams.
It was always going to be a tight battle between the two teams with the Hawks only holding a one game lead over the Rams at the fourth spot. But tonight the Hawks were able to extend their position, and most importantly have the tiebreak advantage over the Rams which means if the Hawks finish with the same record as the Rams then they will finish ahead.
Dion Prewster scored a team high 22 points, which included a deep three at the top of the key which pushed the Hawks lead to four with a minute left. Both Jarrod Kenny and Ethan Rusbatch would also hit big shots in the fourth quarter, each scoring 15.
Angus Brandt would add 16 points despite being frequently double-teamed by the Rams. The Australian centre would make the right play by finding the open three point shooter, but overall the Hawks were not able to capitalise, shooting only 6-28 from three.
Julian Williams-Washburn led the Rams in scoring with 28 points, and centre Michael Karena proved to be a handful on the block tonight with 15 points. Canterbury were again without point guard Xavier Thames, so Winston Shepard III played more of a point forward role tonight, tallying a triple double of 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
It is the fourth straight loss for the Rams who now drop to 7-8. They will finish their regular season with games against the Go Media Jets (tomorrow), Sharks and Hawks. The Hawks (8-6) schedule will be against the Rangers, Jets, Hawks and Airs. The Hawks can clinch a playoff spot if they win two more games, or if they win one more and the Rams drop a game.
In New Plymouth, a strong fourth quarter by the SIT Zerofees Sharks has given them a 112-105 win over the Augusta Airs. Orlando Coleman had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and both Reuben Te Rangi and Conor Morgan added 17 for the Sharks who go to 11-3.
All season the Airs have been plagued with injuries and tonight they without their leading scorer, Javonte Douglas.
But a quick start from the home side would see them lead by as many as 11 points. The Airs would hold a three point lead heading into the fourth. But unlike the week before when the Airs scored 31 points in the fourth against Wellington, it was the Sharks who piled on the points, outscoring the home side 32-22.
Alonzo Burton scored 26 points which included 6-10 from three, and point guard Houston O’Riley had a season high 22 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Dane Brooks continued his late run of form with 18 points, starting in place of Douglas. For the majority of the season the Airs have struggled offensively, but tonight their 105 points was a season high, which include 16-33 (48%) from three.
But unforunelyt for the Airs, the depth of the Sharks would be too much as they collect their fourth straight and nine of their last ten.
The Sharks will now have an extended break on the road before they play the Go Media Jets on Sunday at 1pm. The Airs will travel down to Wellington to play the Cigna Saints on Saturday.
Week 12: Thursday, July 7
At Pettigrew Green Arena, Napier
Taylor Hawks 84 (Dion Prewster 22, Angus Brandt 16, Jarrod Kenny 15, Ethan Rusbatch 15)
The Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams 78 (Julian Williams-Washburn 28, Michael Karena 15, Ray Cowels 13)
At TSB Stadium, New Plymouth
Augusta Mountainairs 105 (Alonzo Burton 26, Houston O’Riley 22, Dane Brooks 18, Xavier Smith 18)
SIT Zerofees Sharks 112 (Orlando Coleman 27, Reuben Te Rangi 17, Conor Morgan 17)