The Hawke's Bay Hawks chalked up an eighth successive win in the R10 dose of Thursday Night Lights in the Sal's NBL, taking care of business against the Nelson Giants 98-90, but it took another masterclass show from Brandon Bowman to get the job done.
Playing for their season, the Giants were gallant in defeat and literally fell out of contention only in the last minute of the game. The visitors led by as much as 8pts at one stage and did more than enough throughout to keep the Hawks fans on edge.
Yet again the Giants got off to a hot start, as they have done so many times this season. Up 27-22 after the first 10 minutes, Coach Fitchett's chargers were on top across areas of the game, while the Hawks, for a third straight week, just couldn't land shots.
With the game see-sawing during the second half it was always going to take something special to break it open and that touch of class came from one of the league's hottest stars - Brandon Bowman.
With his team struggling to nail shots (40%), Bowman opened the game up with some amazing highlights, including a 6/8 return from beyond the arc (75%).
Bowman's 32pts and 11rbs proved to be the difference in an otherwise tight game.
Mika Vukona delivered his best game since returning for the Giants, a timely performance on the back of selection in the Tall Blacks World Cup squad earlier in the day.
Daniel Kickert returned for the Hawks from recent injury and slotted straight back in with another conservative 20pts, while EJ Singler's season continues to go from strength to strength.
While the win essentially ensures a Final 4 appearance for the Hawks, the loss all but spells the end of any finals aspirations the Giants may have had.
Hawke's Bay Hawks 98 defeated Nelson Giants 90
Hawks - Brandon Bowman 32pts & 11rbs, EJ Singler 21pts, Daniel Kickert 20pts.
Giants - Rhys Vague 16pts & 14rbs, Tyrell Harrison 15pts, Dan Grida 14pts, Jordair Jett 14pts.
Stats That Matter - the Giants continue to struggle from the charity stripe, this time going 9/18 in an 8pt game.
TAB MVP Votes - Brandon Bowman (Hawks) 10, Mika Vukona (Giants) 8, EJ Singler (Hawks) 6, Rhys Vague (Giants) 4, Daniel Kickert (Hawks) 2.
(Photo credit: PhotosportNZ)