The Augusta Taranaki Mountain Airs battled hard against the Hawkes Bay Hawks at the TSB stadium in New Plymouth last night.
Airs Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Brad Anderson both showed great leadership and commitment as each team battled for the lead.
The lead changed 13 times and was tied a further seven in the tightly contested game. The Hawks came out the victor 118 – 90 in the final minutes of the game.
Captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell said he found the loss frustrating.
“It is the same things that have been haunting us over these 5 loses that we have had. It’s the execution down the stretch and playing defence.
“I thought Sulieman showed why he’s the all star 5 in the MVP. He really took over the game but we could have stepped up as a team defensively. Another one down and we just have to go back to the drawing board.”
“It felt like a really tight game. I thought it could have got away on us a couple of times. They pulled out to a double digital lead at one stage. So showing true fight we know how to fight back but it’s just getting over the hump and getting the win.
“I always try and lead by example and hope that it rubs off on the guys. It’s a game of 40 minutes. We showed that we are right there but we can’t get over the hump.”
The win was there for the Airs on paper as they only hit 11 of 21 of their free throws along with 37 of 76 of their field goals. The Hawks hit 25 of 30 of their free throws and scored 33 of 58 of their field goals.
Airs Aaron Fuller scored a game high of 28 points and team mate Brad Anderson added 20 points. Dyson King-Hawea made an impressive impact on the game scoring 13 points, four assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals as he read the game well.
“I love being with the Mountain Airs and it gets me good experience against these teams,” said King-Hawea.
“Aaron (Bailey-Nowell) pushes us heaps, he pumps us up and gets onto us if we are doing something wrong.
“I feel I could have done a lot better to be honest. I missed free throws and I’m not happy about that. I decided to be aggressive in the second half and that paid off.”
At the end of three quarter time the Airs were behind by three points.
Early in the fourth quarter Bailey-Nowell received his fourth foul, Derek Albertson sunk a three pointer and Dane Brooks turned into superman as he leapt and executed a great block. The Mountain Airs were fighting hard.
Suddenly the Airs got three good fast breaks thanks to Brad Anderson, Chris Hagan and Dyson King-Hawea. The huge home crowd went crazy as they thought the Airs might just do it.
Then Braimoh hit full strength and pulled down a vital rebound and slotted one of his famous three pointers. He added 21 points to the scoreboard and executed 14 rebounds during the game shattering the Airs points run.
Airs Assistant Coach Willie Banks said the Hawks played a really good game.
“We can always try and look for excuses but at the end of the day we have to give it to the Hawks. Sulei came in and played really well in the end. When he needed to turn it on for his team he did and we didn’t have an answer for that unfortunately.
“Our young fellas came on and they did a great job for us. We just tried to go with experience more than our young fellas and I don’t know whether that hurt us or helped us in the end. But again we are a team and we win as a team or lose as a team and that is how we look at it and how we approach the game.
“Hopefully one of these games the ball will fall for us. It just seemed like everything just kept popping out. It didn’t fall for us our free throw count was 11 of 21.
“They had 18 turnovers and we had 8. We didn’t capitalise on those extra 10 turnovers that we got from them. The other glaring part for us, that we have tried to work on, but is still not there yet, is our transition – going back from offence to defence. That is how they got easy layups.
“That’s something that we have to learn as a team is that we have to get back on defence and not just stand there and pat ourselves on the back but actually stop them from scoring.”
Hawks : 118 – Sulieman Braimoh : 21, Marco Alexander : 18, Zack Atkinson : 12, Alonzo Burton : 12
Airs : 90- Aaron Fuller : 28, Brad Anderson : 20, Aaron Bailey-Nowell : 14, Dyson King-Hawea : 13