The Augusta Taranaki Mountain Airs’ typical hard-grinding game play rattled the Manawatu Jets in New Plymouth on Saturday night.
Unfortunately for the Airs the 108 – 96 loss means they remain without a win so far this season leaving Coach Daryn Shaw to head back to the drawing board.
“The effort is certainly there but it is just being consistent as a team. We have our defensive principals. We don’t want to be beaten to the middle. Some people drive to the middle. We want to force them to the side line or the base line. I know they are trying to do it but it’s just the lapses. We just need to be more consistent. We have to find a way to be more consistent and not patchy.”
Assistant Coach Willie Banks added “We have to have the energy on defence that we have on offence.”
The Airs took 33 rebounds with the Jets 35 and the Airs had 22 points off the bench whereas the Jets had 33.
The biggest lead went to the Jets with 18 but the Airs ground back to have Chris Hagan take a seven point scoring run.
“I’m far from 100% yet but I am just trying to inspire my team mates and play hard. That’s pretty much all I can do right now.
“I really like my team. I enjoy my team mates, my coaches and the city. It is a beautiful place to be. If we can win some games everything would be great.
“It’s not good when it doesn’t go your way but one thing you can’t do is stop fighting. You just can’t stop fighting no matter what and that’s what we are trying to do here, even though it doesn’t always turn out how we want it to.”
The Airs had moments of brilliance and came storming back at the Jets with Aaron Fuller putting up 33 points with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals along with team mate Hagan adding 25 points with four rebounds, seven assists, three turnovers and three steals.
“I felt that we were heading to our first win a couple of times,” said Hagan.
“We have a very young team and we are learning. I’m the second to oldest and I am only 26. So that kind of puts it in perspective.
“Sometimes when you learn you learn the hard way and that’s kind of what we are doing. It starts with me and Aaron and we have to set the tone. Then hopefully it trickles down to other young guys. We still have a lot of games to play though. If we stick with it hopefully it will turn around.”
The Jets seemed to have control of the game in the first two quarters with the first quarter finishing 27 – 20 and the second 52 – 36.
The third quarter saw the Airs hit their stride with Bailey-Nowell, Brad Anderson and Ashton McQueen making an even bigger impact on the game as they stormed back to close the deficit to only three, the quarter ending 69 – 63.
“It is a reflection of our coach man, he doesn’t let us quit no matter what. We really appreciate that and we try to go out and fight as hard as we can for him. I believe we can win!” said Hagan.
Lapses left the door open for the Jets and Dion Harris was quick to capitalise with some easy layups putting 30 points on the board with seven rebounds, one turnover and two steals. Brook Ruscoe also made his presence felt with 22 points, two assists, four turnovers and one steal.
The referees had a lot of input to the game with Bailey-Nowell and Fuller receiving five fouls along with Jets Ngatai, Brook and Derone Raukawa. The crowd loudly voiced their opinion as the calls went against the Airs at a crucial time. The players were also quick to discuss the ref’s decision with him.
The last few minutes of the game saw the Jets give everything they had to pull away ending the game 108 – 96 victors.
Augusta Taranaki Mountain Airs : 96 – Aaron Fuller : 33, Chris Hagan : 25, Brad Anderson : 15, Aaron Bailey-Nowell 10
Manawatu Jets : 108 – Dion Harris : 30, Brook Ruscoe : 22, Jordan Ngatai : 16, Brandon Jenkins : 13