It wasn't supposed to this way, this R14 dead-rubber between the Hawks and Rams was just going to be a casual clash ahead of their more serious battle in next week's Semi Final at the Sal's NBL Final 4 ... isn't that what we were told?
Despite all the talk of star players being played sparingly and both coaches not showing their hand, someone forgot to send the memo through because what we saw in a 77-71 win for the Hawks was fun, exciting and highly competitive.
In a thrilling preview to next week's game, the fans rode every bump, every long bomb and every blocked shot. The highlights were many and just kept coming thick and fast. The only downside was the absence of EJ Singler, who continues to recover from injury and has confirmed he will be ready to return next week.
The home team started well and managed to score 26pts in the first quarter against Canterbury's usually miserly defence, however such luxuries dried up in the second period when the Hawks could only manage 12pts as the Rams made their move to lead 41-38 at the long break.
The second half was like a final at times as both teams threw everything at each other, the Rams playing well defensively but struggling to convert at the offensive end, especially from the charity stripe where they disappointingly went 11/22.
From Cam Gliddon's amazing deep triple to Brandon Bowman's huge dunk and massive block in successive plays, this game was a showstopper.
As the seconds dwindled down it was the long-range shooting of the Hawks that did the damage, especially from Jarrod Kenny who dropped three treys from three attempts, while Everard Bartlett was superb as he helped himself to five triples.
Surprisingly, with such a big week ahead Brandon Bowman did not leave the floor, the star forward playing all 40 minutes for the victories Hawks, though his 13pts marked once of his lowest scoring games of the season.
So now we move to Horncastle Arena and the Rams will be hoping their fans turn out in big numbers and deliver what the Hawks fans did for their team in this game. At times the noise was electric and the Hawks players visibly lifted as a result.
Hawke's Bay Hawks 77 defeated Canterbury Rams 71
Hawks - Jarrod Kenny 21pts, Everard Bartlett 17pts, Ethan Rusbatch 15pts & 10rbs.
Rams - Cameron Gliddon 15pts, Emmett Naar 14pts.
Stats That Matter - in such a competitive and close game the Rams will be disappointed with their 11/22 return from the foul line. It was a glaring weakness, especially for Alex Talma (1/6).
TAB MVP Votes - Jarrod Kenny (Hawks) 8, Cam Gliddon (Rams) 6, Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks) 6, Emmett Naar (Rams) 6, Everard Bartlett (Hawks) 3, Brandon Bowman (Hawks) 1.