The new look Taylor Hawks have opened the season with an impressive 92-84 win over the SIT Zerofees Sharks.
Under rookie coach, Zico Coronel, the Hawks showed a more up-tempo style of play with some impressive three-point shooting, in particular from new acquisitions Dion Prewster (20 points) and Ethan Rusbatch (15 points) who combined for 7/10 from three.
Arguably the turning point of the game was from veteran Hawks guard, Everard Bartlett, who hit three consecutive threes’ in the third quarter, the home side outscoring the Sharks 28-14 to turn a 44-39 deficit to a nine-point lead heading into the fourth.
The Hawks would extend their buffer to 12 thanks to a three at the top of the key from Hawks new forward, Mitch Newton. Sharks did show their characteristic fight, clawing their way to close within three points, courtesy of a Luke Aston three.
But, unlike the previous couple of seasons where the Hawks might have collapsed, tonight they showed poise thanks to experienced point guard, Jarrod Kenny (16 points, six assists), who would convert all six free throws in the closing stanza.
It will be a disappointing result for last year’s runners up, who led by as many as 10 in the first half. Australian guard, Jarrad Weeks had a solid debut, ending the game with a team high 17, Alex Pledger grabbed a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Orlando Coleman added 13. Southland will now travel to Wellington where they will now have the task of trying to end the defending champions 24 winning streak.
The Hawks should be pleased with the win despite losing their star recruit and former Australian Boomer, David Barlow earlier in the week. The Hawks did add veteran Australian forward, Oscar Foreman, who returns to the NBL, last playing for the Harbour Heat. The sharp shooting forward struggled tonight, shooting 1/9, but undoubtedly will bring much needed veteran leadership to the franchise. The Hawks second import and current Australian Boomer, Angus Brandt, had limited minutes tonight tallying seven points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.
Week 1: Thursday, April 26
At Pettigrew Green Arena
Taylor Hawks 92 (Dion Prewster 23, Ethan Rusbatch 17, Jarrod Kenny 16)
SIT Zerofees Sharks 84 (Jarrad Weeks 19, Alex Pledger 14, Derone Raukawa 13, Orlando Coleman 13)