Hagan vital to Jets' title hopes
Manawatu Jets point guard Chris Hagan wants to add an NBL title to his CV on Sunday, but first he has to help them get past the Auckland Pirates.
The Jets have gone through the roof since Hagan arrived in mid-season and his 18.8 points and 9.3 assists per game will be vital in tomorrow night's semifinal against Auckland in Wellington.
Hagan has won two regional championships and one conference title with his Midwestern State University in Texas and a couple at Westfield High School in Houston.
"I've had my share of championships," Hagan said. "I've won more than I've lost. It's always good to get there. It's one of the greatest feelings in the world when you get it."
Hagan has recovered from the injured knee that kept him out of last weekend's loss to the Bay Hawks and will be at 100 per cent to try to get the Jets' first title in 30 years of trying.
"Any time you can get a championship, especially in a well-respected league, would be good for myself, the team and the city."
Tomorrow, Hagan has the big job of marking Auckland's Tall Black point guard Lindsay Tait, one of the key matchups.
"I'll definitely be up to the challenge," Hagan said. "Lindsay is a very talented player. In order for us to have success it's very important I do my job."
Even against Auckland's star-studded roster, Jets coach Ryan Weisenberg believes his team has the ability to match them.
"I think everybody looks at Auckland, Wellington and Hawke's Bay and says `Wow, the starting five is pretty amazing'," he said.
"But we've got Jeremiah Trueman – and Nick Horvath should be the MVP this season. Chris Hagan, he's come in and we've got Josh Pace, he's won everywhere he's been and Zane [Meehl] has really stepped up and done his job."
Auckland can still boast Tall Blacks Tait, Dillon Boucher and Alex Pledger, NBL veteran Hayden Allen and handy Americans Ron Dorsey and Ishmail Muhammad.
Weisenberg felt his team had an advantage with their bench however, with players like Matt Te Huna and Zeke Meehl offering better options in the reserves.
"Two very good teams that are going to slug it out and it's going to be the one that hits the canvas first," Weisenberg said.
The Jets have a 1-all record against the Pirates this season after winning at home but losing away, but both teams have changed their lineups since then and there are no second chances after this.
"There are no excuses this weekend. You can't say your legs hurt. Give it your all or like they say, you're going fishing."
The Jets will be relying on two of their key players in centre Horvath, who has dominated the rebounds all year, averaging 15.8 a game and swingman Pace, who leads the average scoring with 23 points per game.
If the Jets beat Auckland, they have another tough game against the winner of the table-topping Bay Hawks and reigning champions Wellington Saints match..
The Jets' game is at 6pm and the Hawks play the Saints in the other semifinal at 8.30pm, while the final is on Sunday at 6pm, all at the TSB Bank Arena.
Manawatu Jets: Chris Hagan, Zane Meehl, Josh Pace, Nick Horvath, Jeremiah Trueman. Subs: Mike Homik, Matt Te Huna, Miles Pearce, Zeke Meehl, Steve Hansen, Thomas Bartlett.
Auckland Pirates (from): Lindsay Tait, Hayden Allen, Ron Dorsey, Ishmail Muhammad, Alex Pledger, Brook Ruscoe, Dillon Boucher, Houston O'Riley, Daryl Cartwright, Nick Barrow.
Tait wary of the Jets, page 30