The arrival of American point guard Chris Hagan has seen the Manawatu Jets firing on all cylinders.
With their spot in the final four already booked, the Jets have their last regular season games at home against the Taranaki Mountain Airs tonight and the Bay Hawks on Sunday afternoon.
Since he returned to Palmerston North, Hagan has played a big role in the Jets' last three wins, averaging 18.7 points, 8.7 assists and 4.7 steals per game in wins over the Nelson Giants, Southland Sharks and Harbour Heat.
"I feel like I do have an effect when I step on the basketball court – I like to make an impact," Hagan said. "As a team we're really, really cohesive right now."
The Jets have now won four in a row and Hagan's attacking speed complements their other stars in Josh Pace, Jeremiah Trueman and Nick Horvath.
"That's one thing they know to expect from me, is leadership," Hagan said. "I pride myself on it ... Leading the team whether it's defence, passing or trying to lead by example. So far I've played pretty well."
Jets coach Ryan Weisenberg was pleased with Hagan's contributions since he returned from playing in Canada.
"What Chris brings to the team is not only physical," Weisenberg said. "But he brings leadership and an unbridled enthusiasm about the game which infects all the players."
Before they reached the semis, Weisenberg was targeting 11 wins for the season, so they will need to have top games against Taranaki and Hawke's Bay to achieve that.
"From here on out it's going to be a real mental challenge and we can only do so much more adding and tweaking."
Taranaki have two big scorers at their disposal in Jack Leasure (22.1 points per game) and former Jet Darryl Hudson (21.3), who are fourth and fifth on the average point-scoring list respectively.
But the Jets have their own scoring weapon in Pace, who is now the leading scorer in the league with 23 per game.
They also have veteran Nick Horvath dominating the boards, averaging 15.8 rebounds a game.
Jets forward Marcel Jones is still waiting for his citizenship to be cleared, but until then will have to wait behind Hagan and Pace who have the two import spots.
There is a small chance for the Jets to finish second if they can beat Taranaki and Hawke's Bay and if the Hawks lose to the Harbour Heat.
Tonight's game tips off at 7pm at Arena Manawatu. Manawatu Jets: Chris Hagan, Zane Meehl, Josh Pace, Jeremiah Trueman, Nick Horvath. Subs: Matt Te Huna, Kaine Hokianga, Miles Pearce, Zeke Meehl, Steve Hansen, Thomas Bartlett.
Taranaki Mountain Airs (from): Aaron Bailey-Nowell, Andrew Green, Brad Anderson, Chris Daniel, Damon Rampton, Darryl Hudson, Derek Albertsen, Eli Paurini, Jack Leasure, Link Abrams, Mada Abdelhamid, Matt Wallace, Sid Adams, Xavier Shaw.
- © Fairfax NZ News