Hawks live up to their billing to down Sharks
The Southland Sharks roller-coaster like season has come to an end.
The Sharks exited the 2014 National Basketball League last night on the back of 100-87 semifinal loss to Hawke's Bay in Wellington.
The Paul Henare-coached team were attempting to go back-to-back after claiming the NBL title last year but instead they hit a wall in the form of a ruthless Hawke's Bay team, a team who highlighted why they went into the playoffs with a 15 win-three loss record.
The Sharks were well and truly in the game in the first half with big man Tai Wesley inspiring his team to a 25-24 first quarter lead.
Wesley put up 13 first quarter points highlighting what such a good pick up he has been for the Southland franchise.
However while Wesley was strong Kevin Braswell picked up two fouls in the first quarter which could have stifled his usual enthusiasm to attack the basket through the rest of the first half.
Hawke's Bay won the second quarter 22-19 to hold a 46-44 halftime lead and with the game hanging in the balance the classy Tab Baldwin-coached team turned the screws in the third quarter which ultimately lead them to victory.
A Paora Winitana inspired display saw Hawke's Bay win the third quarter 25-16 to push out to a 71-60 lead.
The Sharks did reduce the gap to four at one stage in the final quarter but every time Southland seemed to make a big play Hawke's Bay responded with one of their own to keep their noses infront.
The Sharks was also hindered last night as a result of what could be described as a clunky showing from Brian Conklin.
Conklin is a player that has averaged over 20 points and close 10 rebounds per game during his time with the Sharks which highlights his importance to the team, but he was not able to put his usual stamp on last night's game missing some shots he would normally make with ease.
However it is probably more a indication of how good he has been for Southland that he put up 15 points and a 11 rebounds last night but we expected more from him.
The American import had been bedridden for much of the buildup this week because of the flu and you couldn't but help thinking that may have set him back somewhat last night.
The Sharks players will return to Invercargill tomorrow and will have a couple of days together to reflect on the 2014 season before they disperse to where their next assignment is in the world of basketball.
Disappointingly the 2014 season will probably be remembered for the wrong reason for the Sharks on the back of the off-field problems which saw four players stood down for a couple of different reasons.
It was a credit to Paul Henare as a coach and competitor that he was still able to get this team to the playoffs but they did lose some quality in particular with the loss of Reuben Te Rangi and Leon Henry.
AT A GLANCE
Hawke's Bay 100 (Paora Winitana, Everard Bartlett 24, Marco Alexander 15) Southland 87 (Tai Wesley, Kevin Braswell 20, Brian Conklin 15) 1Q: 24-25, HT: 46-44, 3Q: 71-60
- The Southland Times