Henare kicks courtside sign... and himself

PEEVED: Frustrated Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare on Saturday night.
PEEVED: Frustrated Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare on Saturday night.

Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare fired a shot his own way following his team's loss to Hawke's Bay on Saturday night in Invercargill, suggesting he might have got his team's preparation wrong.

The defending champions lost their second of three games to date at home, taking their overall record to two wins from five games.

Henare was visibly frustrated after the game when he let rip a kick at an advertising sign soon after the whistle.

The frustration, it seems, stemmed from the Sharks giving up too much ground at the start of the first and third quarters, something the frank coach said everyone needed to take responsibility for, including himself.

"We started a little bit different, with Dave [Gruber] coming into the starting lineup and Leon [Henry] coming off the bench, which was the role he played last year and at the start of this year. Maybe it was just not enough time on court with that particular group, so I'll put my hand up and say I could have done a better job throughout the week with that group because it was just so obvious in the start of the first and the start of the third we dug ourselves a hole," he said.

"It was disappointing we were able to give them so much momentum . . . especially when they were on the back-end of a double-header. You would expect them to be the ones slow out of the block, but we were that team tonight."

Henare's nerves around the foul count also prompted him to make changes throughout and he wondered whether maybe he could have been less cautious on that front as well.

"We've had our issues with foul troubles this year and I wanted to get through that first half without any of my guys on three fouls, and again that's on me. Maybe I could have just kept riding the wave that Leon [Henry] and Dave [Gruber] were on but I decided to take them out and, unfortunately, we lost a bit of momentum there as well."

While Henare was deflecting much of the disappointment his way, the reality is the poor start to the game was not solely on his shoulders. His players wasted a lot of opportunities in the first quarter.

Credit must also be given to a slick Tab Baldwin-coached Hawke's Bay team that, 24 hours earlier, had lost in overtime to Otago in Dunedin but bounced back in impressive fashion.

The Hawks got themselves out to a 23-18 first-quarter lead before the home team went on an 11 and zero run early in the second quarter.

By halftime, nothing separated the two teams at 42 apiece before the Hawks delivered what turned out to be a defining third quarter.

They limited the Sharks to just 14 points and scored 30 of their own to lead 72-56 in the final quarter.

A fired-up Sharks team did bring the vocal home crowd into the game and looked like they were going to steal a remarkable win.

After a quiet first three quarters, Kevin Braswell drilled four fourth-quarter three-pointers and Luke Martin grabbed two of his own as Southland bridged the gap to just six at one stage and looked very much in the contest.

However, the visitors did enough and didn't hit the panic button and won 101-88.


Dave Gruber has given the Southland Sharks NBL organisation a big endorsement.

The American, who is a naturalised Australian, has linked up with the Sharks basketball team as a replacement for the injured Brian Conklin who is nursing an injured hamstring.

Gruber was one of Southland's best in the 101-88 loss to Hawke's Bay on Saturday night scoring 23 points and leading the rebounding stacks for the Sharks with 10.

Gruber's time in Southland might be a short visit depending on how quick Conklin can recover but he showered plenty of praise on the Sharks as a organisation, and Southland in general, for the way he has been looked after to help him settle into the province.

"It's a great club, I can't speak highly enough about how they have treated me," he said.

"It's a great community and a great club, they are very welcoming. I'm from a small community myself back in America, in Iowa, so this sort of environment is something I really appreciate."

Gruber's wife Kara and 15-month-old daughter Grace arrived in Invercargill last week to join him despite him being not sure how long he has left with the Sharks.

The couple also have a second child on the way.

Gruber was good on Saturday night but that didn't quash the fact his team came up short against Hawke's Bay, he said.

"Look I'm here to help them win games so I'm very disappointed with the loss and this one hurts a bit. But we'll regroup and get better on the practice floor, that's the great thing about this team, in the short time I've been here everybody has been wanting to put in the hard yards."

The Sharks next game is against competition heavyweights Wellington in Invercargill on Saturday night.

Hawke's Bay 101 (Dustin Scott 18, Kareem Johnson 16, Marco Alexander 16),

Southland Sharks 88 (David Gruber 23, Kevin Braswell 23, Leon Henry 16) 1Q: 18-23 HT: 42-42 (24-19) 3Q: 56-72 (14-30) FT: 88-101 (32-29) --------------------

The Southland Times