It all boils down to our defence - Airs captain

MURRAY HILLS
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2014

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Defence, it's a key word for Taranaki Mountain Airs captain Aaron Bailey-Nowell.

"Defence wins games. We have to put pressure on the opposition," he said ahead of tonight's clash with National Basketball League defending champions, the Southland Sharks in New Plymouth.

"Defence is key. It's not just about getting rebounds. We have to put bodies on people when the shots go up. Give them one shot and one shot only . . . no second-chance points."

Bailey-Nowell said it was his job to lead the defence under the basket.

"I have to do the hard yards . . . the crash and bash. It's up to me to lift the intensity levels and to have the guys feed off that.

"We fell off our defence against the Rams last week and we can't afford to do that against the Sharks."

Bailey-Nowell said he expected a torrid time on court at the TSB Stadium tonight.

"They're a class side. It will be a big test for us. They're a big side and well coached. Paul Henare [the Sharks coach] demands toughness and we have to be prepared," he said.

"We have to continue what we've been doing and lift again. The boys are excited about the match."

Good Home Mountain Airs assistant coach Steve McKean said he rated the Southland Sharks highly. They weren't extended to beat the Waikato Pistons 82-66 in Hamilton on Thursday night, recording their sixth win from nine games this season to consolidate their position in the top four.

"I think their starting five is as good as any in the league. They're the defending champions.

"Their big man, Brian Conklin, he's been in great form for them and his matchup with Suleiman [Airs import Suleiman Braimoh] will be outstanding.

"And their shooter Kevin Braswell has been getting scores of 39 and 40."

McKean also rated Sharks coach Henare.

"He's one of the best. He's assistant coach at the Breakers and assistant coach with the Tall Blacks."

McKean said tonight's game would be a big test for the Mountain Airs.

"We've won four of our last five. This is a good challenge for us as we head into the toughest part of our schedule," he said.

"This game will give us a true indication of just where we're at."

AT A GLANCE

MOUNTAIN AIRS vs SOUTHLAND SHARKS
5pm today TSB Stadium New Plymouth

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- Taranaki Daily News

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