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Taranaki Mountain Airs on mission down south

TONY BIRD
Last updated 05:00 31/05/2014

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Basketball

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The Taranaki Mountain Airs are hoping to ambush two southern sides this long weekend.

The Good Home Mountain Airs face a challenging away double- header in the South Island.

First up they take on the troubled Southland Sharks in Invercargill tomorrow night, then less then 20 hours later back up against the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch.

After the drama this week around the Southland Sharks with three of their players charged with assault and indefinitely suspended, the Mountain Airs have tried to remain focused on their playing schedule heading into their game against the defending champions.

Mountain Airs head coach Daryn Shaw said the team's goal was to return home with two wins.

"That's what we plan to do," he said yesterday, adding the tight playing schedule was challenging.

"Both games will be difficult being on the road and particularly the first one [against the Sharks] after what's happened."

Shaw was referring to the alleged assaults.

He said his first thoughts when he heard of the ugly incidents at Crowded House early last Sunday morning was for the wellbeing of the staff of the New Plymouth bar and cafe staff.

"It's a very nasty situation and obviously there's a legal process to go through, but whatever happens, it's going to impact badly on a lot of people."

Shaw says he feels for Sharks coach Paul Henare, who has been in the front line of the controversy.

"He's a mate of mine and it's been a tough week for him and the sport of basketball," Shaw said.

Last week the Sharks fought back from a 30-point third quarter deficit to win 83-81 in the last second of ordinary time.

This week the Sharks face playing without four of their lineup with three indefinitely suspended and another sidelined while a positive drug test e is investigated.

Late this week, the Sharks camp confirmed head coach Henare and Dan Peck, a former NBL basketballer, would suit up for the game against the Mountain Airs.

Shaw was not surprised that Henare had stepped up to fill one of the gaps, saying the former Tall Black was fit and kept himself very active.

Peck is a long-term Southland basketballer, Shaw saying the ring-in was of NBL quality.

If the Mountain Airs are to remain playoff contenders they will have to win at least one of their games this weekend.

Whatever the result against the Sharks, the Mountain Airs are expected to be favourites to win their game against the Canterbury Rams.

The Rams have had a miserable season and have lost seven in a row to be rock bottom on the points table.

Defence is a major concern for the Rams who have allowed on average 105.6 points per game in their past three losses.

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One of those losses was to Taranaki, albeit by only seven points.

Taranaki imports Adrian Oliver and Suleiman Braimoh combined for 55 points, Braimoh also added 16 rebounds.

Rams mid-season signing Marcel Jones has been averaging 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in his last three games for the Rams

The Mountain Airs are only 1-3 on the road this season, but the Rams are yet to win at Cowles Stadium in five attempts.

- Taranaki Daily News

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