Southland's focus shifts to games that matter

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2014

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Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare banked his 250th NBL appearance as a player at the weekend, but it's games number 251 and 252 which have his full focus now.

The Sharks will take on top qualifiers the Hawke's Bay Hawks in Wellington on Friday in the first semifinal of the Final Four weekend, with the Wellington Saints and Nelson Giants meeting in the second game later that night.

A win there would see the Sharks advance to Saturday's final and a chance to bank a second national league title.

The Zero Fees-sponsored side lost games to the Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams, both away, over the weekend with Henare making use of his bench and taking the opportunity to spell his starters.

''I wasn't too fussed about the results going in. Obviously as a competitor you want to win, but the focus was definitely on [this] weekend and making sure guys got through the weekend healthy, and I think we achieved that,'' Henare said.

''We also got some guys some good minutes, guys like Dan Peck and James Paringatai. Puke Lenden continued his growth within the team.''

The Sharks have lost both round-robin games against the high-flying Hawks this season, a 101-88 loss at home back in April and a 94-89 overtime defeat away earlier this month.

Neither of those games will count for much in the capital, however.

''When it comes to finals basketball, it's the old cliche - you've got to bring it on the night. You battle it out as best you can and throw everything you can at it,'' Henare said.

''The boys are buzzing. I can definitely tell there's an excitement in the air and that's a great thing.''

The Sharks will try to stick to their routines as much as possible this week, with training runs today and tomorrow before a light session on Wednesday.

The team leaves for Wellington on Thursday and will have another session later that day.

Henare said he was beginning to feel comfortable about his own comeback to the court this season.

''This whole time I've been taking the court it's been about finding a little bit of rhythm and touch if I'm needed next weekend. I'm in a pretty comfortable place now that if Luke [Martin] or KB [Kevin Braswell] get into foul trouble and I need to be out there for a particular amount of time, then I can do that confidently.''

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- The Southland Times

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