Tom Ingham steps up as depleted Nelson Giants hang on to beat Bay Hawks
Judging by the words coming out of Ben Hill's mouth this week, he wouldn't have seen that one coming.
"I can't see [us] losing to Nelson. I'll be highly surprised if we do and I'll be very disappointed," was the line the Bay Hawks coach gave his local rag ahead of their third National Basketball League (NBL) meeting with the Nelson Giants.
After losing twice to the Hawks and staring down a potential first wooden spoon for the franchise, the Giants weren't exactly lacking in reasons to show up to the Trafalgar Centre on Friday with some venom.
In fact, you have to wonder if Tom Ingham is a subscriber to the Hawke's Bay Today.
Hill's comments clearly fuelled the fire of the Giants, and Ingham in particular as his career-best performance was the catalyst for the much-needed 86-74 win.
"The talk from their coach in the paper, saying they should have beaten us by 50, and we were only good enough to score 60 and then today he said they would be shocked if they lost to us, so it shows they weren't taking us seriously. It was good to come here and have a good team performance," Giants coach Brendon Bailey said at fulltime.
The result made sure the Giants, now 4-10, avoided a clean sweep against the Hawks and showed they are not going to end the season without a fight, even if there is only pride to play for.
It also puts a decent dent in the Hawks' Final Four aspirations as they dropped to 3-9, and it was even more remarkable considering the lack of personnel the Giants had at their disposal.
The Giants went into the game without import point guard Kyle Adnam, the team's leading scorer granted permission to travel to China with Melbourne United for the week, while captain Sam Dempster was sidelined with an abdomen injury he suffered in last week's defeat to the Super City Rangers.
But even without the key duo, the signs were promising from the opening whistle, particularly with Ingham clearly enjoying his first start in the NBL, as the Giants raced out to an early lead.
The hometown product had 16 points and sevens rebounds by halftime and ended the game with career-best figures of 21 points (8/12) and nine rebounds.
"He played awesome," Bailey said. "He stepped up. He's been training really well over the past couple of weeks so it wasn't surprising.
"It's a great lift for him and it's a great boost for him. I suppose when we're missing Kyle, our leading scorer, and then Sammy goes down, it's a big pretty hole to fill but the guys really stepped up."
Stand-in captain Finn Delany (24 points, eight rebounds) and Dion Prewster (23) shouldered plenty of the scoring load and their contributions were crucial with the bulk of the scoring shared across just three players.
There were some worrying signs for the Giants in the third quarter, outscored 24-8 as their lead was cut to just six points. Bailey admitted he didn't see that coming but he was pleased to see his side survive, two important Delany threes down the stretching keeping them afloat.
Nelson Giants 86 (Finn Delany 24, Dion Prewster 23, Tom Ingham 21) Bay Hawks 74 (Dominic McGovan 17, Tony Tolovae 17, Everard Bartlett 12, Joshua Fox 10). 1Q: 25-15, HT: 49-27, 3Q: 57-51