AIRS MAKE IT BACK-TO-BACK VICTORIES
The Taranaki Mountain Airs got their national basketball league campaign back on track with a winning home and away double at the weekend.
The Good Home Mountain Airs continued Hawke's Bay's poor start to the season on Saturday before backing up away against competition new boys Super City Rangers yesterday afternoon.
The 104-86 win in Auckland was built on the back of a strong second-half showing.
American Kenny Gabriel continued his hot run of form with a game high 31 points to go with his 12 rebounds and five assists.
Captain Jack Leasure was also in good form (17pts), while veteran Link Abrams also chimed in with 20 valuable points to go with his eight boards.
"You can't do any better than that can you," said a happy Airs head coach David Bublitz, referring to the back-to-back double by the Airs.
He said apart from substandard defence in the first half during yesterday's game, the Airs played well, tightening their defence in the second half and restricting the Rangers to just 30 points.
"Kenny [Gabriel] shot well from the outside today, so he's had a good week."
Meanwhile, the previous night, Taranaki finally gave their home fans something to celebrate when they picked up their first points of the season in downing the Hawks 101-86 at New Plymouth's TSB stadium.
Coming off three straight losses against leading teams, it was the first time the Taranaki team had beaten the Hawks since 2008.
The relief on getting their first win of the competition showed on the faces of players and Airs officials after the final hooter had sounded.
Gabriel and compatriot Jack Leasure combined for 52 points.
Gabriel was outstanding with a double double scoring 25 points, 16 rebounds to go with three assists.
"It was nice to pull out a victory tonight for our supporters," the captain said.
He added that the Airs had not had much luck go their way in the earlier outings this season.
In contrast to the losing performances when they built handy leads only to let them slip, the Airs had to come from behind on Saturday night.
Trailing by 43-28 at halftime, the Airs took the lead for the first time near the end of the third quarter.
Brad Anderson chipped in with 12 points in his 20 minutes of court time and Link Abrams scored 10. Leasure said the energy the Airs had in the second half made all the difference.
"In the first half we didn't have great energy but we came with some serious energy in the second," he said.
"Ethan [Rusbatch], Sid [Adams] and Brad [Anderson] and some other guys came off the bench and gave us a real lift in the third quarter and we fed off that."
It was a physical encounter; three Hawks players were fouled out before the end of the game.
The Airs were able to draw 24 fouls while taking care of the close physical attention put on them by the Hawks' defence.