Hawks #12 Ethan Rusbatch drives to the hoop in the first half of the NZNBL game against Franklin Bulls on Sunday. Photo Ian Cooper
By Thomas Airy
The Taylor Hawks started their 2022 National Basketball League campaign in disappointing fashion, losing 70-74 to the Franklin Bulls at Pettigrew Green Arena this afternoon.
Hawke’s Bay struggled to get anything consistent on offense and was bullied at times by the visitors.
The game sputtered with Hawks stars Jarrod Kenny, Hyrum Harris and Jack Salt absent, as well as Bulls talisman Corey Webster. All come back from foreign leagues.
Hawke’s Bay played a tight eight-man rotation with Ethan Rusbatch, Derone Raukawa and Jordan Hunt all playing more than 37 of the 40 minutes.
Franklin set the tone early on with his size and aggressiveness around the edge of attack paying dividends.
Bulls center Anzac Rissetto battled his way to seven points and four rebounds in the first quarter while shorter Hawks guards struggled to contain New Zealand Breakers forward Isaac Davidson (12 points, five rebounds, five steals).
Luckily for the home team, Franklin missed six of his first 10 free throws and Rusbatch hit a few three-pointers to give Hawke’s Bay an unlikely 20-17 lead late in the first term.
The Hawks worked hard offensively in the second quarter, either turning the ball over or missing a field goal on 17 of 25 possessions.
Rusbatch hit three more (3/9 for the deep game) to keep his team in the competition while a stupid foul by Rissetto late in the half put Derone Raukawa on the foul line where he hit both free throws to make it 35-39 at the break.
Hawke’s Bay continued to struggle with the ball, suffering the same issues with their attacking pace in the third quarter.
While the Bulls were able to get to the edge and finish with their size and physical advantage, the Hawks couldn’t get any separation from the dribble to set up an easy offense.
Rusbatch was the silver lining (22 points, seven rebounds) for the Hawks, dragging his team from a double-digit deficit to just 52-57 after the third period.
His running mate, Raukawa, came alive in the fourth quarter with a few baskets before a nice assist for a three-point Derek Albertsen that cut Franklin’s lead to two.
The Hawks couldn’t quite bring them back, however, with an unsportsmanlike foul handing the Bulls four points on one possession in the final minutes.
A three-pointer from Raukawa put Hawke’s Bay back in the game with just over a minute left, but they couldn’t execute well enough to get within four points.
The score was also unflattering for the Hawks, with Franklin missing 13 of their 22 free throws.
Hawke’s Bay will need to improve for their next Thursday night outing against Taranaki Mountain Airs in New Plymouth, the first of six consecutive games before hosting the Auckland Tuatara on June 4.