Quiz Hawkes’ Bay basketball team captain Jarrod Kenny on the last time his team beat Saints in the capital and he struggles.
“I can’t remember. There’s been a lot of games since then and I know Wellington is a tough place to win at,” Kenny said shortly after the Taylor Hawks arrived in Wellington last night to prepare for tonight’s Sal’s National Bsketball League third round clash against Cigna Saints in the TSB Bank Arena.
It was 2011. The Hawks won 100-99 and Kenny, a ninth-season Hawk is the only member of tonight’s squad who was in that winning team.
Hawks fans will be pleased to know Kenny, 32, has left the history side of tonight’s assignment alone and focused on the now as he will be marking in-form fellow Tall Blacks point guard Shea Ili who is averaging 29 points and 8.5 assists per game.
“Shea is having a great season. They are asking a lot of him and he is producing. He is going to be tough to stop,” Kenny said.
“We need to limit his touches and make him have to work every time he does get the ball. That is going to take a team effort.”
Former Perth Wildcats player Kenny who will link up with the Cairns Taipans when the next ANBL season begins said three consecutive wins to date have his team in the right frame of mind.
“We’re all pretty positive and we’ve had a good week of training. We will be fresh and it’s important we worry about ourselves and not get too concerned about what Saints are doing.”
Tonight’s match will be the Hawks third consecutive one on the road before returning home to host the Mike Pero Nelson Giants tomorrow night. Kenny, who has averaged 11 points and four assists a game, agreed it won’t get an easier for him as he will mark last weekend’s player of the week in Kyle Adnam.
“Kyle and Shea are a carbon copy of each other. They are both very aggressive, quick and they know how to shoot the ball.”
“Obviously I can’t focus on Kyle too much until we get the Saints game out of the way and that’s the only game we are focusing on at the moment. If we can get another win that will be a boost before returning to Napier to play in front of our home crowd.”
Another key match up tonight will see Hawks shooting guard Dion Prewster go head to head with Saints import LJ Peak who is averaging 21.5 points per game despite being plagued with foul trouble.
Saints are averaging 108 points per game but are also allowing their opponents to score 102. The Hawks have been much better defensively with their opponents averaging 82 points at 43 per cent overall and 27 per cent from the three point mark.
Like the Hawks, Kenny’s former Giants outfit, could also arrived at the Pettigrew-Green Arena with an unbeaten record if they beat Taranaki tonight. Adnam had a career best 32 points against the Sharks last week and will provide a stern test for the Hawks defensive systems.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants treat their former teammate Prewster. He is averaging 18.3 points per game, five more than what he averaged with the Giants.
Hawks head coach Zico Coronel agreed his inside knowledge of the Saints stable gained during his assistant coach role in the capital will assist him tonight.
“But at the same time Kevin [Saints head coach Braswell] and I have had plenty of discussions about basketball so it will be reciprocal. His assistant coach Phil Hartley was my assistant coach at Rongotai College and Hutt Valley High School for three seasons so the two staffs are quite familiar and good friends.”
Coronel pointed out his troops will need to play “significantly better” than they did in last weekend’s wins against Palmerston North and Taranaki to beat Saints.
“We need to play well. I’m quite excited because we get the oportunity to test ourselves against another of the best teams in the league. We’ve got a comprehensive game plan so it will come down to how much we control it and go out and execute it.”
Coronel was pleased to report he has an injury-free roster to work with tonight.