After a successful but brutal four-day West Conference road trip during which the BayHawks won three games, Erie returns home to host games tonight and tomorrow against the Dakota Wizards. The BayHawks and Wizards split a pair of games last month in Erie. An interesting scheduling quirk: all four of the meetings between these teams this season will take place in Erie.
On February 25, the BayHawks won the first meeting 114-108. That was Erie's only win in the month of February, which came thanks to a monster effort from forward Darnell Jackson in his one and only game on assignment from Cleveland. The Wizards took their revenge the following night, winning 108-103 in Hasheem Thabeet's D-League debut.
Dakota coming in: The Wizards (24-19) are currently seventh in the D-League standings, but they come to Erie having lost two straight and three of their past five games. Hasheem Thabeet is back in the NBA and showing signs of improvement for the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the Wizards have a new NBA assignee in Lester Hudson. Erie fans may remember him as the guy that averaged 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists while leading the Maine Red Claws to back-to-back wins over the BayHawks back in December. Hudson hasn't played big minites in his eight games since joining Dakota, but he's still averaging 14.5 points per game off the bench.
Erie coming in: The BayHawks (18-25) are riding a season-high five-game winning streak and trying to make a desperate last-minute playoff push. If there's any chance of a playoff berth, the BayHawks need to win out. They'll also need to get some help in the form of losses by the teams ahead of them (Dakota, Utah, Reno, and Idao). Erie just beat Utah, Reno, and Idaho, and now they're presented with a chance to increase their slim playoff odds with a back-to-back against Dakota.
The month of March has been especially good for Erie's backcourt of Blake Ahearn and Mike "Snuggles" Gansey. Ahearn has turned his (and Erie's) season around since arriving in a trade from Bakersfield. This month he's averaging 26 points and 7.2 assists per gane and shooting lights out from 3 (43.2 percent) and the free throw line (96.1 percent). Gansey's numbers have spiked this month as well. He's averaging 26.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3. For selfish reasons, I don't want to see this backcourt get broken up; they play so well together, and the team is fun to watch with them clicking the way they have been the past several games. But if there's an NBA team out there in the market for a shooter, now would be the time to give Ahearn or Gansey the call-up.
BayHawks keys to success:
- Keep it up
Call it lazy on my part or a cop-out answer, but I'm not going to bother getting too technical. Let the good times roll. The BayHawks are playing their best basketball of the season, and they know it's going to take that same sustained effort and execution the rest of the way if they're going to sneak into the postseason. Their next six games are at home, so the schedule helps them out a little bit in that regard, but it won't be easy.