Category: Illawarra Hawks

First half blitz sees order restored, Wildcats back in the Grand Final

IT was a feat that no matter how much you took away from Perth Wildcats – a star player down and out, a one-game deficit – the reigning back-to-back champions were always going to find a away. Trevor Gleeson‘s team just refused to give in, and it showed during the Wildcats’ defining third game to put away a brave Illawarra Hawks in the National Basketball League (NBL) Semi-Finals Series.

The Wildcats lost the opening game at home, found a way to win on the road, then delivered the knockout blow back at RAC Arena, doing what they failed to do in the first game, and really putting last year’s wooden spooners to the sword early. A first half blitz, a dominant John Mooney close to the basket collecting everything, and a resurgent Todd Blanchfield showing his former side the exit door all led to the Wildcats’ eight-point win to secure yet another Grand Final Series spot.

In even better news, the Wildcats will get to play their two allocated home games up first against the winner of either Victorian side Melbourne United or South East Melbourne Phoenix, which if they can win already gives them a head start before needing to hit the road. Border restrictions have certainly played a huge part, but everything is aligning for an against-the-odds Wildcats title again.

From the opening tip-off it appeared both sides seemed to be comfortable in the do-or-die semi-final, as Illawarra Hawks got out to a five-point advantage midway through the term. It would not only prove to be their largest lead of the match, but once they surrendered it, the Hawks would never get it back. Instead, the Wildcats took control in the second half of the term to win the quarter 23-15, and by half-time that lead had grown to 46-32 and the writing was on the wall.

Brian Goorjian‘s Hawks were a different breed to the dismal outfit of 2019/20, so they threw down the gauntlet to the Wildcats in the third term, restricting the home side to just nine points, winning the quarter by 10 and cutting the final break deficit to just four – it was game on. When Tyler Harvey nailed the first triple of the last stanza, the Hawks were within a point (55-54), but that only spurred the Wildcats on, going up a gear that perhaps only they have, piling on 11 straight points to suddenly hold a 12-point advantage (66-54) with 6:31 on the clock. Whilst the Hawks were able to cut the deficit back – even reducing it to four points late in the game, it was that burst that proved the difference in the 79-71 result.

Perth won the rebounds (41-34), assists (16-11) and shot at a marginally higher clip (40 to 39 per cent), as well as scored more from turnovers (20-19) despite having more turnovers (15-12). The Hawks held their own with more blocks (7-2), second chance points (11-8) and bench points (21-17), but in the end it would not be enough, and their shooting percentage, particularly from long-range (29 per cent) and from the free-throw line (72 per cent) hurt.

Mooney finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds – 13 defensive – as well as two assists, while Blanchfield shot 24 points – four of 11 from long-range – five rebounds, three steals and two assists in a strong partnership. Mitch Norton (15 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) was the other double-digit scorer, while Clint Steindl (eight points, two assists), Luke Travers (seven points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Jesse Wagstaff (six points, four rebounds) also did well.

For the Hawks, Harvey had the 10 points, two rebounds and two assists, with Sam Froling (14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks) being huge on defence and Justin Simon (nine points, 11 rebounds – five offensive – and four assists) a menace at both ends. Daniel Grida (nine points, three rebounds and two steals) and Justinian Jessup (eight points, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks) also contributed in an even starting five.

Perth Wildcats will host the winner of the other Semi-Finals Series on Friday night, followed by Game Two on Sunday night, as the remainder of the fixture is yet to be decided pending border restrictions.

Picture credit: Paul Kane / Getty Images

Wildcats claw their way to third game with win on the road over Hawks

JUST when it looks like Perth Wildcats are down for the count, one can never discount them as a title threat. The two-time reigning champion and greatest team of the modern era, missing their best player and star Most Valuable Player Bryce Cotton, went a game down against the Hawks at their fortress of RAC Arena and looked like a sweep was in order. Instead, development player Luke Travers and a team refusing to concede their title run was over, picked themselves off the canvas and delivered a sterling 79-71 win over Illawarra Hawks to force a third game back at RAC Arena.

In the match, it was the visitors who started off well to lead by three points in the opening term to try and quiet down the WIN Entertainment Centre crowd. Illawarra responded to the first term with an 18-12 second term which saw the momentum go in their favour to take a three-point advantage into half-time. The Hawks continued to lead up until the midway point of the third quarter, before the Wildcats exploded to even drag the lead out to double-digits before a couple of late scores made it seven points in favour of the visitors. Both teams were fairly even in the last term, but the Wildcats never let it get closer than six points, for an eventual eight-point win, 79-71.

Illawarra Hawks actually had the higher shooting efficiency, nailing 42 per cent of their field goals compared to Perth’s 39 per cent. They dominated the steals (10-3) and blocks (6-1), and also had less turnovers (9-14) leading to more points from turnovers (13-7). With more points in the paint (32-30) as well, the home team certainly had enough aspects on their terms in the game. Perth managed to get to the line more often with 14 of 21, whilst the Hawks only hit one of four in a higher field shooting effort. The Wildcats dominated the rebounds (48-35) and assists (22-13), and also had less fouls (15-19), more second chance points (16-9) and bench points (28-22).

Travers won Player of the match honours with a huge 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of action, evenly splitting his rebounds with five on both the offensive and defensive ends. John Mooney (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists), Clint Steindl (12 points, three assists and two rebounds) and Todd Blanchfield (11 points, five rebounds five assists and two steals) all hit double-figure points. Will Magnay (seven points, six rebounds) and Kevin White (six points, five rebounds and six assists) also had strong influences in the win.

For the Hawks, Tyler Harvey knocked up 24 points, four steals, two rebounds and two assists, with six of 11 from long-range helping his cause as his two-point range departed him (three of 12). Justinian Jessup chipped in with 11 points and two rebounds, whilst Deng Deng (nine points, four rebounds) and Justin Simon (eight points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals) both stood up. Isaac White (eight points) helped in 14 minutes off the bench, whilst Sam Froling (six rebounds and four blocks) worked hard at both ends.

The final and deciding semi-final clash between the teams takes place tomorrow night at RAC Arena, 9:30pm AEST with the winner advancing through to the Grand Final series.

Picture credit: AAP

Second half flurry sees Hawks upset reigning champs in opening semi-final clash

ILLAWARRA Hawks are just one win away from reaching the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final series after last year’s wooden spooners toppled the reigning premiers Perth Wildcats by two points (74-72) at RAC Arena last night. In front of 7662 fans, the Hawks had to fight back from a six-point quarter time deficit to then hit the front for only the second time in the match late in the final term and steal the game to move 1-0 up in the series ahead of tomorrow night’s home fixture between the sides at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The big talking point regarding the second placed Wildcats who have been the most dominant team in the past decade, was whether or not they could win the NBL Championship title without star guard and reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton. With the standout shooter on the sidelines, the Wildcats still went to work early, racing out to a 22-16 lead against the Hawks. The second term saw a tale of two halves as the Wildcats advanced to as much as 13 points at one stage, before some late baskets in favour of the visitors reduced the deficit back to the six points at the main break.

Illawarra managed to keep touch with the Wildcats after half-time, even hitting the front late in the term, only for the Wildcats to steady and ensure the the margin stayed at two plays (four points). The final term was a trading of baskets for the most part, with the Wildcats back out to a six-point advantage with 4:24 on the clock. Five straight points to the Hawks’ Justinian Jessup had the deficit cut to just one with 1:56 remaining. When Mitch Norton only secured one of his two free throws 10 seconds later, Jessup made him pay with a long-range jump shot for the Hawks to hit the front for only the second time in the match.

Justin Simon slammed home a dunk with 20 seconds in the match and the lead was out to three points, and the Hawks suddenly in the box seat for the win. Former Hawk, Todd Blanchfield had other ideas as his layup with 13 seconds remaining cut the deficit back to one, but the Wildcats still needed to find another basket. It was fitting that Jessup was able to put up the final point of the match via a free throw, but a second free thrown missed, and John Mooney picked up the defensive board. With four seconds on the clock and a three-point deficit, the Wildcats opted for the win rather than the draw and extra time, and Blanchfield was trusted with the shot. Unfortunately it missed, and the buzzer sounded with the Hawks winning 74-72.

Perth was more efficient from the field with the key difference coming in the two-point efficiency with a 58 to 45 per cent split, but aside from that, the assists (17-15) and points in the paint (30-28), the stats all went the way of Illawarra. The Hawks won the steals (8-4), blocks (3-1), second chance points (15-11), points from turnovers (12-2) and bench points (21-14), with the rebounds even (41-40), and the Hawks clever with ball-in-hand only committing six turnovers to the Wildcats’ 12.

Simon won Player of the Match for the Hawks with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals, whilst Jessup’s impact late lead the back court star to 17 points – three of seven from long-range – and four rebounds. Sam Froling (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) did a bit of everything, while Tyler Harvey (10 points, three rebounds) and Tim Coenraad (10 points, three rebounds) also hit the double-figure points.

Blanchfield stood up in the absence of Cotton, shooting six of 12 from long-range for a total of 24 points, three rebounds and two assists. Meanwhile Mooney (13 points, 16 rebounds) produced a massive double-double including 14 of those rebounds defensive, and Luke Travers (12 points, six rebounds and two assists) both finished with double-digit points. Norton (seven points, three assists and two rebounds) and Jesse Wagstaff (six points, three rebounds and two assists) also contributed strongly.

Tomorrow night’s second game at the WIN Entertainment Centre starts at 5:30pm AEST with the Hawks able to close out the series, or the Wildcats responding with a win and forcing a third game back at RAC Arena on Monday.

Picture credit: NBL Media

2021 NBL Semi-finals preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks

THE first game of the National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals is set to kick off on Thursday night when Perth Wildcats take on Illawarra Hawks.

It has been a rapid rise for Illawarra Hawks in season 2021 with the side rocketing from last place to third while the reigning premiers in Perth Wildcats will be hoping to use their finals experience to topple their opponents. Looking at the numbers and the Hawks finished the season with 20 wins and 16 losses while Perth racked up 25 wins and only suffered 11 losses for the season making for an enthralling battle.

Having only met last round, the Wildcats will be eager to reverse the fortunes and get the chocolates over Illawarra who well and truly found their groove and composure to grind out a two point win. Prior to that encounter the Wildcats were three from three with the smallest winning margin 11 points making this contest all the more exciting. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them up against the Wildcats who will be hoping to take advantage of their home crowd in Game 1 with the match set to be played at RAC Arena. Perth have made the stadium a fortress of sorts and will be hoping to make the most of their chances to get their playoffs campaign under way in style and put their Round 21 jitters to bed. Not only will the Wildcats be keen to pounce back from their loss against the Hawks but so too the top of the table Melbourne United but they are not reigning premiers for no reason with their ability to dig deep and grind out games second to none. Meanwhile the Hawks have a chequered history with a win and a loss in Round 21 to close out the home and away season. Game 2 will be played at WIN Entertainment Centre with the Hawks playing host to the Wildcats three days later.

The Wildcats are oozing star players and none bigger than Bryce Cotton with the star guard impressing with an average of 23.47 points a game. Cotton is just about unstoppable when he gets going and is renowned for his ability to single handily change the course of a game with his dish off game just as impressive averaging 5.69 assists and 2.91 rebounds. Partner in crime, John Mooney is another standout for the Wildcats producing a handy double-double thanks to his 17.33 points and 11.42 rebounds. There is no denying that Perth have a plethora of other key role players with Todd Blanchfield, Mitchell Norton and Jesse Wagstaff all viable options. In fact the trio have all played 35 games this season showcasing their high level of endurance and ability to contribute with Blanchfield averaging 17.33 points a game plus 3.69 rebounds making him an integral cog in the Wildcats unit.

It will be up to Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup to lead the way for their side with duo renowned for their crafty court play and ability to score. Harvey averages 20.44 points a game, 3.68 rebounds, 3.24 assists and 1.38 steals. Teammate Jessup is also handy credit to his 13.26 points each time he steps out on court along with his 3.69 rebounds and 1.38 assists. But if the Hawks are to win they will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling and Justin Simon to get the job done. Froling has proven to be a solid contributor both on the scoring and rebounding front with an average of 11.53 points and a team-high 7.06 rebounds.

Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, June 10 @9:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats 
Saturday, June 12 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Hawks lock in top four spot with a scintillating victory over Wildcats

PLAYING back in front of their home crowd, the Illawarra Hawks produced a miracle win to topple the Perth Wildcats and secure a finals berth. After being bottom of the table last year the Hawks reversed their fortunes this season and this game was no different taking on the juggernaut that is Perth and coming up big with a narrow two point win, 81-79. Not only was it a fairytale performance for the Hawks playing unit, but so too for coach Brian Goorjian who is set to take lead his side into his 21st consecutive appearance.

It was always going to be a hot battle with the two sides jostling for prime position when it comes to the ladder. But it was the Hawks that made all the running early as they got busy on the scoreboard. Star, Tyler Harvey was on song early commanding the ball and doing his best job to apply scoreboard pressure opening the match with a triple to indicate the type of form he was in. Justinian Jessup also lent a hand with a jump shot of his own as the Hawks started to motor and hold the Wildcats up in offence. This momentum continued for much of the term as Illawarra controlled proceedings to create a handy four-point lead heading into the break.

Holding both the lead and momentum from the first term, Illawarra looked to capitalise but it was Perth that struck first as Clint Steindl landed a timely three to get his side back to within one point. With the pressure on them Illawarra managed to find a way to keep the scoreboard ticking over as Tim Coenraad hit a jump shot of his own to extend the margin back to four points. It was tit for tat for much of the term as neither team could really gain the ascendancy with the scores level midway through the term before the Wildcats pulled away thanks to John Mooney and his scoring prowess. With the tables now reversed as Perth held a four point buffer the Hawks needed to find a way to get back into the match. The answer proved to be bench points as Isaac White and Deng Deng found their rhythm as Harvey continued to be a thorn in the Wildcats side. their increased output saw the lead change hands once again as Illawarra clinched a narrow six point upper hand at the half.

The Wildcats came out firing in the third term with their increased pressure making it hard for the Hawks to find easy access to the rim. Todd Blanchfield and Jarred Bairstow worked their way into the match to reel in the deficit and give the Wildcats a chance to overcome their opponents. But the Hawks were unwilling to relinquish their lead despite scores being tied up at the nine minute mark at 44 apiece. Justin Simon saw the opportunity to inflict some scoreboard pain and that he did with a driving layup to reclaim the lead and most importantly some composure for the home side. Sam Froling also chimed in with a powerful dunk as the Hawks pushed out to a five point lead but the Wildcats continued to linger as Steindl landed a handy shot right on the buzzer.

A mere five points separated the two sides heading into the final break. Tensions were high with a win securing the Hawks a definite spot in finals and for the Wildcats a chance at stealing top spot. Neither side were willing to take a backwards step as Jesse Wagstaff ate into the deficit almost instantaneously. Wagstaff along with Mooney came to play in the final term as they spurred their side on to steal the lead with a tick over two minutes to play. but somehow the Hawks dug even deeper as the usual suspects in Harvey and Jessup stepped up to the plate to convert. It all came down to the final play of the game with Mooney unleashing a hail Mary three but missing as the Hawks run out victorious.

Harvey topscored for the Hawks thanks to his 27 points at 36 per cent from the field. He was relatively accurate from down town sinking five triples while he also picked up four rebounds and three assists. Froling produced 14 points and two rebounds as Jessup was down on his points scoring load with 12 but still managed to have an impact off the boards with four rebounds. Deng was another handy contributor thanks to his 11 points and while Andrew Ogilvy did not score he managed seven rebounds. For the Wildcats it was Steindl that led the way thanks to his 15 points as Mooney racked up another double-double credit to his 14 points and 15 rebounds, 11 of which were defensive. Wagstaff was strong off the bench for his 12 points as Will Magnay also plied his trade racking up seven points and five rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

2021 NBL Round 21 preview: Top four battles headline the final round of home and away season

THE final round of the National Basketball League gets underway tonight in a top of the table clash between Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats. That will not be the only top four clash as United and Perth go head to head in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats
Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:30pm

It is set to be a cracking game as the third placed Hawks take on the second placed Wildcats who are on the same wins as United and are looking for their way to come out on top. They will be eager to topple Illawarra and if they can manage to string together a dominant four quarter performance will take top spot -albeit momentarily until United take the court.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will have to be at its damaging best when Illawarra take on Perth. Both Jessup and Harvey are renowned for their ability to keep the scoreboard taking over but will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling, Cameron Bairstow and Justin Simon. Harvey averages 20.24 points a game while Jessup is also a handy feature with 13.39 points a game. Looking at the Wildcats and it is hard to go past Bryce Cotton who has been in scintillating form. The guard can simply do no wrong with his ability to sink the match winner time and time again. He averages 23.47 points while teammate John Mooney is a real livewire putting up impressive numbers both on the scoreboard and on the rebounding front thanks to his 17.74 points and 11.47 rebounds. It would be remiss not to mention the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton with the duo able to have an influence in defence and offence

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Wednesday, June 2 @5:30pm

The bottom of the table battle will be a hot one as the Breakers have found some form at home with the home crowd really spurring them on to grind out games. New Zealand are on the hunt for their 12th win of the season, while the Taipans have shown strong glimpses but faded in times of need. It is not possible for Cairns to work their way off the bottom of the ladder but will be eager to take some positives out of the end of their season.

Scott Machado is the main facilitator for the Taipans and will need to be at his damaging best if his side are any chance of causing an upset. Machado boasts an average of 15.61 points and 6.97 assists a game bringing the likes of Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai into the game. Djeric might only average 8.47 points and 2.25 rebounds but his presence out on court is key.  The Breakers have no shortage of excitement machines with Levi Randolph a key addition to the side since joining. He averages 15.85 points and 3.77 rebounds a game playing a strong role alongside the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany. Webster tops the table with 16.63 points a game while Delany is not far behind credit to his average of 16.35 points and 6.62 rebounds. Another key addition to the side has been William McDowell-White who has not skipped a beat and will be eager to keep putting his best foot forward in this performance against the last placed Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, June 2 @7:30pm

To put it plain and simple, South East Melbourne Phoenix need to win if they want to hold onto fourth spot. Currently just holding on by a thread, the Phoenix will be hoping that their big three in Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff are able to stand up to the challenge and make their dreams a reality. On the other hand the Bullets are not far off the pace sitting outside the top four by two games and will have three opportunities including this match to edge inside and make a play for finals. however they will need a host of results to go their way including a win here.

Creek is a real playmaker for the Phoenix with his ability to hit the scoreboard and lend a hand in defence as shown through his 18.06 points and 6.45 rebounds. Sykes is another piece of the puzzle that will have to be on his a-game given he averages 13.67 points and 5.33 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has quickly become a fan favourite, making the step up this season and asserting himself credit to his 12.61 points and will want to ply his trade in this match-up against the Bullets. Throw in support from the likes of Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix are in good shape. But Brisbane are not backwards in coming forwards with Nathan Sobey an integral member in the side. The captain is never out of the contest averaging 21.34 points a game plus 4.47 rebounds and 4.56 assists often leading his troops to success. Lamar Patterson has landed on his feet since re-joining the Bullets with the bigman posting numbers of 13.62 points and 4.54 rebounds while Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic are other players the Phoenix will need to keep an eye on throughout the clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, June 3 @7:30pm

This game will bring plenty of excitement and nerves for players and fans alike as the Hawks take on the Kings at home. The Sydney Kings are renowned for their class and ability to do the unthinkable and will need to recapture that form this match. outside of the top four by one game, expect the Kings to leave no stone unturned and apply some real heat on the teams around them.

The Hawks will be backing up from their earlier performance with Jessup and Harvey hoping to keep the good times rolling. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them given the Kings boast the services of dynamo Casper Ware. Throw in the likes of Jarell Martin and the Kings have a dominant two-pronged attack with Ware averaging 18 points and Martin with 17.35. Xavier Cooks has been lively since returning to the fold and will be hoping to continue on that trajectory while Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller are other viable options to attack the rim or reel in the boards.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, June 6 @3:00pm

Melbourne will take to the court for the second time this round and with pole position still up for grabs will need to put out a consistent four quarter performance to topple the 36ers. But Adelaide will be hoping to end their season on a high and still have an influence on how the finals go down by causing a major upset.

Adelaide have had an inconsistent season to say the least and have been plagued by injury but have a number of players able to step up and take charge. Daniel Johnson has been a mainstay for the 36ers producing impressive numbers credit to his 19.51 points and 6.97 rebounds while Brandon Paul has been a commanding force thanks to his 13.68 points. Isaac Humphries is steadily returning to form after his time on the sidelines with injury while Tony Crocker will have to be on top of his game to worry United.

Other games:

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Friday, June 4 @9:30pm

One of just many mouth-watering clashes this round, the match-up between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is sure to go down to the wire. Melbourne will be praying that fatigue becomes a factor as Perth enter their second top four clash in as many days, while the home side will be fresh and raring to go. Expect both sides to throw everything they have at their opponents and contest every second of the game in what is set to be an absolute show stopper and potential grand final preview.

New Zealand Breakers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, June 5 @5:30pm

Both sides will be competing in their second game for the round and all eyes will turn to the Phoenix and what they can do? Whether they can front up after a game earlier in the week against the Bullets. Although the Breakers are significantly lower on the ladder they have shown they have the class and skill to compete with the best in the business meaning the Phoenix will need to be on their a-game.

Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, June 5 @8:00pm

It is a must win game for the Kings. In fact it all hinges on whether or not they secure the “w” because if they do not then their finals aspirations are well and truly done. The Bullets also need a win and while their chances may be a long shot it will not deter them from hustling hard. It will be a heart in your mouth style of game with both teams eager to make a last minute dash and prove themselves on the competition. The Bullets will have to front up to another game only days later and will be hoping that a win will spur them on to clinch that fourth spot.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Tuesday, June 8 @7:30pm

The final game of the home and away season pits Brisbane Bullets against South East Phoenix. It will be the Phoenix’s third game of the round and while fatigue may be somewhat of an issue you can guarantee that their main focus will be winning and holding onto their top four position.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett

Hawks swoop in on third with impressive win over 36ers

ILLAWARRA Hawks have swooped in on third spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder after a 14-point victory over Adelaide 36ers at WIN Entertainment Centre yesterday. In front of more than 3000 people, the Hawks took control from late in the first term and led by as much as 19 points at the final break, to eventually salute 97-83, and rise above the South East Melbourne Phoenix on the 2021 NBL table.

The first quarter was fairly even, with the 36ers actually having their fair share of control to lead by up to five points at one stage. Having more time in front, they looked to be on their way to a good performance on the road, but a late surged from the Hawks saw an 11-point turnaround and the home team to head into quarter time with a six-point advantage. The second term went all the way of the Hawks, as they piled on 21 points to 13 and cross the half century threshold to go out to a 52-38 lead by half-time.

Needing to keep that momentum flowing, the Hawks held the 36ers at bay in the third quarter, and even extended the margin to beyond 20 points, before the final break advantage stood at 19. The teams traded blows for the majority of the final term, with the Hawks extending the lead out to 25 points midway through the term, before a late surge with rotations coming into play saw the 36ers eventually get the deficit back to 14 at the final buzzer, 97-83.

While the 36ers were the more efficient side from the field thanks to their 59 to 52 per cent two-point accuracy, the Hawks nailed 15 triples to 10 to help add to the cause. Otherwise all the key statistics went the way of Illawarra, as the Hawks won the rebounds (42-38), assists (23-18), steals (12-4), blocks (3-2), points in the paint (38-36), second chance points (16-10) and bench points (42-38). They also had six less turnovers (10-16), which made the fact the 36ers had more points from turnovers (18-17) all the more impressive.

In what was a real even team performance, Tyler Harvey topped the points scorers with 23, hitting three of eight from long-range, and picking up six rebounds and five assists at the same time. Also joining him in the long-range shooting was Tim Coenraad who scored all of his points from three-point range (12, four of six from long-range). Sam Froling (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) was the other double-figure scorer from the starting five, while Daniel Grida managed the 10 points in 10 minutes off the bench. AJ Ogilvy (nine points, six rebounds, there blocks and two steals) was also valuably in the win.

Sunday Dech top-scored for the 36ers coming off the bench for 22 minutes, knocking down 15 points in that time. Brandon Paul (13 points, five assists and four rebounds) and Tony Crocker (10 points, three rebounds) were also impressive, whilst Keanu Pinder proved the most valuable player for the visitors with 11 points and 11 rebounds – all defensive – in a double-double performance. Daniel Johnson (nine points, eight rebounds) also tried hard throughout.

Illawarra Hawks tip-off the final round of the regular season with a potential finals preview clash against Perth Wildcats at home, before another home fixture up against Sydney Kings. Adelaide 36ers will close out the season by visiting John Cain Arena (to be confirmed) on June 6 to take on Melbourne United.

Picture credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Harvey leads Hawks to crucial Breakers scalp

THE Illawarra Hawks found themselves one step closer to securing a National Basketball League (NBL) finals spot, thanks to their 11-point triumph over the New Zealand Breakers at the Stockyard on Friday night. This loomed as a danger game for the Hawks, given the pressure on them to claim a spot in the top four, but they handled the pressure with absolute class, thanks to a standout performance from Tyler Harvey who was instrumental in the team’s 18th win of the season.

The game began with the Breakers jumping to an early lead, thanks to some impressive play from captain Finn Delany. Delany had six points in the first term, as his side worked hard on both ends of the floor to secure a five-point lead at quarter time, courtesy of a Levi Randolph three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining in the term. The Hawks looked shocked, but not rattled. Hawks forward Sam Froling kept his side in the contest during this time, credit to his ability to constantly finish at the rim, despite the consistent pressure from the Breakers defenders. The second term opened with some pretty ugly basketball, with both teams trading missed buckets and silly turnovers. There was just one field goal scored in the first couple of minutes of play. The Breakers found themselves up by eight points halfway through the term, but could not sustain the lead, as Froling once again led a charge that could not be stopped. The Hawks headed into halftime trailing by just three points and with plenty of confidence.

The second half (and particularly the third term) was the Illawarra Hawks show, as the visitors worked their way to a significant run that saw them take the lead for the first time this game. A 13-0 run of scoring saw the Hawks well and truly take control of the game, with the Breakers unable to hit crucial baskets or grab the defensive rebound. The home side looked stunned, and lost all of the mojo that saw them control the game in the first half. The fourth quarter saw more of the same, as the Hawks were able to put the game into cruise control as they sealed the result early in the final term. The Breakers only got within six points in the term, before a pair of Harvey triples put the game to bed, with the Hawks heading home victors.

For the Hawks, Harvey was the star, finishing with 30 points, eight rebounds and five steals, proving the guard can get it done on both ends of the court. He was not alone, with Froling proving nearly just as dangerous with 22 points and eight rebounds of his own. The forward did most of his work in the first half when the game was hanging in the balance. Without his scoring output, the Hawks may not have been in a position to catapult in front like they did. For the Breakers, Delany played a lone hand at times, but his first half was telling, as his side looked to cause an upset. The forward finished with 22 points in a brave performance.

The Breakers will look to bounce back as they take on the Brisbane Bullets on Sunday night at Spark Arena, while the Hawks will face the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday night as they look to edge even closer to the finals.

Photo credit: Phil Walter/Getty images

Wildcats do it again without Bryce with triumph over Kings

THE Perth Wildcats have recorded their second consecutive win without NBL superstar Bryce Cotton, taking down the Sydney Kings by 14 points at RAC Arena on Thursday night. The former NBL MVP is set for a stint on the sidelines with a quad injury, but that has not slowed down the form of his side. The Wildcats have backed up their win over the Adelaide 36ers earlier this week by taking down a Kings side that was hopeful of taking advantage of an undermanned opponent. Instead, the 10,650 strong Perth crowd was treated to a crucial win from the home side, a result that truly keeps them in contention for dethroning Melbourne United on top of the ladder.

The opening term saw Wildcat John Mooney open his account with eight first-quarter points, while teammate Todd Blanchfield was also impressive to begin the game. Despite strong performances from the pair, the Wildcats trailed by one point at the first break, with a determined Kings side up for the fight, thanks to a number of contributors. Despite entering the match without their star, the Wildcats still entered the match favourites, so when the Kings’ lead extended into the second quarter, fans in RAC Arena felt they were on the brink of witnessing a disappointing upset. The Wildcats were determined not to let this happen, and were able to completely break the game open to finish the quarter. A Mooney 3-pointer put his side up by two points, and this kickstarted a remarkable 14-0 run from the Wildcats to close out the second term. Blanchfield score eight straight points as the Kings struggled to contain the Perth forward from finding any shot he desired. The Wildcats entered the locker rooms at halftime with a 15-point lead, and prepared for any charge the Kings would make in the second half.

The third quarter saw the Kings make a slight charge as expected, but missing crucial shots saw the visitors not able to take advantage of this and reduce the lead. Instead, it was eight consecutive points from Wildcats development player Luke Travers that had the strongest impact for the quarter. Despite keeping their opponents quiet for periods of the third term, the Kings still trailed by 14 points heading into the final term. The fourth quarter certainly the prettiest display of basketball we’ve seen this season, with the Wildcats opening the scoring through Blanchfield, but unable to score a basket for the next seven minutes. The Kings were only able to score seven points themselves during this time, and their inability to capitalise ultimately ruled out any chance of a comeback as they would fall 81-67.

For the Wildcats, Blanchfield (23 points) and Mooney (19) ran the show all night long, constantly finding ways to score when their team needed it. Blanchfield’s eight-point run in the second term truly broke the game open when the contest was up for grabs. Travers also impressed for the Wildcats with 16 points of his own. For the Kings, Jarell Martin was an offensive threat all night, despite the scoreboard deficit. The forward finished with 20 points, while fellow King Jordan Hunter recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats will head to Illawarra on Tuesday night to take on the Hawks, while the Kings face the toughest task in the NBL as they face off against the ladder-leading Melbourne United in Sydney on Saturday.

Picture credit: Paul Kane

2021 NBL Round 20 preview: Race for finals heats up

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season slowly coming to a close, Round 20 is set to bring some enticing clashes as the top sides vie for prime position on the ladder. The race for fourth spot will heat up as the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets sit just outside eager to poke their way through to finals contention.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, May 26 @7:30pm

The Brisbane Bullets will be looking to bounce back and get a potential win over Cairns Taipans tonight to keep their slim hopes alive. It has been a trying couple of weeks for the Bullets who have been close but fallen short in consecutive weeks to Melbourne-based sides but could be in with a chance against the lowly Taipans.

Lamar Patterson has well and truly found his groove and will be hoping to be at his damaging best against Cairns to notch up another win for his side. he averages 13.75 points and 4.58 rebounds making him a dominant force for the Bullets alongside Nathan Sobey who tops the side with 21.35 points. Matthew Hodgson is the other to keep an eye out for in this clash while Harry Froling and Jason Cadee are capable of stepping up to the plate averaging 7.45 and 9.58 points respectively with the former also strong off the boards thanks to his average of five rebounds. When looking at the Cairns line-up and it is hard to go past Scott Machado who was back to his damaging best last game producing 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Majok Deng is also handy on the scoreboard boasting an average of 11.38 points and 4.88 rebounds while Mirko Djeric is quite capable of applying the heat both in offence and defence. Veteran Nate Jawai will need to step up to the plate as will Mojave King who has shown glimpses of magic but is yet to find consistency.

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 27 @9:30pm

It is set to be a blockbuster game as the second placed Wildcats host the fifth placed Sydney Kings who are looking for their way into the top four. They have a rich history having competed in the grand final last year and Perth will be hoping to once again reign supreme and build some strong momentum heading into the upcoming finals.

It will be a battle of the two guards as Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware go into bat for their respective sides. Cotton is unstoppable when given time and space to impact the play credit to his average of 23.47 points and 5.69 assists while Ware is equally as important for the Kings often acting as the barometer for his side thanks to his 18.59 points and 4.44 rebounds. John Mooney has been a reliable source of both points and rebounds for the Wildcats throughout season 2021 draining 17.7 points and accumulating 11.52 rebounds and will need to be at that high level of production if they are to knock off the Kings. Another handy option is Todd Blanchfield alongside Mitchell Norton with the former averaging 14.69 points each time he steps out on court. Jarell Martin continues to be a key cog for the Kings averaging 17.46 points and 6.92 rebounds while the likes of Xavier Cooks and Jordan Hunter will have to up the ante in order to compete with the second placed Wildcats.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 28 @5:30pm

Ever since they returned home to New Zealand, the Breakers have been a new and improved side playing with confidence and although they have only notched up one win in their past five outings they are capable of ruffling some feathers. The Hawks on the other hand have the reverse with one loss in their past five outings, showcasing the stark difference in form between the two sides.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will be the one the Breakers look to crack straight away given their ability to score quickly and freely. Harvey leads the side with 19.84 points while Jessup boasts an average of 13.94 points and a marginally higher rebound average of  3.84. Cameron Bairstow is not to be underestimated, able to get in and ply his trade while Sam Froling, Justin Simon and Andrew Ogilvy a couple of handy figures when it comes to mounting scoreboard pressure. For the Breakers the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany will have to be on their A-game if they are any chance of worrying the Hawks. Webster is capable of making great things happen as shown by his average of 17.29 points, 4.92 rebounds and 5.38 assists while Delany is also a pocket rocket credit to his 6.74 rebounds. Since joining the side, Levi Randolph has not skipped a beat producing an average of 14.6 points each time he steps out on court.

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, May 29 @5:30pm

South East Melbourne play their first game of the round against Cairns Taipans who are set to play their second in as many days. Travelling down to Melbourne, expect fatigue to be somewhat of a factor when the Taipans take on the Phoenix who will be raring to go and eager to solidify their standings on the ladder.

Taking a look at the Phoenix side and it is fair to say they are littered with talent but are searching for that level of consistency. Boasting the likes of Mitch Creek, Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes and the new and improved Kyle Adnam there is no shortage of shooting options. But it just comes down to what level of output each player is having given, Creek can star both in and attack as shown by his 18.23 points and 6.5 rebounds. Throw in the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix have a pretty complete list that should be able to get over the top of the Taipans.

Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 29 @8:00pm

Melbourne United will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and register another win when they take on Sydney. It will be the Kings second game in three days, meaning that United will be looking to capitalise on their tired opponents and exploit them with their level of depth. Sitting on top of the ladder Melbourne will stop at nothing to secure a win and lock down the prime position.

Melbourne United will be hoping that Chris Goulding picks up where he left off, with his hot hand from down town last match doing a world of damage. Goulding has been in scintillating form of late, spurring his side on but will need support from the likes of Jock Landale who is no slouch himself (16.1 points, 7.84 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (11.58 points and 3.79 rebounds) if they are to get over the line. United have a wealth of depth as Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have stepped up to the plate with their drive to the rim. In recent weeks, Shea Ili and Yudai Baba have chimed in for some handy points and will need to be at that level once again here against the highly competitive Kings.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 30 @3:00pm

Adelaide will enjoy an extended break before taking the court for the first time on Sunday. But they will have their work cut out for them up against the Illawarra Hawks who are fighting to keep their spot inside the top four. Although the Hawks will be gearing up for their second game of the round and the 36ers first expect a tough battle with neither side wanting to drop a game so close to finals.

Daniel Johnson has been the main man in focus for Adelaide given his capacity to find the scoreboard averaging 19.88 points and 6.94 rebounds. The return of Isaac Humphries has been beneficial for Adelaide given his proficiency on the scoreboard with an average of 13.32 points and 7.11 rebounds. Tony Crocker has been a real livewire for the 36ers while Sunday Dech has played a strong support role and will need to once again be that figure against the Hawks.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, May 30 @ 5:00pm

The battle between the Breakers and Bullets is set to be an enthralling one given New Zealand are quite capable of causing an upset. Although the Bullets are ahead on the ladder they have to make the trek across the trans-Tasman to play their second game of the round meaning fatigue could become a factor. The Breakers will be hoping to give their home crowd something to cheer about with a win over the Bullets, while Brisbane will be wanting to keep that glimmer of finals hopes alive.

Melbourne United vs. Cairns Taipans
Monday, May 31 @7:30pm

Cairns will front up for their third game of the round and the challenge is monumental as they take on the current ladder leaders, Melbourne United who have been in scintillating form for much of 2021. United will be hoping to use their bench depth to expose the Taipans who are somewhat undermanned and lacking in terms of form given they are planted firmly to the bottom of the ladder.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images