NEEDING to win to stay in the hunt for finals, Illawarra Hawks did just that toppling Cairns Taipans 93-81. But it was no easy feat, as the Hawks had to overcome a half-time deficit to race home and win in what was a dominant three-point shooting performance.
The Taipans have had a disappointing 2021 season but have shown glimpses of magic and the first quarter was no different. They competed hard and forced Illawarra onto the back foot as Mojave King and Scott Machado plied their trade from beyond the arc. They toiled away for the Taipans while Justinian Jessup worked in overdrive for the Hawks to stay within touching distance. It was a relatively even start to the game for both sides as they found the basket fairly well and converted off their chances before Illawarra really started to find their groove and impact on the scoreboard. It was not long until Deng Deng got involved in the action to cull the margin back to two points but it was the Taipans that held the ascendancy. By the end of the first quarter the two-point buffer remained in play with the visitors primed for a big second term of action.
A fast start from the Taipans in the second term allowed them to edge even further ahead as Venky Joi and Jarrod Kenny made their presence felt on the scoreboard. Within a blink of an eye the two-point game had turned into a nine-point lead and the Hawks were feeling the heat. Jessup worked tirelessly amassing an impressive 18 points but it meant little as his side was unable to compete with Cairns as they seemed to have things their own way.
With the game slipping through the fingers the higher ranked Illawarra Hawks pulled out all the stops in the third. Sam Froling injected himself into the game for the Hawks as he piled on the pain with four consecutive points to dwindle the lead to one point. It did not stop there as AJ Ogilvy landed a much needed layup as Illawarra scored the first six points of the half while keeping their opponents scoreless. After the timeout the game turned into somewhat of a stalemate with both sides struggling to transition before once again the Hawks found a spark. Momentum was building and the Hawks were the beneficiaries as Jessup continued his hot form to shoot six points straight and create some scoreboard separation. The lead ballooned out to 12 points by three quarter time credit to a resurgent Hawks outfit that not only increased their pressure in attack but so too defence to limit their opposition to a mere six points for the entire quarter.
Coming in off a stellar third term, the Hawks were eager to pick up where they left off. But the Taipans had other plans, bursting out of the blocks to get some respect back as they poured on 13 points to five as Mirko Djeric proved why he is so imperative to the Cairns line-up. All of a sudden the buffer was just four points as the tables started to turn. Despite the best efforts of Cairns, Illawarra stepped up to the plate thanks to Tyler Harvey. He commanded the ball and let his shooting do the talking as he hit a timely three with his teammates feeding off his energy as they notched up an important win.
Jessup led the charge with 24 points at 42 per cent from the field while Harvey was also influential with his 22 points and just fell short of a double-double with seven rebounds and nine assists. Deng was also key for the Hawks as he added 13 points to the tally while also recording five rebounds and three blocks. Ogilvy was the sole other player to reach double digits as he produced 11 points and a whopping 12 rebounds, nine of which were offensive. Machado was back to his damaging best sinking 17 points at 55 per cent from the field while also accumulating nine assists. Majok Deng proved to be a handy option for Cairns with 16 points as King featured with 12 points.
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