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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

Hawks fly high to grab box seat for playoffs

ILLAWARRA Hawks are in the box seat to secure one of the two remaining finals spots after downing Adelaide 36ers on the road last night. The Hawks have strung together some form of late, winning four of their past five games – whilst fifth placed Sydney Kings have lost four of their past five – to sit with a 16-15 record heading into the final stages of the season. In last night’s battle with the 36ers, the Hawks all but spoiled the party for the home side who had to farewell young gun Josh Giddey to prepare for the NBA Draft, and went down by eight points to an impressive Illawarra outfit, 81-73.

The Hawks jumped out of the blocks early and took complete control of the contest in the opening half to set up what looked to be an unassailable lead. In almost identical fashion, the Hawks won the first term 24-14, then triumphed in the second term with a controlling 26-14 to lead 50-28 at the half. An even third term saw the 36ers peg one point back, and then they stood up in the last with 27-14, but the damage was done and by then, it was too little, too late and the home fans went home disappointed.

Both teams shot at a 45 per cent clip, but Illawarra had an additional 11 chances, also winning the assists (24-14) and steals (12-5), whilst the 36ers marginally lead in the rebounds (40-38). Aside from less personal fouls (10-17), the home team was well-beaten across the board, with the Hawks having four less turnovers (9-13), dominating the points from turnovers (17-4) and winning the points in the paint (40-30) in a strong all-round effort.

Sam Froling finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals in the win, teaming up well with Tyler Harvey who had the 18 points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals. Also stepping up from the starting lineup with Justin Simon (10 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists), whilst off the bench, Isaac White (16 points, four rebounds) and Deng Deng (10 points, seven rebounds) both contributed well to the cause. Emmett Naar might not have scored a point, but he had the seven assists and four rebounds in 16 minutes, while AJ Ogilvy finished with six rebounds and six assists – but only four points – in 21 minutes on court.

For the 36ers, Daniel Dillon was the top scorer with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, followed shortly by Daniel Johnson (13 points, two rebounds and two assists) who did not have his usual dominant impact from 31 minutes on court. Brendan Teys stepped up coming off the bench for 10 points and four rebounds, whilst Brandon Paul (seven points, five rebounds and three assists) and Keanu Pinder (seven points, six rebounds and two steals) were others who could hold their head high in the loss.

Illawarra Hawks will head home to host the Cairns Taipans at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday at 5pm, whilst the Adelaide 36ers will play two hours earlier, remaining at home to take on the reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, before trekking down to New Zealand on Tuesday to lock horns with New Zealand Breakers.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Chris Goulding inspired effort guides United to 24th win

MELBOURNE United reigned supreme against the Illawarra Hawks walking away with a 15-point win against their fellow top four side (102-87). The win sees United further cement their spot atop of the ladder while the Hawks are left to lick their wounds and re-group for their next encounter on Friday night.

Justinian Jessup was feeling himself early  with the Hawks guard proving to be that livewire in attack. He managed to pour on the scoreboard pressure as he spurred the side to a 13 points to five lead with eight of those points his own. He received some much needed help from Justin Simon and Tyler Harvey, with the duo seeming to be in good touch and putting the home side in good stead to notch up a win. But the tables started to turn as United were determined to not suffer another loss after going down to the Phoenix in Round 18. Chris Goulding led this resurgence by United as the captain drained four triples while David Barlow also injected himself into the thick of things to not only get themselves back in the game but take the lead. The match was evenly poised to close out the quarter as the two sides traded blows as they endeavoured to find that balance between offence and defence.

It was a fast start in the second quarter from United that gifted them the upper hand as they kicked it up a gear mainly thanks to Goulding once again. He had his radar well and truly on and could not be denied from down town as he drained another three triples to take his tally to seven for the half. After a hot start to the game, Jessup could not find the basket or the rock as he failed to score again after his opening triple in the quarter. With Jessup off the boil and Harvey unable to find his rhythm, United capitalised going on a 13 point run spree. With Goulding flexing his muscle from down town, Scotty Hopson decided it was time to pull out his own party tricks as he drained one to add further pressure to the Hawks. Despite Illawarra finishing the quarter with a flurry of points they were unable to really eat into the deficit going into the main change down by 11 points.

The third quarter also favoured Melbourne United as the top of the table side connected well across the court and backed themselves in at each and every contest. With Goulding receiving all the attention and accolades, teammate Jock Landale stepped up to the plate in the first five minutes as he went on a tear scoring 10 points. Landale was not alone as both Hopson and Shea Ili nailed triples of their own with their influence ultimately helping to propel United to a 22-point lead. With everything going to plan for United, the Hawks were left wondering where to go to next as they struggled to combat United who proved they could rotate the strike.

The break could not come quick enough for Illawarra who were out on their feet in front of a home crowd as United continued to attack the rim. But the fourth quarter did not bring much reprieve as United extended the lead to 28 points early on in the piece. however they did take the foot off the pedal as the Hawks wrestled back some much needed control. They managed to stem the bleeding and nullify the impact of both Goulding and Landale with Tim Coenraad hitting a handy three and Emmett Naar plying his trade on the scoreboard.

Deng Deng led all-comers on the Hawks front with 15 points albeit at a lowly 36 per cent while also managing seven rebounds. Jessup offered a helping hand chiming in with 11 points while both Sam Froling and Harvey recorded 10 points apiece in the loss. Naar worked tirelessly for his nine points, three rebounds and four assists as Simon showed his class to pick-up two steals. Goulding had a day out with his 25 points and while he did not feature too heavily on the scoresheet after half time the damage was all but done. Goulding also amassed three rebounds as partner in crime, Landale secured a double-double thanks to his 21 points and 11 rebounds, 10 of which were defensive. Hopson produced 13 points from his 22 minutes on court as both Jo Lual-Acuil and Mason Peatling kept the scoreboard ticking over with 10 points each.

Photo credit: Getty images

Hawks hold strong thanks to some Tyler Harvey magic

IN the opening game of Round 18 in the National Basketball League (NBL) it was Illawarra Hawks that snuck over the line against a desperate Adelaide 36ers outfit (71-66). It was a highly defensive game with the Hawks smothering the 36ers in attack who held the mantle for the highest scoring team over the past month.

The Hawks flew out of the gates with a huge opening term of basketball as the home side piled on 23 points. Their defensive intensity was up from the get-go as they forced Adelaide into a whopping 10 turnovers while also shutting them down in attack as the visitors only registered 10 points. Justin Simon was well and truly on and his presence was causing all sorts of havoc for the 36ers as he mounted a wealth of pressure on the ball carrier. Spurred on by Simon’s defensive tendencies Tyler Harvey flexed his muscles in attack, finding his rhythm from range as the home side went on a nine point scoring spree. Deng Deng showed just what he is capable of as the side established a 13-point buffer.

With it all one-way traffic in the opening stanza of play, Adelaide were determined to not roll over and die as a couple of triples from Brandon Paul, Tony Crocker and Jack McVeigh dictated the opening passages of play. The conversions set the side in good stead to mount a comeback as their confidence spread across the court and became somewhat infectious. Adelaide simply could not be denied with ball in hand as they strung together 15 points straight to not only level the scores but overtake Illawarra and claim the lead heading into the main break. The efforts from McVeigh and Crocker were phenomenal throughout the quarter as they combined for 17 points and did some of their best work from outside of the arc.

After being blown out of the water in the second quarter, Illawarra flicked a switch in the third putting the clamps back on Adelaide through their defensive pressure. The 36ers poured on 28 points in the second term and were only able to add 14 to the tally in the third  as the Hawks produced 20. AJ Ogilvy found his groove sinking six quick points to then inspire the likes of Simon and Deng to re-kindle their earlier form and go on a seven point to zip run. By this stage the Hawks held the upper hand as they boasted a narrow two-point lead in what was a seesawing affair.

The final quarter did not disappoint as both teams fought tooth and nail to claim the all-important win. The combination of Crocker and McVeigh was at its damaging best as the two ate into the margin with a couple of triples to start the term before Harvey and Justinian Jessup got involved in the action. But the game was far from over as youngster Josh Giddey showed his skill while Paul gave his side some hope as the clock ticked down. but as the game hung in the balance it was the sheer star power and class of Harvey that came to the fore as he drained two triples for the Hawks to gift them a hard earned five point win.

Simon put on a defensive masterclass credit to his six rebounds, three steals and two blocks while also highlighting his ability to swing into attack within the blink of an eye with his 12 points and six assists. Harvey topped the table for points, sinking 23 from 41 per cent from the field to accompany his seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. Deng fell just short of a double-double with his 10 points and nine rebounds as Sam Froling plied his trade though his six points and eight rebounds. Crocker was influential off the bench with a team-high 16 points as McVeigh got busy in his 20 minutes on court sinking 11 points. Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both struggled to fire managing nine and eight points respectively. Paul was strong finishing with six points, eight rebounds and four steals to his name.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Hawks swoop with dazzling fourth term

IT WAS a disappointing night for the New Zealand Breakers who despite leading for majority of the contest were overrun by the Illawarra Hawks (75-67). A dominant final term of action from the Hawks gifted them the win and also kept their finals chances alive as they look to build heading into the remaining stages of the competition with seven of their next eight games to be played at home in Wollongong.

Without the services of Levi Randolph, who landed the winning shot last round, the Breakers looked to another familiar face in Tai Webster to lead the way in the opening stanza. New Zealand got off to a strong start finding the rim with relative ease and applying good scoreboard pressure to keep Illawarra guessing. With Webster injecting himself into the thick of things early in the game notching up 10 points, Finn Delany also got busy for the home side as things started to tick along nicely creating a handy five-point lead at the break.

The second quarter favoured Illawarra as their stars in Tyler Harvey and Justin Simon got busy. Their influence across the court was profound as they duo worked in harmony to pile on the pressure and eat back into the deficit. New Zealand worked tirelessly to maintain their slim buffer but were starting to get found out as their inaccuracy from the charity stripe cost them big-time, only converting three of their eight attempts. The momentum steadily started to shift in favour of the visitors who by half-time sat at 40 points apiece credit to Harvey nailing a driving layup with a mere five seconds left on the clock and taking his first half total to a whopping 21 points.

Having settled into a better rhythm across the court the Hawks were playing with more confidence and conviction. But they were made to work for it as the Breakers re-established the lead to make it a five point ball-game. Their increased attention on the likes of Harvey who seemed to have the ball on a string in the opening half, quelled the ball speed and attacking intent of the game but the Hawks still found a way to peg away at the margin and remain in the contest. Simon fired up as the clock ticked down sinking a much needed triple to get back within two before Sam Froling put the nail in the coffin with a mere second left on the clock to steal the lead heading into the final change.

A blistering final term of basketball from the Hawks flip the script on the game as they went on a 14 point to zip run, to not only steal the lead but create a handy eight point buffer. The efforts of Harvey once again came to the fore after going off the boil in the third, hitting an impressive triple to push the margin to a game-high 13 points. But the Breakers proved that anything you can do I can do better as they went on a points scoring spree of their own sinking eight straight, reducing the deficit but not doing enough to steal the win.

The absence of Randolph was felt across the court for New Zealand however it provided a chance for Webster to get busy and pile on the points himself with 14 points at 55 per cent from the field. Webster also amassed three rebounds and five assists but was costly with ball in hand coughing up four turnovers. Tom Abercrombie was his usual consistent self, sinking 14 points of his own to accompany his three rebounds as William McDowell-White continued to find his groove producing 13 points, five rebounds and three assists. Corey Webster was strong in his return posting 10 points and six rebounds.

Illawarra officially said goodbye to NBA player Deng Adel but in the meantime welcomed back another key cog in Justinian Jessup. Still working his way back to full fitness, Jessup managed eight points and two rebounds but provided good support to his side. It is no surprise that Harvey topscored after starring in the opening half and finished with 29 points, two rebounds and four steals to his name. Simon was the next best thanks to his 12 points and seven rebounds all of which were defensive while Froling also asserted himself thanks to his 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. Deng Deng and Daniel Grida both offered a helping hand with their five rebounds apiece.

Photo credit: Steve Bell

Moller seals the deal with a triple in overtime

IT was a dramatic finish to the game up in Wollongong with the Sydney Kings prevailing in overtime against an undermanned Illawarra Hawks side (79-75). The Kings seemed to have momentum for majority of the game but the Hawks came up big when the clock ticked down to push the game into extra time but the class of Sydney eventually came to the fore as they solidified their spot in the top four.

The first quarter was relatively low scoring as both sides attempted to feel each other out and claim some form of ascendancy on the match. The Hawks were without a couple of key cogs with Justinian Jessup, Cam Bairstow and Deng Adel both missing from action while the Kings are getting used to life without Dejan Vasiljevic and Didi Louzada. With this in mind it took a while for both sides to find their rhythm as shown through the 16-15 point term, favouring Illawarra.

The Kings quickly put a stop to that, coming out with a real pep in their step in the second to flip the script and mount pressure on the Hawks. Their ability to find the basket started to become paramount as the likes of Craig Moller and Casper Ware got busy. The duo combined to keep the scoreboard steadily ticking over and push ahead to give the Kings that much needed edge and put them on track to win their fourth game straight.

Down by six points at the main break, Illawarra answered the call in the third stanza as a couple of their key figures in Deng Deng and Sam Froling managed to find the basket. But the real magic started to unfold in the final quarter with everything on the line. In front of a home crowd and celebrating their 2001 premiership the Hawks threw everything they had at the Kings not only peppering away at the basket but so too eating into the deficit. Their ability to withstand the pressure and back themselves in was second to none.

It looked like the game was all but sealed when Kings’ Jarrell Martin nailed a handy triple with less than two minutes to play. but the Hawks had other plans with Tyler Harvey proving anything you can do, I can do better landing a triple of his own to reduce the margin to a mere two points. a step up in intensity saw the Hawks contest everything and with adrenaline pumping through their veins, the Hawks were going full pedal to the medal as Justin Simon kicked into gear. Having facilitated Harvey’s triple moments earlier, Simon was once again involved reading the pass to Ware and pick pocketing it to instead going streaming back down the court the other way and levelling the scores. With a tick under 30 seconds left to play scores were tied at 69-apiece, and despite both sides having chances with Shaun Bruce’s shot going astray and Harvey missing the game went into overtime.

Unfortunately for the Hawks they had spent all their energy in their fourth quarter comeback as the Kings piled on the pain early. The purple and gold nailed the first five points of overtime to place the Hawks on the back foot and did not look like relenting as Jordan Hunter got busy. But in the end it was Moller that landed the final blow with a handy triple to gift his side the hard-fought win.

Moller finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in an all-round solid performance for Sydney. Ware was his usual damaging self, producing a team-high 18 points, three rebounds and four assists while Hunter impressed on multiple fronts thanks to his double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Bruce was a menace off the boards reeling in 13 rebounds, 11 of which were defensive while Martin was no slouch sinking 11 points at 44 per cent from the field.

Froling had a day out for the Hawks walking away with a game-high 22 points plus his 12 rebounds in what was a complete performance by the forward. Harvey found plenty of chances to attack the rim in his 38 minutes on court securing 18 points and six rebounds. Simon was a real livewire and inspired his side in the final term with his 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and five steals. Emmett Naar was a strong force on the rebounding front registering 12 for the game as Deng chimed in with a handy seven points but it was not enough to get his side over the line.

Wildcats regain top spot with win over Hawks

ROUND 14 of the National Basketball League (NBL) continued last night with Perth Wildcats securing their 17th win of the season downing Illawarra Hawks by 14 points (83-69). It was a tale of two halves as the game was evenly poised in the opening quarters, before the class of the Wildcats shone through in the third stanza to really create some separation and steal the win.

Perth controlled proceedings in the first quarter with Todd Blanchfield and John Mooney opening the account for the side. They piled on the first five points of the game and continued to mount scoreboard pressure as the quarter went on. But the Hawks did not lie down though answering the call as Tyler Harvey and Sam Froling got busy, levelling the scores midway through the term.

Only three points separated the teams at half time as the Wildcats looked to extend their lead through the hands of Clint Steindl as they established a five-point lead. With the intensity building, Hawks upped the ante in the second quarter and capitalising on their chances. Froling and Harvey continued to attack the rim and provide opportunities for the Hawks as they once again levelled the scores with less than five minutes to play in the half. Momentum continued to ebb and flow with neither side able to gain any form of continuity in their game play. However it was Illawarra that struck with Deng Adel landing a layup with three second on the clock to steal a one-point lead at the main break.

With it all to play for in the second half, the Wildcats proved their premiership credentials with a dominant third term. Although Bryce Cotton was slow in the opening half, the star guard ignited his side alongside the likes of Mooney. Their overall defence stepped up as they limited the opportunities for Illawarra to hit the scoreboard keeping them to a mere eight points for the term. Playing with more confidence across the court Perth established a handy buffer heading into the final stanza.

Justinian Jessup worked his way into the match eating into the margin with a handy jump shot to draw within six points. But that momentum was short lived as the Wildcats bit back moments later to re-establish an eight-point ball game. Cotton started to find his range and become a real threat for Perth as they added to their tally and subsequently increased the margin to run out eventual winners. The Hawks’ voodoo in the West continued with the record extending to 34 losses from 35 appearances despite their best efforts.

After a quiet start Cotton ended up topscoring for the Wildcats producing 18 points at a lowly 28 per cent only managing two from nine of attempts from long range. Blanchfield also impressed with 18 points, six rebounds and two assists while Mooney had a night out recording a double-double thanks to his 17 points and 15 rebounds. Jesse Wagstaff was strong off the bench managing 12 points and six rebounds while Mitch Norton chimed in with a handy seven points, four rebounds and five assists.

For the Hawks, it was Froling that dominated the scoreboards thanks to his 15 points while also lending a helping hand off the boards with eight rebounds seven of which were defensive. He also managed three assists, two steals and three blocks. Harvey was a force to be reckoned with 14 points and six rebounds. Justin Simon plied his trade with 10 points at 50 per cent from the field along with three steals and five rebounds. Deng Deng was another handy option chiming in with eight points as Andrew Ogilvy shot at 100 per cent for his seven points.

Harvey erupts for 35, Hawks hold off Taipans by two points

ILLAWARRA Hawks’ star import Tyler Harvey went off in Sunday’s closer for a career night in scoring, leading his team to edge out the Cairns Taipans 82-80 and going two wins clear of the fourth ranked Brisbane Bullets in the NBL standings – bearing in mind the Bullets have three games in hand.

After a tough loss two games prior to last night at home, the Hawks wanted to get off to the best start possible in what was the last game of Illawarra’s three-game home stand. With this in mind, Illawarra’s home crowd spurred their team on to a five-point lead after the first quarter as Harvey put up 10 points in that time.

While Cairns started to strike back after being down 20-25 at the first break, it had to begin through their main weapons in Cameron Oliver and Scott Machado. But as Mike Kelly’s squad started to string together some much needed scores, Illawarra’s Deng Deng and Deng Adel made their presence known to the Taipans finishing strong at the tail-end of the second quarter to put the Hawks up by 11 points at half time.

It was obvious that Kelly needed to inspire his side to a strong start in the third and Oliver felt obliged to step in early as a result. As the Cairns center kept knocking down jumpers, Justin Simon and Sam Froling answered back with buckets of their own and the third quarter ensued.

Backed by Oliver’s 10 third quarter points, Cairns pulled back the margin from 11 points at half time to just five, after a good defensive period which led to the Taipans limiting the Hawks to just 10 points before the fourth got underway.

Both sides traded baskets back and forth during the first couple of minutes in the final term before Nathan Jawai scored five consecutive points to tie up the contest with eight minutes left to play.

The one player that Cairns could not figure out how to contain was Harvey, as the first season import exploded for a career-high night putting Illawarra in the best possible position to finish the contest strongly.

In the final minute, a Simon jumpshot would fall to put the Hawks up by four, however, Jordan Ngatai dropped a triple of his own with 14 seconds on the clock to keep those in attendance on edge.

Luckily enough, Justinian Jessup remained cool and composed under pressure hitting four-straight free throws, allowing the Hawks to walk away with a narrow two-point victory and cap off a successful three-game home stretch, winning two games out of three.

In many areas of last night’s closer, both teams were relatively even throughout the meeting, but Illawarra excelled at scoring in the paint and rebounding at both ends. On the other hand, Cairns were much more disciplined from the free throw line shooting 85 per cent from the charity strike (17-20) and knocked down nine triples compared to Illawarra’s seven. All in all, both the Hawks and the Taipans shot relatively well with the sides shooting 45 and 40 per cent from the field respectively.

There was no stopping Harvey on his way to a career-high 35 points shooting 13 of 24 attempts from the field, as well as three rebounds to add to his performance. Simon was the only other Hawk to crack double digits with 10 points and six rebounds, while Andrew Ogilvy led Brian Goorjian’s roster in rebounds and assists finishing his night with eight points, nine boards and five dimes.

For Cairns, Oliver was head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates with an impressive 27-point, 12-rebound and five-assist outing. A surprising notable performance by youngster Tad Dufelmeier would also be a main headline in the box score with the 24-year-old putting up a season-high 12 points in 13-and-a-half minutes of game time.

Cairns now look to end their three-game losing streak on Wednesday night when they host the Adelaide 36ers, who are hot off a motivating win against the Perth Wildcats. Illawarra Hawks will hope to do the same thing as they head to RAC Arena on Friday to face the defending champions and kick off a Round 14 that will entail clashes against two of the top teams in the NBL.

Broekhoff finds range to help Phoenix sink Hawks

RYAN Broekhoff has arrived in the National Basketball League (NBL). The NBA talent has been gradually building minutes working into the competition, but it was his impact that spurred the South East Melbourne Phoenix onto a massive win over Illawarra Hawks on the road last night. The Phoenix – looking to bounce back from its first loss in five games – also brought back Mitch Creek for the match, in a game that the visiting side dominated after quarter time. In a game attended by more than 2600 people at the WIN Entertainment Centre, it was the Broekhoff-led Phoenix who got up, 95-63.

Illawarra was fast out of the blocks on the night in front of home fans, piling on 25 points to 15 in the opening term and opening up a double-digit lead. That was about where it stopped for them though, as the Phoenix took control in the second term, restricting Illawarra to just 13 points, as they piled on 24 themselves to head into the main break with an one-point lead.

Despite the narrow margin, the momentum was all with the Phoenix and it showed in the second half, as the visitors put the foot down in the third with a whopping 30 points to just eight, winning the quarter by 22 and racing out to what was effectively an unassailable lead. They did not stop there however, also finishing the stronger of the sides with a dominant 26-17 final term using the rotations well, to run away with the 32-point thrashing.

The Phoenix were just more effective across the board, only having two more shots from the field (73-71), but nailing 36 of them (49 per cent efficiency) to the Hawks’ 16 (36 per cent). They also nailed 16 triples to four – largely thanks to Broekhoff’s seven of 11 – and won the rebound (46-37) assist (27-11), steal (7-5) and block (4-2) counts. Both teams had 11 turnovers, with the Hawks marginally ahead in capitalising from turnovers (18-15), but the Phoenix were ahead in points from the paint (34-30) and second chance points (13-10).

Broekhoff’s seven triples helped him to a total of 26 points, as well as six rebounds and one steal on the night from just 21 minutes of action. Creek played 21 minutes too, but put up just one of five from the field for a lowly two points, as well as two assists and one rebound. For the starters, Yannick Wetzell starred with 18 points, 11 rebounds – four offensive – five assists and three blocks, while back court duo Cameron Gliddon and Kyle Adnam were also busy.

Gliddon amassed 15 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals, while partner-in-crime Adnam finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ben Moore also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as six rebounds. Off the bench, Adam Gibson and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa combined for five points, but six rebounds and seven assists in the win.

For the Hawks, Justinian Jessup was a lone-hand on the scoring front, putting up a third of his team’s points with 21, whilst also notching up three rebounds for his troubles. Sam Froling had 10 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks, while Deng Deng had the nine points and four rebounds off the bench in less than 10 minutes on court. Usually reliable shooters Justin Simon and Tyler Harvey combined four just seven points – two of 12 from the field – in what was a disappointing overall night for the Hawks.

The Illawarra Hawks will want to shake off the loss to front up against the out-of-form Adelaide 36ers in South Australia tomorrow night, whilst the Phoenix host the New Zealand Breakers on Sunday at John Cain Arena.

Picture credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

No Sykes, no problem as Phoenix hold firm around top of the table

A SUNDAY double-header to end round seven action kicked off with the South East Melbourne Phoenix meeting and beating the Illawarra Hawks for the second time this season, 93-76. Two of the three teams in the league that average more than 90 points per game were both coming off tough losses and were looking to bounce back to solidify their place around the top of the table.

With stringent and physical defence from the Phoenix handing the Hawks their first season loss in their first matchup, the key difference this time was the absence of star import Keifer Sykes who is carrying an ankle injury. He joined the already sidelined Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau, as well as the recently signed Ryan Broekhoff who is still in quarantine. Kyle Adnam stepped up in his absence as the Phoenix again restricted the Hawks to their lowest score the season and served them their biggest loss.

The Phoenix picked up where they left off from their last matchup and were intense on both ends of the floor from the outset. Adnam and Cam Gliddon led the charge early with tidy distribution and shot making being key areas that gave the Phoenix an early lead which they did not squander.

While their intensity was clearly superior early, South East Melbourne was also able to take the Hawks off the dribble and either straight to the rim to score or find passes inside to big men like Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore.

With Sykes’ injury forcing the Phoenix to make rotation changes, star of the New Zealand National Basketball League Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was given extra minutes having played just four minutes this season. He made an immediate impact with his known defensive abilities, forcing an eight-second backcourt violation in his first possession on the court.

The offensive stalwarts for the Hawks in Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey struggled for much of the game, with air balls for each of them highlighting their struggles. The pair also struggled in their last matchup, as coach Simon Mitchell made a point of reminding his players to always know where they are and force them right.

The quarter-time score read 25-13 for the Phoenix as they shot the ball 19 per cent better and had six more assists, areas they would continue to dominate for the rest of the game.

Brian Goorjian pleaded for more physicality from his outfit, and despite a couple of easy baskets and poorly missed shots, an and-one from Andrew Ogilvy, and triples from Deng Deng, Deng Adel, and Harvey combined with some intensity on the defensive end saw them back within six points.

Losing the offensive fluidity they enjoyed to this point, the Phoenix sought to get to the free throw line to halt the Hawks’ momentum and did so to great effect. They had 17 attempts to Illawarra’s five.

The Hawks, however, continued to shoot well from deep and if it were not for some Mitch Creek magic down the stretch, the Hawks would not have been trailing 45-37 at the main break.

Although the margin was only eight points, South East Melbourne still felt in control and they proved it with a big 28-18 third quarter to give them an 18-point lead heading into the final quarter. An up and down start to the term would eventually be dominated through the Phoenix’s sharp ball movement, and offensive glass prowess headed by Moore.

The margin was extended to 20 points after an Adnam floater was followed by his tenth assist on the night.

The final quarter comeback would have needed to have been the biggest of the season, but it was not to be as the rest of the game ebbed and flowed. Two Cameron Bairstow triples gave the Hawks life, but the Phoenix pushed through and kept the Hawks to their lowest score of the season again winning 93-76.

The Phoenix enjoyed another huge NBL Cup outing from Creek who had 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 58 per cent shooting. Gliddon put up 19 points, to go with five rebounds and three assists, while Adnam fell just short of a double-double with nine points, 11 assists, and four steals. Moore also enjoyed one of his best games this season with 22 points and five rebounds off the bench, which included 12 of 12 from the free throw line.

South East Melbourne has 23 more free throw attempts in the game and managed to force Illawarra into 16 turnovers. This disciplined defenced managed to hold the Hawks’ key players in Jessup (seven points) and Harvey (14 points) quieter than usual. Justin Simon (13 points, six rebounds) was the only other Illawarra player to score more than 10 points.

The Phoenix will look to carry this momentum into their Wednesday matchup with Perth, while the Hawks will look to bounce back on Thursday against the 36ers.