Tag: Illawarra Hawks

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.

United make it eight straight to retain top spot

MELBOURNE United made it eight wins on the trot defeating Illawarra Hawks (87-76) thanks to a blistering first quarter of play. Although scoring from both sides fell away in the last term, the damage had already been done with United holding firmly onto top spot in the National Basketball League (NBL).

The Hawks landed the first blow of the game with Andrew Ogilvy nailing a dunk. But from there on out it was one way traffic as Melbourne United controlled proceedings and piled on six points straight to build momentum. United seemed to have the magic touch in the opening stanza with their shooting from range coming to the fore as they drilled eight triples across the first half with Jock Landale picking up where he left off while Mason Peatling got busy for United. It was clear that Melbourne were hungry for the win, applying a wealth of scoreboard pressure while limiting the impact of the Hawks as they shut down their offensive plays to stretch out to as much as a 12-point lead throughout the term.

Holding a nine-point margin at the start of the second quarter, Melbourne United wasted no time hitting the scoreboard as Jo Lual-Acuil opened the account with a dunk and proved to have a hot hand sinking the next points of the game as they extended the lead to 13. Tyler Harvey worked tirelessly to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the Hawks with his ability to find the rim but in the end it was the accuracy from United that was causing real concern. Melbourne continued to convert at just over 80 per cent from the field as the lead creeped out to as much as 18 before Illawarra reeled it in thanks to Justin Simon and Harvey sinking the final points of the term.

With a sense of urgency filtering across the court for Illawarra, they upped the ante in third term, honing in on United and steadily eating into the margin thanks to some increased defence and attacking forays playing off. Sam Froling inserted himself in the thick of things sparking the Hawks’ comeback with support also coming from Justinian Jessup as they snuck back to a 10-point ball game. but before they knew it the game blew wide open again as Landale and Chris Goulding ignited the scoreboard with the latter landing a handy triple.

The final term ended in favour of the Hawks as they outscored their opponents 11-15 but it was too little, too late as United had done more than enough throughout the game to create a handy buffer and ultimately secure the win.

It was a shared approach from United that got the job done with four players hitting double-figures and effectively plying their trade to influence the outcome of the game. Lual-Acuil led the way for United sinking 15 points in his 19 minutes on court while also reeling in seven rebounds. Landale was another key cog, knocking back 13 points at 60 per cent from the field to accompany his 11 rebounds and five assists. Goulding was his influential self, producing 11 points with three triples included in that along with four rebounds and three assists as Yudai Baba tied for points with 11 of his own. Scotty Hopson was down on his lofty standards but still managed eight points at 50 per cent.

The ever-reliable duo in Jessup and Harvey were once again key pillars for the Hawks however it was not enough to get them over the line. Jessup dominated with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals while Harvey chimed in with 17 points, two rebounds, three assists and three steals. Both Ogilvy and Froling drained 11 points each with the latter also walking away with seven rebounds to his name in a strong showing in a losing effort.

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.

United back to peak form, will they carry it into the NBL21 finals?

FOR the better part of their NBL21 campaign, Melbourne United has been widely regarded as the team to beat by the other eight sides. But since the turn of mid-season that moniker is being pulled in two different directions with the Victorian side and last year’s champions Perth Wildcats sharing the top of the ladder.

But with the last leg of games still to be played, United have all but locked up another postseason appearance, sitting more than five wins ahead of the Illawarra Hawks who currently sit in fourth position on the rankings. Nevertheless, these upcoming matches for Dean Vickerman’s squad will remain tremendously important, as there is little more valuable to a side than going into the finals with good form on their side.

Going all the way back to mid-January, Melbourne’s 24-point thrashing of the Adelaide 36ers was the perfect precursor for how United’s season was going to go, setting up what would be a lengthy unbeaten run to kick off the fixture. The 2020 semi-finalists then earned wins over the Cairns Taipans, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Brisbane Bullets, Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats, capping off a six-game streak from the opening round – the best start to the season from any side across the competition.

Melbourne’s first blemish on their win-loss record came surprisingly on opening night of the inaugural NBL Cup against the Wildcats, who they had defeated just a couple of weeks prior. This loss reminded United not to rest on their laurels given their exemplary start and also how potent the two-time defending premiers still were. United quickly returned to their expected form with four straight victories following their first loss.

If Melbourne had continued their stellar results leading up to today, no one would even question any other team being on their level. But after attaining a ridiculous 10 wins for one loss start to the season, Melbourne conceded their second loss of the campaign to the Bullets to end Round 8. Afterwards, they would then suffer their third loss to the Phoenix, then a fourth to the Hawks, and a fifth to the Sydney Kings. Melbourne’s four-game losing streak quickly produced more doubters as the Wildcats started to close the gap on the ladder leaders.

United’s four losses during the NBL Cup saw them lock up fourth position in the tournament standings below Perth, South East Melbourne and Brisbane – a serious dark patch in what is looking to be a very successful NBL21 for Chris Goulding and his teammates.

Light has certainly been found at the end of United’s mid-season tunnel, having strung together a winning streak of seven games leading up to today since Round 10. Melbourne also sits half a game above Perth with the final lot of games to play, and with home-court advantage on the line come finals, the two sides will be putting their best foot forward to secure that minor premiership.

United has shown this season that there are three main weapons to their team structure. First up is Goulding’s ability to score anywhere on the floor efficiently and quickly which has served the team captain well for numerous years now. Goulding may not be the roster’s top scorer currently, but the 32-year-old has had some awesome scoring nights this season and his 16.2 points per game is evidence this.

A consistent and reliable participant on the floor as well as the second weapon of Melbourne’s three-pronged attack, Mitch McCarron has played all 22 of the team’s games this season (one of three Melbourne players not to miss a game). With this, McCarron has also produced solid numbers averaging 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and almost one and a half steals per outing.

Another player to have appeared in all 22 of United’s contests is Jock Landale and he has well and truly taken the league by storm. Averaging a team-high 16.5 points, 8.2 rebounds on 52 per cent shot success from the field, Landale is arguably Coach Vickerman’s biggest and most potent weapon. The big man is also dishing at almost two and a half assists per game and has accumulated eight double-doubles since the beginning of the season.

After losing Jack White (9.1 points and 6.0 rebounds) to a season-ending Achilles injury, the title contenders suffered a big blow to their squad rotation. However, with Scotty Hopson (12 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists) possibly returning and Sam McDaniel (4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds) back on the hardwood, Melbourne can use their depth to their fullest extent in running their opponents off the court. Additional weapons like import Yudai Baba (8.1 points and 2.1 rebounds) and big-man Jo Lual-Acuil (7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds) will also need to be clicking from here on in, as the end of the campaign approaches and especially once the postseason arrives.

Melbourne will have the chance to further consolidate their top-four dominance when they face the Hawks on Sunday, looking for their ninth home win in 11 matches. United then host the struggling 36ers in Round 15, who are running out of time to make their way into the top four and will need to defeat the Victorian side to start that uphill climb.

The NBL has also released the remaining fixtures for all nine teams. For information regarding the 14 games that Melbourne United are yet to play – CLICK HERE.

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.

Illawarra digs deep to scorch Phoenix in the fourth, earn 82-80 win

REINVIGORATED by their head coach, the Illawarra Hawks charged back last night with an inspired fourth quarter effort to steal away a win against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, 82-80, ending a three-game losing streak and winning their second game in seven outings.

Sluggish would be a rather overstated way of describing the events of the first quarter, as the Hawks conducted their lowest scoring opening period of the season with just 10 points to their name and no individuals with multiple baskets after 10 minutes. The Phoenix were not much better as they were only able to produce 18 points, however, an eight-point lead is always welcome to an NBL side.

Two quick buckets from Sam Froling to open the second was a direct result of Brian Goorjian’s stern words at the first break and the deficit was made substantially smaller too. Before Illawarra could gather too much momentum, South East Melbourne held their own and managed to keep their noses in front after two quarters. But the Hawks’ missed opportunities had the hosts frustrated and when Keifer Sykes knocked down a transition and second chance three with less than two minutes remaining in the half, the Phoenix could smell blood in the water, leading at the midway point 41-30.

Things looked like they were getting out of hand for the Hawks after Kyle Adnam got the second half underway with back-to-back triples, although a three of his own from Justinian Jessup slowed the roll of the Phoenix. Nevertheless, Simon Mitchell’s side continued to keep their opponents at arm’s length while the Hawks kept biting away at their deficit on the scoreboard.

With Tyler Harvey and Jessup spreading the floor and making their shots, the Hawks would win the third quarter 25 to 20 and trail by just six points with the final term still to be played. Meanwhile, Sykes, Adnam and Mitchell Creek needed to find a way to put away Illawarra, who were trying to avoid a sixth loss in seven matches.

The Hawks kept banging on the door and in the last five minutes of the fourth, Illawarra’s final charge would be led by none other than Harvey after hitting another triple. Jessup then converted on an And-One, which preceded buckets by both Froling and Justin Simon, cutting the Phoenix’s lead to a single point.

With two and a half minutes to go, another three-pointer from Jessup would gift the home side the lead, which was further compounded by yet another triple via Harvey to put the Hawks up by as much as seven points. Adnam and the rest of the South East Melbourne shooters tried their best to shoot themselves back into the contest, but Illawarra’s last-minute stand was enough to end the team’s recent dry run of form, earning the two-point win in front of an ecstatic Hawks crowd.

Both sides improved their offensive output as the night progressed culminating in both the Hawks and the Phoenix finishing with 44 per cent efficiency from the field in shooting. Illawarra gained the upper hand in statistics like free throw shooting, steals, blocks and points from turnovers, whereas South East Melbourne earned the advantage in rebounds and assists. The Phoenix also outscored the Hawks off the bench with 31 of their points flowing through their secondary unit.

Many would have thought Harvey’s 22 points, six rebounds and four assists were going to be the main talking point, but Jessup’s 26 points, six rebounds and two steals were arguably just as, if not, more important than his teammate’s. Froling ended the game with 10 points and five rebounds, while Simon finished with eight points and six boards.

Performing at an elite level once again, Adnam shot for 22 points along with five threes at 70 per cent from the field. However, with the return of Creek (15 points and six rebounds) and Sykes (14 points), the Phoenix duo can expect more court time after being away from the game for an extended period of time.

Now that Illawarra are back in the top four, they will need to defend their position when they face off with the Cairns Taipans on Sunday to round out their three-game week. Two hours prior to that, the Phoenix will travel to Sydney to meet the Kings and try to avoid two losses in the same week.

One win in their last six, Hawks flying just below top-four as NBL21 winds down

LAST season the Cairns Taipans were the clear-cut most improved side of 2020 after a horror 2019 campaign. This season in 2021, that mantle falls to the Illawarra Hawks led by their hall of fame coach Brian Goorjian, as they pursue an unexpected top four spot that few would have predicted prior to the opening round with a current record of 10 wins and 11 losses.

Currently in the midst of a jam-packed three-game Round 13 and having won just a single game in their last six performances, Goorjian and his side are at a pivotal stage of their NBL season. If the Wollongong-based squad can emerge with a couple favourable results heading into next week, then Illawarra can create more margin for error with the limited games remaining at the tail end of the season.

However, the first of Illawarra’s three games in Round 13 did not bode well for the fifth-placed side, going down 82-88 to the Bullets last night after a lazy second half allowed the Bullets to capitalise in the last 20 minutes.

Going back to the start of the season, Illawarra’s fan base could not have asked for a better start rattling off four consecutive wins, all away from home, with Melbourne United being the only team with a win-loss record just as good earlier in the season.

The Hawks endured their first hardships of NBL21 when they went down to both Melbourne sides in the Phoenix and United back in Round 4 and 5. However, the Australian basketball community witnessed the Hawks’ ability to bounce back from defeat by toppling the Sydney Kings 85 to 82 straight after their losses.

With their win over the Kings, up next for Illawarra and the other eight sides would be the inaugural NBL Cup. For the Hawks in particular, the competition was one of highs and lows with the team finding neither good nor bad form. Illawarra split their eight matches over the four rounds with four wins and four defeats during their time down in Victoria.

Concluding the mid-season tournament tied for fourth place, it was back to the regular format of the NBL season, but the Hawks resumed their season in unceremonious fashion going down first in Melbourne against United, and then again to Perth in Western Australia. The luck briefly switched directions, when the Hawks beat the Brisbane Bullets to end Round 11, but Illawarra’s recent lack of form continued to today.

Losing both of their Round 12 contests by double digit margins (32 points to the Phoenix and 12 points to the Adelaide 36ers), it brings the Hawks to today as they attempt to solve a litany of issues on the offensive and defensive end during this late stage in the season, having won just one game in their last six outings.

Easily Illawarra’s primary scoring weapon, Tyler Harvey is aiming to make a name for himself on the professional stage and so far, he is doing just that. The 27-year-old more times than not has single-handedly wreaked havoc on defensive line-ups due to his silky ball-handling and ridiculously efficient floater game. This has seen the guard build up averages of 19.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Other key contributors have included Justinian Jessup (14.4 points and 4.4 rebounds), who exhibits sharpshooter qualities week in and week out, the big bodies of Cameron Bairstow (11.4 points and 6.2 rebounds) and Sam Froling (10.3 points and 7.2 rebounds) – the final individual to average double-digit point totals per game amongst the roster, Justin Simon (8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists) who has shown glimpses of stellar play here and there, and finally Daniel Grida who will look to make an impact after returning from an ACL injury on Saturday against the Sixers.

While many players have provided either expected or impressive numbers to this point in the campaign, youngster Deng Adel has struggled to find his rhythm and really solidify himself amongst the Hawks. After averaging 15 points and 5.2 rebounds per game during his junior year at the University of Louisville, Adel has fallen flat in his rookie NBL fixture with just 6.7 points and four rebounds per game next to his name, with many keen to see what he can produce when he gets going.

Illawarra’s next two games at home bring the possibility of a positive trajectory up the standings as Sydney sit half a game above them in fourth position. But in their next encounter with the Phoenix on Friday night, perhaps some redemption can be earned by the Hawks after they suffered their biggest loss of the season against South East Melbourne not long ago. They then end their home stand by hosting the Cairns Taipans on Sunday before undertaking what will be very challenging Rounds 14 and 15 fixtures against Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Remaining contests in Round 16 and onwards are yet to be released.

Those who are faithful to the Hawks franchise are ready to explode with passion if their side can start winning contests. If given the chance to make their first postseason appearance since the 2016/17 campaign, then how far this team can go is limitless given the high calibre play that Goorjian’s players have shown on numerous occasions, particularly early on in NBL21.

Bullets upset Hawks in thrilling final term

BRISBANE Bullets have stunned Illawarra Hawks with a gutsy come-from-behind win to end their three-game losing streak (88-82). Both sides were desperate for a win, with the Hawks having only registered one in their past five outings and Brisbane struggling with illness and injury. But it was a fast finishing Bullets outfit that got the “W”, rectifying their poor start to the game to well and truly overpower the Hawks and leave fans in awe.

It was arguably the Hawks’ game to lose, and they did just that. Establishing a dominant 11-point lead by restricting the Bullets to a mere nine points in the opening term thanks to some strong defence and terrific shooting, Illawarra seemed to have the game on their terms. Their confidence was sky high and they were taking complete advantage of the missing players from the Bullets’ side, with Victor Law ruled out for the remainder of the season with injury. But the tables steadily started to turn in the second quarter as Brisbane found a bit more rhythm; not only on the scoreboard, but across the court. They outscored Illawarra 24-22 but that did little to eat into the large margin that had already been created.

In the first half alone, the Bullets only managed a lowly 33 per cent shooting accuracy from the field and coughed up the ball seven times. This continuously gifted the Hawks with opportunities to stream down the other end of the court and apply some offensive pressure.

However, it was almost as if the Hawks were lulled into a false sense of security, taking the foot off the pedal in the third and gifting the Bullets with an opportunity to strike. The newly acquired services of Lamar Patterson came into effect, however it did not last long as he was fouled off in the third while Nathan Sobey got busy. Brisbane threw caution to the wind, attempting a wealth of three-pointers with the risk paying off as they started to mount some serious pressure. Their dominance started to come to the fore once again outscoring their opponents 26-18 to head into the final stanza down by a single point.

With it all to play for in the fourth quarter the Bullets left nothing to chance as the Hawks simply could not keep up with the intensity and pace of the game. But that is not to say Illawarra were without their chances as the Bullets produced a number of turnovers at important times as the clock ticked down. Justinian Jessup played his part for the Hawks hitting a controversial three before it was deemed just a regulation two-point shot. With a tick over 20 seconds to play the Hawks coughed up the ball once more, all but gifting the Bullets the win as they sealed the deal off the hands of a Jason Cadee free throw.

The Hawks will be left ruing their missed opportunities and inability to close out the game, while the Bullets will be rapt with their passion and determination to keep the game alive and win.

Jessup led the way for Illawarra producing a team-high 19 points to accompany his two rebounds, three assists and four steals. Partner in crime, Tyler Harvey upped the ante after returning from injury, slotting 18 points at 42 per cent while Daniel Grida was the next most prolific thanks to his 12 points, five rebounds and one assists. Sam Froling made his presence felt sinking 10 points while also picking up six rebounds and three assists.

For the Bullets, it was the efforts of Cadee that stood head and shoulders above the rest with the guard and captain nailing 22 points including five triples. It did not stop there as he also produced four rebounds and two assists. Harry Froling fell just short of a double-double credit to his 21 point and nine rebound effort as Sobey increased his scoring as the game went on to finish with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists. Matthew Hodgson had a game to remember amassing 10 points and a whopping 14 rebounds in an all-round solid performance by his side.

Sixers hold strong after shaky third against Hawks, end five-game skid

MORE than 5,000 South Australians attended last night’s game to see the Adelaide 36ers snap their five-game losing streak winning 84-72, as they staved off an Illawarra Hawks comeback effort in which Brian Goorjian’s men unleashed an unbelievable third quarter performance.

Adelaide’s shooting was lacklustre at best in the first quarter, shooting just 31 per cent from the field. However, the 36ers would lead 21-17 after 10 minutes and they could credit this to their three triples, six free throws and Daniel Johnson’s eight points, as Illawarra was the less aggressive of the two teams and with Tyler Harvey out, the Hawks needed someone else to step up.

Capitalising on turnovers and converting on fastbreak opportunities, the 36ers pushed their lead out to double digits as a quick scoring run in the final few minutes of the first half saw the home side take command of the game. To add to this, after a Daniel Dillon put back layup with two seconds remaining in the second quarter it extended Adelaide’s favourable score line to 46-32 and the raucous crowd at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre proved to be a major contributor to that.

Backing up Johnson in the first half, Josh Giddey was again facilitating Adelaide’s offence with seven points and six assists, while Keanu Pinder had numerous highlights too with six points in the initial two periods. For Illawarra, their first half success flowed primarily through Emmett Naar who had 11 points and an assist, whereas Justinian Jessup had a modest eight points through two.

Bursting out of the gates after the halftime talks, the Hawks began the second half on a 7-0 scoring streak which blossomed into a 17-3 run to try and resolve their less than satisfactory start, tying things up less than four minutes into the third which was helped along by Justin Simon who was absent in the first and second terms.

Illawarra’s ridiculously good start to the third saw them take the lead a few minutes before the final break, but Johnson helped to ignite some fire into the Sixers squad by kicking off a 7-0 run of their own to take back the lead by three quarter time, putting their noses in front 59-56.

A three-pointer by way of Sunday Dech was the first of many promising signs in the fourth quarter for Adelaide. This preceded what would be a 25-16 final quarter for the home side and an air of relief for Adelaide’s fans, ending what has been almost a month of disappointment for their team as the 36ers took home the hard-earned win.

The 36ers were fortunate enough that their field goal percentage rose to an amicable 40 per cent on their way to victory, which would ascend higher than Illawarra’s 38 per cent, as the two sides were in opposite positions in the infancy stages of the contest. Superb free throw shooting from Adelaide was also pivotal (18/20) and 20 second chance points highlighted the Hawks’ troubles when it came to important rebounds that were missed.

Always a workhorse, Johnson concluded Saturday night with 26 points and a monstrous 15 rebounds, as his guard counterpart in Giddey once again put up near-triple-double numbers with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Pinder was as dominant as we have seen him this season with 10 points and three rebounds, as Brandon Paul contributed 10 points also. Jack McVeigh provided 10 points and five rebounds off the bench going three from three from the free throw line.

Jessup left Adelaide with a team-high 17 points and three blocks, as Naar had a less productive second half to round out his night with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. Simon (13 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Sam Froling each added double digit nights (11 points and 12 rebounds) to round out Illawarra’s individual performances.

Adelaide will be the second of two opponents that the Perth Wildcats will face in Round 13 as the 36ers will need to play exceptionally well if they are to start mounting wins on top of wins, and it will be a true test of mettle against an in-form championship side. Illawarra will kick off Round 13 back at home when they host the Brisbane Bullets in what will be a contest of two teams keen to push for the four-spot in the standings.

Picture credit: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images