Tag: justin simon

Illawarra Hawks season summary

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Illawarra Hawks who had a season to remember.

Season Summary:

After a disappointing 2020 campaign the Hawks came out with a point to prove and they did just that. Glued to the bottom of the ladder last year the Hawks rose up the rankings this season and did not skip a beat from the get-go. With a smattering of new players across the court it did not take long for the Hawks to find their groove and inflict some pain with their ability to attack the rim.

With Brian Goorjian at the helm the Hawks had more of a defensive-minded focus which allowed them to steadily creep their way up the ladder. Their hot form early in the season gifted them the upper hand and while they dropped a couple of crucial games here and there, their improved level of consistency gave them an edge which propelled them into finals.

How It Unfolded:

Only winning a mere five games last season the Hawks completely flipped the script this season recording 20 wins and 16 losses as they skyrocketed up the ladder. The new and improved Hawks wasted no time getting their first win on the board and kept that momentum well and truly rolling for the first four games. They suffered back-to-back loss to the two Melbourne sides before returning to their winning ways and continuing their rise up the ladder. A couple of losses midway through the season looked to derail their campaign but that was not to be as the Hawks dug deep.

Illawarra managed to secure third spot on the ladder thanks to a five-game winning streak to round out the season. Already an improved effort from the previous season the Hawks had their opportunity to play finals and gave fans plenty to cheer about when they won Game 1 of the series but eventually fell short against back-to-back reigning premiers Perth Wildcats. Although the Hawks were unable to make it to the grand final there was plenty to be happy with as they walked away from the season having discovered a couple of dynamos and a winning mentality.

What Worked Well:

There is no denying that the pick-up of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup was exactly what the doctor ordered. The two were influential for the Hawks with their ability to carve up the opposition. Harvey broke records registering the highest number of three-pointers in a season with 114 to his name, while his average of 20.4 points per game put him in good stead. Jessup was also a menace averaging 13.26 points per game to accompany his 3.69 rebounds, 1.83 assists and 1.11 steals.

The addition and work rate of Justin Simon also worked in the favour of the Hawks with the guard leading the way in defence, so much so he was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award at the club. Simon imposed himself and his seven-foot wingspan to rack up an average of almost two steals a game with his season total of 67.

What Went Wrong:

Offensively the Hawks struggled to generate a lot of scoring power only managing 82 points per game, the fourth lowest in the competition. Although they had the likes of Harvey and Jessup at their disposal it was the lack of other scorers that came back to bite them and allowed other teams to heap on the pressure. Untimely injuries to a couple of their key cogs in Harvey and of course Cam Bairstow also put a bump in the road for the Hawks as they were unable to retain the same momentum they had at the start of the year.

MVP Conversation:

It was an impressive season for Harvey who stepped up to the plate time and time again for the Hawks. His efforts did not go unnoticed and rightly so as he took home the MVP award given his proficiency on the scoreboard. He was in just about everything for Illawarra and was a real driving force with his ability to convert from outside the arc one of the focal points in his game.

Roster News:

The Hawks have signed on a couple of up and coming players for next season but will be hoping to retain the services of a couple of key cogs in Simon and Harvey to go one step further in season 2021/22. The players who have already committed to the club are Akoldah Gak, Daniel Grida, Emmett Naar, Jessup, Max Darling and Sam Froling. Jessup has been huge since joining the club while Froling has developed at a rate of knots making him an exciting player to keep on the roster given he averages 11.53 points, 7.06 rebounds, 1.53 assists and 1.28 blocks per game.

Looking Towards Next Season:

Having retained a core group of players the Hawks are gearing up for another blockbuster season. With the right building blocks and a solid game plan as shown throughout this campaign they will be hoping to take things one step further and push for a grand final berth. So far the Hawks have a good mix of up and coming talent and experienced heads signed on for next season putting them in good stead to compete deep into finals. If they are able to equip themselves with a couple of extra more consistent points scorers then the Hawks are going to be hard to stop.

Photo credit: Anna Warr

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

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

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

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

Season reaches climax, Hawks aiming to soar into top four

JUST over a handful of contests remain on the Illawarra Hawks’ agenda to conclude the NBL21 season and it is safe to say that the Wollongong-based side is starting to feel the heat of the moment.

With an even record of 15 wins and 15 losses this late in the campaign, it has certainly made for an entertaining finals race for five of the competition’s nine teams. Illawarra’s balanced win-loss line is also the result of a litany of hot streaks that opponents have been displaying consistently from the opening round.

While the Hawks’ 4-0 start to the season had many basketball fans shocked to begin with, slowly and steadily Illawarra have slid deep into the belly of the standings, but still remain heavy favourites to complete their bounce-back season after finishing with the wooden spoon last year.

A main proponent for Illawarra’s success-filled results so far is their ability to hold down the fort at home. At WIN Entertainment Centre, the Hawks have maintained an eight-win and six-loss record at home. The problem, however, is emerging from away games with positive results. Relinquishing nine contests to date while winning seven others on the road, Illawarra will need to pull off some more wins in enemy territory during the final run home.

Speaking of which, following Illawarra’s loss to Melbourne United back on Tuesday night, the Hawks have five different sides still to face in six games before the semi-finals kick off. The first of which are the Adelaide 36ers in South Australia, as the Birds currently stand an unlikely chance of closing the distance between themselves and Illawarra.

Illawarra can hopefully continue to march forward when they end Round 19 against the lowly Cairns Taipans, before facing the New Zealand Breakers the following Friday and the 36ers once again two days later the Sunday of that week.

The 21st and final round will see the Hawks make their final stand at home and given the way that the standings are shaping up, it could mean a pivotal last weekend of basketball for the entire NBL as the side face the Perth Wildcats and the Kings.

Beating many of these sides will be a tough ask for Coach Brian Goorjian’s men, but it has been well-documented that when the team works together collectively, they are formidable to say the least.

Leading the way statistically so far this season remains import guard Tyler Harvey and his 19.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, as he has shown he is the real deal at Australia’s topflight. Despite a less than substantial 10-point effort in his last time out against Melbourne, Harvey frequents scoring amounts north of 20 paired with a lethal floater game to accompany his skillset. These numbers will come in handy if he can replicate this form over the next few weeks.

By Harvey’s side are fellow backcourt members Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon. Being one of the NBL’s biggest standouts amongst the rookie class, Jessup’s exemplary shooting remains the 22-year-old’s major weapon on the floor. He currently averages a solid 14 points per game alongside 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Simon’s contributions also tell a similar story with the second of the two imports making his presence felt around the league, just around the corner from the finals, stringing together averages of 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

One of the big questions surrounding the mid-season arrival of Cameron Bairstow was his ability to make a significant impact down low in the post. Having played 14 games since his debut this season, Bairstow has been more than potent during his minutes on the floor. Having put up over 11 points and six rebounds per game, it is unfortunate that the former Chicago Bull will be sidelined for the rest of the campaign with a hip issue.

Recently retired Tim Coenraad made his return to the NBL after the end of last season, to replace Bairstow. The 311-game legend has averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over his storied career and had been training with the side on and off preceding the announcement. He will look to add another chapter to his book in the league. Next to him is Sam Froling, who has been reliable on the boards and on the scoreboard as he leads the team in rebounds (7.2) and ranks fourth (10.6) in points.

Illawarra also took the bold move of releasing young prospect Deng Adel from the roster due to a combination of his numerous injuries this season and shaky performances. Given that the forward managed meek averages of 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists over the course of 23 games, Adel had been visibly frustrated leading up to the announcement that he would be leaving the coveted Hawks franchise.

Again, next up for Illawarra will be the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide as both sides have a lot of writing on their meeting tonight. Either the Sixers will manage to keep a faint heartbeat on their late season charge, or Illawarra will take a huge first step to holding onto their current fourth seed. Their future is well and truly in their hands.

Picture credit: Anna Warr

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

Illawarra break New Zealand hearts with narrow two-point win

THE Hawks just snuck over the line against a gallant New Zealand Breakers outfit to snare a two-point win 73-71. New Zealand pulled out all the stops in the final quarter, outscoring their opponents and giving them a real run for their money. But it was too little, too late as Illawarra escaped with a much-needed win in terms of ladder positioning.

Playing their final game in Australia after almost six months away from home, New Zealand came to play in the final stanza after being well held in the first three terms. Once again without Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie the Breakers had to resort to their other stars to pave the way and throw a spanner in the works for Illawarra which is exactly what they did.

It was a fast start for both sides as both Tyler Harvey and Finn Delany flexed their muscles with the three-ball. Delany landed the first blow and his hot hand continued throughout the remainder of the quarter as he poured on 13 points to give his side the upper hand heading into the quarter time break. With momentum in their favour the Breakers picked up where they left off, this time off the back of Tai Webster. He helped stretch the lead to seven points in the opening minutes of the second term before a flick switched for the home side. Emmett Naar came to life for the Hawks and subsequently brought Harvey and Justin Simon into the play as they rallied to pile on six points straight to bookend the quarter. It was a much improved quarter of basketball from Illawarra as they added 18 points to their tally while keeping the Breakers to a mere eight, holding a seven-point lead at the main break.

The third quarter was much more even as the two sides went back and forth. In fact the lead got out to as much as 15 points midway through the quarter thanks to Justinian Jessup for the Hawks. But once again, the Breakers proved that they can never be discounted as they fought their way back into the contest as Rasmus Bach nailed back to back triples and Corey Webster inflicted some scoreboard pain. Dwindling the deficit to eight points the Breakers came out with a real pep in their step in the final quarter to push Illawarra every step of the way.

The wheels really started to turn as William McDowell-White drained five points before the combination of Delany and Bach asserted themselves on the contest. In a blink of the eye the Breakers had the lead and were in pole position to steal the win. Sam Froling could sense Illawarra were losing their grip on the game and came up big with a handy jump shot and rebound to gift the lead back to the Hawks. But once again the momentum shifted as Rob Loe and Tai Webster made their presence felt on the scoreboard to snatch the lead. With the clock ticking down it was Simon that stole the show quite literally as he read the crossover and ripped the ball out of Tai Webster’s hands to gift his side a hard-earned win.

Harvey was the most prominent shooter out on court for the Hawks walking away with 24 points at 40 per cent from the field. Jessup lent a hand on the scoreboard with his 12 points as Froling got busy in all facets of the game as shown through his 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Simon was the outright match winner but aside from his timely steal produced 11 points and 11 rebounds, eight of which were defensive. Delany was a key cog for the Breakers recording yet another double-double credit to his 20 points and 11 rebounds. McDowell-White was influential with his 14 points and just fell short of a double-double racking up seven rebounds and nine assists. Bach proved to be a force to be reckoned with off the bench draining, 13 points and four rebounds while in his 29 minutes on court, Loe was strong sinking eight points and seven rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty images