Tag: sam froling

NBL 1 North wrap: Round 11

IN an unimpeded National Basketball League (NBL)1 North competition, there were some serious thrillers that played out across the men’s and women’s divisions in Round 11.

Men’s:

Townsville and Brisbane gave fans a Saturday night show after the two sides couldn’t be separated in regulation time. The back-and-forth contest was settled by a dominant overtime display from the Heat who came out 10-point winners, giving the home crowd plenty to cheer about at the StarFm Stadium.

Early on it was a tough battle, with Peter Crawford nailing a couple late threes to ensure the Heat led by five points at the first break. Ben Volkman and Nicholas Stoddart landed the first two blows for the Capitals to begin the second quarter as it remained tight before the Heat rallied late to lead 52-44 at half time. The third period was even, with Matthew Rees hitting a jump shot to stretch the Heat’s lead out to 11 points early on, and then the Capitals making some shots themselves to reduce the first half deficit by one heading into the final break.

A defence dominated last quarter saw both teams combine for just 28 points. Sam Froling led a block party with four massive rejections in the final term, while Jalen Patton-Croker and Crawford also had one each. The Capitals defence was strongest though restricting Townsville to just three made field goals for the quarter (10 points total). Didan Toto (two blocks, one steal) led the way showing off his defensive presence. While Brisbane didn’t make a heap of shots themselves, Stoddart’s two-pointer with 40 seconds remaining drew the scores level. A frantic last 30 seconds followed with the Heat’s Patton-Croker rejecting Stoddart, giving Ethan Betts a chance at a three-quarter court effort that only just missed, bouncing off the back iron and sending the game into an additional five-minute period. Overtime was a one-sided affair as the Heat started with a 12-0 run, and the Capitals were never able to pull themselves back into the contest. Froling added another two blocks to his name to assert his dominance at the rim, as the hosts went on to win the contest 100-90.

There were plenty of contributors for both teams on the night with Betts (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Froling (15 points, 12 rebounds, seven blocks) recording double-doubles for the Heat, while Volkman scored 14 points and 11 rebounds for the away team. Patton-Croker (23 points) and Crawford (19 points) led the scoring for Townsville, with Stoddart (22 points) and Jacob Wilson (19 points) the most prolific offensive options for the Capitals.

The following afternoon the Heat hosted Cairns, with Froling having another strong game scoring 30 points and gathering 11 boards, however the home side were outplayed in a solid second half performance by the Marlins, who were led by Cairns Taipans product Majok Deng (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Alex Loughton (22 points).

Sunday’s victory was the second of the round for the Marlins after they too defeated Brisbane 97-82 on Friday night. Stoddart (34 points) and Volkman (28 points) were big contributors for the Capitals, but they were outshone by Deng who exploded in front of the home crowd for a huge 46 points (20 of 27 field goals made), 16 rebounds (five offensive) and two blocks.

Meanwhile, the Gold Coast Rollers also recorded two victories in round 11, defeating Red City Roar and South West Metro Pirates to extend their unbeaten run to five games, and USC was the third side nailing a couple victories over the weekend. Rip City’s Tanner Krebs had 32 points in Saturday’s win against the Phoenix, and he added another 33 points in Sunday’s matchup against Northside.

Top of the table Logan Thunder defeated Southern Districts by 33 points and second-placed Mackay had a close game with Ipswich, eventually winning the contest 79-75.

ROUND 11 RESULTS:

Gold Coast Rollers 106 def. Red City Roar 91
Mackay Meteors 79 def. Ipswich Force 75
Cairns Marlins 97 def. Brisbane Capitals 82
Northside Wizards 107 def. Red City Roar 79
Rockhampton Rockets 71 def. by Ipswich Force 80
Logan Thunder 132 def. Southern Districts Spartans 99
South West Metro Pirates 84 def. by Gold Coast Rollers 114
Sunshine Coast Phoenix 99 def. by USC Rip City 106
Townsville Heat 100 def. Brisbane Capitals 90
Townsville Heat 74 def. by Cairns Marlins 90
USC Rip City 89 def. Northside Wizards 74

Women’s:

Round 11 action in the women’s draw was headlined by a clash between the two giants of the competition. Southern Districts Spartans and Logan Thunder both entered the round undefeated, with the Spartans having won all 11 of their games, while the Thunder had recorded 12 successive victories. The game did not disappoint either with both teams having their chances to take the number one spot in the competition. A big last quarter from the Spartans was the decisive factor as they ran over the top of the hosts to clinch a 12-point victory at the Bendigo Bank Cornubia Park Sports Centre.

The first quarter was evenly poised as the Spartans heated up from beyond the arc, sinking five first quarter threes including three from Maddison Rocci alone. This would later prove to be a good scoring source for both team on the night as the Thunder shot 11 of 32 three pointers (34 per cent) and the Spartans made an impressive 15 three pointers from 32 attempts (47 per cent). At quarter time the scoreboard showed the visitors narrowly ahead by just three points. As the second quarter progressed it was much of the same with the home team trying to wrestle back the lead. The quarter went up a notch when Mikaela Cann sunk a triple at the 6.59-minute mark to spark a remarkable run of seven out of eight scores all coming from deep. Kalani Purcell’s field goal put the Spartans up by two points, before the last minute of the second term went without a basket. That meant Southern Districts entered half time with a 44-42 lead.

With neither side willing to give in, the battle continued to entertain fans as the two teams went blow for blow in the third quarter. Eight points to Carla Drennan in the last few minutes of the term helped the Thunder edge in front by two points heading into the final break. A blistering start to the last quarter from the Spartans had the home team under the pump early. Rocci, Nadeen Payne, and Ash Karaitiana all hit three pointers before a Purcell basket made it a 10-0 start in the visitor’s favour. Mikaela Ruef broke the Spartan’s run, but the Thunder couldn’t regain the lead, as Southern Districts came away with an 89-77 victory.

Cann (18 points, six assists) and Ruef (14 points, 16 rebounds, five steals) were impressive for Logan, while Payne (20 points), Rocci (21 points), and Madelyn Willey (21 points) were all offensive threats for the Spartans. Purcell was another contributor for the travelling team completing a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Elsewhere, the Gold Coast Rollers had a successful weekend with two victories. This included a 50-point slaughtering of Red City, led by Casey Samuels (29 points) on Friday night, and a much closer 64-60 victory against South West Metro Pirates on Saturday. The two wins has the Rollers sitting in sixth position. Up North, Townsville also added two wins to their name at home with a 28-point victory over Brisbane and a staggering 62-point demolition of Cairns. Mia Murray led the team on Sunday with 26 points, while all 11 of her teammates also scored in the win against the Dolphins. The loss for Cairns came after Friday’s home defeat to Brisbane, as they went down 75-99. USC Rip City had similar luck in round 11, losing both their matches to the Phoenix and Northside, the latter who also defeated Red City Roar 84-66 on Saturday. Courtney Woods was a key part of the Wizards’ success over the weekend scoring 29 and 23 points in their two wins.

ROUND 11 RESULTS:

Gold Coast Rollers 98 def. Red City Roar 48
Mackay Meteorettes 87 def. Ipswich Force 77
Cairns Dolphins 75 def. by Brisbane Capitals 99
Northside Wizards 84 def. Red City Roar 66
Rockhampton Cyclones 63 def. by Ipswich Force 87
Logan Thunder 77 def. by Southern Districts Spartans 89
South West Metro Pirates 60 def. by Gold Coast Rollers 64
Sunshine Coast Phoenix 62 def. USC Rip City 54
Townsville Flames 76 def. Brisbane Capitals 48
Townsville Flames 117 def. Cairns Dolphins 55
USC Rip City 78 def. by Northside Wizards 89

NBL1 North Round 9

ROUND 9 of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 North played out over the weekend, with both the men’s and women’s matches providing plenty of intriguing results.

Men’s

Townsville Heat v Cairns Marlins

Townsville Heat prevailed in their Round 9 game against the Cairns Marlins, thanks to a final period shootout where everything was put out on the line. The third placed Heat was on fire in their dynamic performance last Saturday which was set on track by an exciting opening. Right from the get-go, Townsville won the jumpball thus taking full control of the game. Cairns had multiple opportunities to overtake the lead, eventually snatching it from Townville’s grasp in the second period.

The tables had turned as the game headed to halftime, with the second period now in favour of the Marlins who had the Heat hot on their tails for precious points and the win. Both teams had their own reasons to get the win. The heat needed to keep their third spot ladder position secure, whilst Marlins’ aiming to improve better on their current position of ninth. By third period, it seemed to be anybody’s game as the Marlins let slip of the lead just as fast they got it. A string of shots were fired from both ends yet it seemed the Heat had gotten back into the game. Although a handful of missed shots had encompassed Townsville’s third period, that did not seem to distract the side away from the lead in the meantime.

Remaining poised and steady in the fourth period were Townsville who continued to hold the lead against their opponents by three points. A three-point shot in the opening reignited the Heat, helping them power through the remaining seconds of the final term. Although there were promising attempts by the Marlins to conjure up chances, it came too late with the Heat sealing a win this round, 82-79.

Sam Froling stunned on the court for Townsville as he produced an impressive 36 points on the night, as well as 24 rebounds and four assists. Teammate Peter Crawford also had a decent run in 25 minutes of gametime, managing 14 points and four rebounds. Keegan Tudehope was a vital part of his side’s win as a result of 10 points, five assists and two rebounds.

Over at the Cairns Marlins camp, Majok Deng was among the best players. In almost half an hour of play, he scored 27 points along with six rebounds. Mirko Djeric captivated with a classy 22 points, six assists and two rebounds. Rounding out the best on court for Marlins was Anthony Fisher who proved significant for the side with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists.

In other games, Mackay Meteors took out several wins, beating the Brisbane Capitals by 32 points, the Southern Districts Spartans by 19 and the Northside Wizards by 33. It was not a day to remember for the USC Rip City, who fell short of ladder leaders Logan Thunder. USC also fell short to Red City Roar as they went down by 18 points. The Gold Coast Rollers overthrew the South West Metro Pirates by six points. Capping off a thrilling Round 9, Ipswich Force found success going up against South West Metro Pirates.

Results:
Mackay Meteors defeat Brisbane Capitals 92 – 60
Logan Thunder defeat USC Rip City 78 – 55
Gold Coast Rollers defeat South West Metro Pirates 97 – 91
Red City Roar defeat USC Rip City 106 – 88
Sunshine Coast Phoenix defeat Logan Thunder 74 – 67
Mackay Meteors defeat Southern Districts Spartans 99 – 80
Townsville Heat defeat Cairns Marlins 82 – 79
Ipswich Force defeat South West Metro Pirates 89 – 83
Mackay Meteors defeat Northside Wizards 107 – 74

Women’s

Northside Wizards v Mackay Meteorettes

In a tight one-point win against the Mackay Meteorettes, the Northside Wizards achieved their third win of the season. What initially begun as a low scoring affair quickly became encompassed by 2-point and free throws, helping to intensify the opening term as the minutes ticked by. As both teams seemed determined for the win, the Meteorettes took the lead to cap off a thrilling opener.

Mackay took immediate control of the game collecting the first two points of the second term, with the fourth placed side looking to add another win to their season that sat on seven prior to Sunday’s win. Northside respond immediately with a three-point jump shot being made. A free throw levelled the scores for the first time in the game at 40-all but was quickly shot down by Mackay who powered throughout the third term whilst tightly clenching the lead.

Still in with a chance at the game the Wizards were hard on the heels off Mackay, throwing a multitude of two-point shots and three-point jump shots at basket. Yet it struggled to impact a dominant Mackay Meterorette front. As the fourth and final term quickly approached the scores were 65 – 63 heading into the last period. Both teams scrambled to get across the line with the win.

Following a back and forth of scores being levelled and then overtaken during the last term, the scores were levelled for the final time before a point was added to the board for the Wizards as a result of a free throw being made. As the seconds passed, Wizards made another free throw. But a final shot at the basket from Mackay saw them fall short at the very last second when an attempt at a three-point jump-shot failed.

Courtney Woods made her presence clear for the winning side off the back of an important performance finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Tiana Mangakahia followed on from her teammate as another valuable asset for the Wizards with 20 points. In half an hour of game time, Mangakahia registered six assists and two rebounds. Regan McCarty had a decent performance as her side overthrew the Meteorettes. Her 19 points, five rebounds and three assists helped to assert her spot as one of the Wizards’ best this week.

Imperative for Mckay was Chelsea Brook. The young gun had 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Mikaela Dombkins impressed with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Jacqui Zelenka had close to 28 minutes of play and contributed a stellar 19 points, six rebounds and six assists for her side.

The other scores of the round saw a mix bag of results. Despite the loss against the Wizards, the Mackay Meteroettes came out on top against their match up with the Brisbane Capitals by six points. Logan Thunder got the win against USC Rip City by 17 points. South West Metro Pirates were not lucky in their game against the Gold Coast Rollers. Neither were Red City Roar who lost against USC Rip City. Logan Thunder had better success went they went up against the Sunshine Coast Phoenix as they won by 55 points. Southern District Spartans won out against Mackay Meteorettes, as did the Townsville Flames against the Cairns Dolphins. Meanwhile, the South West Metro Pirates had a day to forget when they lost against Ipswich Force.

Results:
Mackay Meteorettes defeat Brisbane Capitals 68 – 62
Logan Thunder defeat USC Rip City 79 – 68
Gold Coast Rollers defeat South West Metro Pirates 61 – 58
USC Rip City defeat Red City Roar 96 – 69
Logan Thunder defeat Sunshine Coast Phoenix 100 – 45
Southern District Spartans defeat Mackay Meteorettes 98 – 67
Townsville Flames defeat Cairns Dolphins 90 – 49
Ipswich Force defeat South West Metro Pirates 97 – 64
Northside Wizards defeat Mackay Meteorettes 88 – 87

 

Picture credit: Kurt Bryant – Elite Images Brisbane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: AAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: NBL Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Anna Warr

NBL: Kings perform late to keep finals chances alive

WITH slim finals hopes on the line, the Sydney Kings were able to sneak past the undermanned Illawarra Hawks, emerging from WIN Entertainment Centre with a six-point triumph on Thursday night. With their finals position locked in, the Hawks opted to rest star Tyler Harvey, giving the Kings an almighty confidence boost heading into the game, but were still dished a real scare, as the home side fought tooth and nail right until the end, but fell two baskets short. Leading by five points early in the final term, the Hawks looked as if they were more than capable of claiming an unlikely win, but late threes to Shaun Bruce and Xavier Cooks locked the game shut, as the Kings claimed an all-important victory.

The game opened in pretty dominant fashion for the Kings, starting the match on an 8-0 scoring run, thanks to Jarrell Martin finding an open lane to the hoop and finishing inside. The Hawks would soon after open their scoring, but the margin remained considerable, with a pair of Jarrad Weeks three-pointers opening the lead to double digits. The Hawks were able to chip away at this deficit, but still entered the first break trailing by six points with plenty of emphasis on the absence of leading-scorer Harvey. They were able to not only tie up proceedings early in the second quarter, but they even took the lead courtesy of a pair of long bombs from Hawk Lachlan Dent, who made the most of his extended minutes during the match. The Kings responded almost immediately, as Martin and guard Casper Ware came alive to close out the quarter in strong fashion, taking a seven-point advantage into half time. While the Hawks trailed, their belief in their ability to claim an unlikely win remained rock-solid.

The Kings opened the third term on another scoring tear, thanks to the range of Ware, who was really beginning to find his rhythm in the contest at this stage. An and-one to Jordan Hunter saw the lead again creep out to 11 points, and it looked as if Sydney were on the cusp of blowing the game wide open. The Hawks had other ideas though, taking over the game with a scoring blitz and bursting out to a three-point lead, before it was trimmed to just one point heading into the final term. The fourth quarter began with the Hawks jumping out of the gates to an early five-point advantage, thanks to a couple of tough finishes in the paint from Sam Froling. The Hawks had many hopes of a victory at this stage, but the Kings were able to grit their teeth and make the match-winning plays.

For the Kings, Martin was huge for his side, pouring in 23 points and 10 rebounds to deliver a significant impact on the result of the game. He was well aided by teammates Cooks (19 points) and Hunter (15 points). For the Hawks, Froling, Isaac White and Emmett Naar all contributed 12 points, and stood up in the absence of Harvey.

Closing in on the South East Melbourne Phoenix, the Kings have one more match to play as they look to sneak into the finals. They will face off against a fellow finals hopeful in the Brisbane Bullets, who are also looking to claw their way into the finals with a win. Be sure to tune in to Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday night in what should be an explosive contest, as both sides play for their seasons.

Picture credit: Matt King

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