Hawks plot holiday-season clawback

BASKETBALL

The Christmas and new year period could make or break the Wollongong Hawks' season.

Wollongong (7-3) suffered a second straight loss on Friday night against the Perth Wildcats, slipping to third on the ladder.

The Hawks host Perth (7-3) in a much-anticipated re-match this Friday before travelling to Sydney the following night for a meeting with the surging Kings (8-5).

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They have a whopping 16-day break before their next game - a New Year's Eve home clash with the Melbourne Tigers.

Wollongong have split two games with the Wildcats, winning the first by 33 and losing on Friday by 12.

"Draws are draws," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said of his team's playing schedule.

"You have to play them four times anyway, and that's what's good about a draw where every team plays each other the same amount of times.

"It's more about making the changes that need to be made. Obviously it's fresh in your mind, but those changes need to be made anyway because of how heavily teams are scouted.

"The other challenge is that we're playing three games in seven days. All teams have to do it, so you have to manage that situation as well," he said.

Friday's loss to the Wildcats had the potential to demoralise the Hawks.

They scraped together just seven points in the first quarter and were down 39-28 at half-time.

But the visitors briefly silenced almost 12,000 Perth fans when they defiantly fought back and out-scored the Cats 27-16 in the third period.

The Hawks actually led by a point with just under seven minutes remaining but were unable to keep the Cats at bay.

Wollongong didn't shoot well (38 per cent) and lost the rebound battle by 18 (43-25) for the second time in as many games.

Despite the defeat, the Hawks are relishing the opportunity to confront the Cats for the third time this season.

"What all teams do after the weekend's battle is circle the wagons again, you regroup and you get everyone as up and good as you can get them to go into battle again," McLeod said.

"You have a new game plan, but this week's not going to be different to any other week in the year as to what our expectations are of our group.

"As coaches, you always have an expectation of guys coming in and going to the level you believe they should be at. You want them to be pushing that envelope all the time to get better.

"That's where your team comes into it and everyone contributes, because a lot of people only see seven or eight or nine guys out there playing, and a number of those get more minutes than the others, but it's really on the practice court where you have 12 guys really pushing and challenging for spots. That's what drives your program and that's what we need to do. That's what we've always tried to do.

"The team is made up of individuals and we have an expectation of all those individuals to get themselves ready to play. That's coaches and players - everyone's in the same boat because we're all pushing that thing in the same direction."

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