The injury-hit Wollongong Hawks went within a whisker of a perfect weekend last night, narrowly losing to the Sydney Kings in a thrilling overtime duel at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
After coming from behind to beat Perth in Wollongong on Friday night, the Hawks were at it again against the Kings, chipping away at an 11-point deficit to force an extra period on Adris Deleon’s free throw with two seconds remaining.
But they ran out of petrol, going down 70-63.Sydney have won six of their past seven games, including two victories over their NSW rivals.
The Hawks were without Larry Davidson (broken rib), Tyson Demos (knee) and Tim Coenraad (foot).
Despite the loss, Wollongong remain in the top four with an 8-4 record.They now have a 16-day break before hosting the Melbourne Tigers on New Year’s Eve.
Rhys Martin top-scored for the Hawks with 16 points, Oscar Forman had 14, while Dave Gruber and Lance Hurdle each had 10.
Darnell Lazare and Ian Crosswhite led the home side with 14 apiece, Corin Henry had 13 and Ben Madgen added 11.
Wollongong couldn’t have wished for a better start, bolting to an 8-0 lead after a couple of threes by Forman and foul shots for Hurdle.
Coach Shane Heal had seen enough, using his first time-out and delivering a tongue-lashing to his players.The Kings immediately responded, as Henry cut loose at the offensive end and gave his side their first lead.Wollongong tied the score at 11-all before the home team closed with a 10-2 run to be up 21-13 at quarter-time.Sydneys imports Henry and Lazare did the main damage, combining for 15 points.
The battle under the boards was quickly becoming an issue again for the Hawks, with the Kings ahead 10-5 in the rebound count.
Wollongong trimmed Sydney’s lead to four points midway through the second period but Crosswhite converted offensive rebounds to points on consecutive possessions and tapped a third rebound to Aaron Bruce for an open three, as the margin swelled to 11 with just over two minutes left in the half.
Martin momentarily silenced the crowd with a three but Sydney answered again and took a 33-22 lead into the half-time break.
The Kings comfortably led the rebound count 25-13 and had just four turnovers compared to nine for Wollongong.Of their 25 boards, 13 were at the offensive end, resulting in 13 second-chance points.
Lazare led the way with 10 points and six rebounds, while Crosswhite had six points and six rebounds.Forman had eight points and Martin was up to seven. Glen Saville worked hard for his six rebounds but had five turnovers.
The slow scoring pace continued in the third quarter and Sydney held a 37-28 lead after four minutes.Wollongong pulled within four points, only to let the Kings draw away again.
A Hurdle tip-in as time expired left the Hawks facing a 47-39 deficit heading into the final period.Wollongong scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, forcing Heal to use his penultimate time-out with just over seven minutes remaining.
They kept fighting to the end, with Forman draining a three to make it a one-point game with 73 seconds on the clock.Sydney were protecting their slender lead when Deleon picked Henry’s pocket.
His pass to Martin ended up on the floor, but the visitors got the benefit of the 50-50 call out of bounds and set up one last shot.
Deleon drew a foul on Crosswhite and headed to the free throw line with two seconds left and a chance to win the game.
He missed the first shot but knocked down the second to send the game into overtime.Sydney scored the opening six points of the extra period, though the Hawks were still only down 62-59 with more than a minute to play.The Kings sealed victory with clutch free throw shooting down the stretch.