Hawks finish year on a fizzer

BASKETBALL

The Wollongong Hawks crashed to their first home defeat of the season at WIN Entertainment Centre tonight, suffering a surprise 80-72 overtime loss to the Melbourne Tigers.

Despite taking a 55-52 lead into the final quarter, the Hawks didn't execute with their usual poise and confidence down the stretch.

Wollongong have lost four of their past five games. They slipped to 8-5 for the season but remain in third spot behind New Zealand and Perth.

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The score was locked at 66-all after Hawks forward Dave Gruber's lay-up with seven seconds remaining, taking the Hawks into their second straight overtime game.

Almost 5000 fans were expecting Wollongong to make all the right moves in the extra period, but the Tigers stole their thunder on the final day of the year.

Forward Lucas Walker was the hero for Melbourne, scoring 17 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Oscar Forman led the Hawks with 17, while Adris Deleon finished with 10.

The Hawks will have their work cut out when they try to bounce back in Saturday's home game against titleholders New Zealand.

The Tigers played with energy and purpose at both ends for the opening five minutes and deserved their 12-3 lead.

Wollongong patiently worked their way back to trail 14-12 before the visitors got their defence back in order to lead by seven at quarter-time.

The Hawks made just 30 per cent of their shots and were out-rebounded 9-6.

Glen Saville racked up his fourth assist when he found Lance Hurdle for a jump-shot and the score was 21-all with just over two minutes gone in the second quarter.

The Tigers responded with another run to go up by six, only to watch their opponents claw their way back again for the fourth tie (31-all) of the half.

A Forman free throw gave Wollongong their first lead since the opening seconds but Melbourne hit back to lead by four.

Tyson Demos splashed a three-pointer and Forman's three with 12 seconds in the dying moments gave the Hawks a 40-38 half-time lead.

Forman led his team with nine points at the break.

Rebounds were tied at 14 apiece, while Wollongong connected on 47 per cent of their shots for the half compared to Melbourne's 46 per cent.

Play was delayed for 15 minutes at the start of the second half when the venue's new scoreboard broke down for the second time this season.

Hawks officials were furious with the fiasco and will follow it up with WEC management.

When the game resumed the Tigers got their noses back in front before an 11-4 Wollongong surge forced coach Chris Anstey to use a time-out.

Melbourne didn't go away and only trailed by a point with two minutes left in the third period.

When the quarter finally ended after more scoreboard problems, the Hawks held a 55-52 lead.

The Tigers needed less than three minutes to re-take the lead, as Lucas Walker provided a spark on offence and defence.

The Hawks were out-rebounded 39-28 for the game and made just 37 per cent of their field goal attempts.

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