Ervin aims to ruin Hawks' final hopes

BASKETBALL

A Wollongong hero two years ago after winning the National Basketball League's most valuable player award, Gary Ervin returns on Sunday to ruin the Hawks' playoff hopes.

Ervin and the Townsville Crocodiles have launched a spectacular mid-season revival and are now just one win behind nose-diving Wollongong on the NBL ladder.

While Ervin and his teammates face a tough weekend double-header, starting with a trip to Perth on Friday night before arriving in Wollongong, the Hawks will be on the way home from a crucial battle with New Zealand.

Ervin created history by becoming just the second Hawks league MVP in 2011 after Mike Jones 30 years earlier.

After stints in Venezuela and the Ukraine, Ervin returned to the NBL with Townsville this season.

The race for third and fourth between the Crocodiles, Hawks, Melbourne and Sydney has become so tight, Sunday's clash at WIN Entertainment Centre could even decide a playoff position.

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Ervin said he would be motivated by the reception he was given by Hawks fans in their previous game in Wollongong, which the Hawks won 84-66.

"To see how the crowd reacted last time left a bitter taste in my mouth," he said.

"It was my second game back in the NBL in the same weekend, I was still jetlagged [from arriving in Australia] and I heard a lot more 'Boos' than 'Yeahs'.

"To be honest, it has stuck in my head, in the back of my mind.

"I felt I gave everything [in Wollongong], I got injuries, I had a broken finger, pain in my knee, osteitis pubis, injuries which stop a lot of people from playing.

"I loved playing there.

"But it's different when you're playing for the other team; I guess that was just the competitive nature of Wollongong Hawks fans."

Ervin claims his team takes a lot of confidence into the Friday night clash with the Wildcats, even after seeing the Hawks capitulate in the second half in Perth last week.

The last time they travelled to Perth, last month, Townsville led by seven in the final quarter, before losing a thriller 62-59.

Declaring they needed to pick up at least one win from one of the longest road trips in world sport, Ervin is well aware of how crucial the Hawks' battle on Sunday is in the context of the season.

"We need to go at least one and one this weekend."

"This is what it's all about - that grind towards the playoffs, every game is so important."

The series split is one-all between the Hawks and Crocodiles.

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