It wasn’t one for the ages, but the Wollongong Hawks got the win they so badly needed this afternoon, thrashing Townsville 86-62 at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Wollongong’s victory was just their third in the past 15 games, but it improved their record to 10-13 and kept them firmly in the finals hunt with five matches remaining.
The Hawks are one of three teams with 10 wins.
Melbourne are third with a 10-11 record, while Wollongong and Sydney share fourth spot.
Wollongong will take renewed confidence into this Friday’s home clash with last-placed Adelaide.
Starring in the demolition of the Crocodiles was guard Adris Deleon and captain Oscar Forman.
Deleon backed up his 33-point haul in Friday’s road loss to New Zealand with a game-high 28, while Forman was unstoppable from the perimeter, hitting 6/7 three-pointers on the way to 22 points.
Malcolm Grant chipped in 12 points, Tyson Demos had eight and Tim Coenraad finished with seven.
Wollongong out-rebounded their opponents 37-36, thanks in no small part to backup forward Dave Gruber’s nine boards in 22 minutes off the bench.
Forward Todd Blanchfield had a team-high 13 points for the Crocs and former Hawks star Gary Ervin tallied 11.
Missing in action for the Crocs was 216cm centre Luke Nevill, who finished with just four points in a subdued display.
The Hawks drained 13/22 threes and out-scored the Crocs 28-16 on inside points.
Deleon had a serious look in his eye from the get-go, scoring his team’s opening four points and laying the foundations for an early 9-3 lead.
Townsville fired back with a scoring spree to take their first lead of the game midway through the first quarter.
But the Hawks immediately responded, forging ahead by eight as Forman caught fire from three-point territory.
Both teams were creating and making open shots in a free-flowing opening period - the Hawks connecting on 60 per cent, the Crocs 57 per cent.
When the first quarter ended, Wollongong led 27-21 and Forman and Deleon had combined for 15 points.
Forman stayed hot in the second period, draining his fourth three and following with a strong baseline move to push the margin out to 12 with just over five minutes remaining in the half.
Deleon was also getting the better of his head to head battle with Ervin, while a couple of threes by Tyson Demos put the Hawks up by 16.
The home team maintained the upper hand over the closing minutes and skipped into the locker room with a well-deserved 49-35 lead.
They hit 8/10 threes as a team, including Forman’s 4/5.
The 12th-year forward had 14 points and four rebounds, Deleon was up to 13 points, while Demos and Coenraad had a collective 13.
Pleased as coach Gordie McLeod would’ve been with the Hawks’ first-half shooting, seeing them ahead on rebounds (18-14) and points in the paint (18-12) must have been especially encouraging.
Peter Crawford led the Crocs with 11 and Ervin added nine.
Townsville coach Paul Woolpert couldn’t have been impressed with Nevill’s measly output of one point and one field goal attempt, though Wollongong’s enthusiastic interior defence had something to do with that.
Any chance of a Hawks’ scoring drought in the third quarter was swiftly nipped in the bud, as the margin swelled to 24.
But just when a blowout was on the cards, Blanchfield sparked a mini fightback, trimming Wollongong’s lead to 67-52 at three-quarter-time.
Deleon upped his tally to 24 points and Forman was up to 17.
The Crocs cut the deficit to 10 points midway through the fourth period but that was as close as they got.