The road to the NBL finals just got a lot bumpier for the Wollongong Hawks after last night’s 91-90 overtime loss to Adelaide at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Leading by eight with less than a minute remaining in normal time, the Hawks succumbed to the 36ers’ clutch three-point shooting, losing their fourth overtime game of the season.
Victory would’ve lifted Wollongong into third on the NBL ladder.
Now they are faced with the difficult task of winning at least three of their remaining four games and crossing their fingers in the hope that other results fall their way.
The Sixers (8-16) kept their slim top four hopes alive.
The Hawks (10-14) battle Melbourne (10-12) on the road next weekend in a game which could ultimately determine whether or not they reach the finals.
Forward Tom Coenraad starred for Wollongong with 28 points and seven rebounds, guard Malcolm Grant finished with 15 points, while Adris Deleon and Larry Davidson combined for 23.
Adam Gibson drained a three in the dying stages of regulation before former Wollongong forward Anthony Petrie calmly hit his team’s eighth three of the second half on the siren to send the game into over-time.
A second overtime was on the cards before Deleon fouled Stephen Weigh with two seconds remaining.
Weigh hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second to secure the Sixers’ eighth win of the season.
Petrie tallied 26 points and eight rebounds, Gibson added 21 points, five assists and five rebounds, while Daniel Johnson chipped in 18 points.
Petrie got the Sixers away to a hot start, scoring six of his team’s first 12 points.
Six was all Wollongong had after five minutes before Deleon rattled home a long three on the shot-clock buzzer to cut Adelaide’s lead to 12-9.
Deleon hit 1/2 free throws moments later, while Auryn MacMillan scored off an offensive rebound and Grant knocked down a three-pointer to give the Hawks their first lead.
Grant found Tyson Demos with a perfect back-door pass in the dying moments of the first quarter but Wollongong’s lead stayed at 19-15 when Demos couldn’t convert the reverse layup.
The margin grew to seven but the visitors took advantage of the Hawks’ defensive breakdowns and quickly got back to within three.
Wollongong hit back again with a lay-up and three by Coenraad to build a 29-21 lead with six minutes left in the half.
The Sixers regrouped after a time-out and started using Johnson more effectively inside, while Petrie also posed defensive problems for the home side.
Unsung guard Tom Daly provided a spark off the bench with six points and a steal, as Adelaide knotted the score 37-all at half-time.
Johnson and Petrie had 12 points apiece and a collective five rebounds.Coenraad led the Hawks with 10 points and three rebounds, while Davidson and Dave Gruber combined for 12 points and six rebounds.
The Sixers had done a good job of silencing Wollongong’s most prolific scorers, restricting Deleon to four points on 1/5 shooting and forward Oscar Forman to a single basket.
Forman got his first three-point attempt up five minutes into the third period and duly splashed it through the net.
Coenraad was in the groove at the offensive end, mixing it up with threes, fast-break layups and dunks to boost his tally to 22 at three-quarter time.
But the Sixers stubbornly kept the Hawks at arm’s reach with a series of threes and held a 61-59 lead with just under a minute remaining in the quarter.
Demos had the final say of the third period with a long three on the buzzer to put his side ahead by a point.
The fourth quarter was close throughout, but the Sixers had the last laugh in overtime.