Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod gave the Hawks a vote of confidence after yesterday’s 97-89 home loss to NBL title holders New Zealand Breakers.
Less than 48 hours after a 40-point mauling from unbeaten league leaders Perth, the Hawks suffered their fourth loss in their opening five games to slip to last on the ladder.
Wollongong overcame the loss of centre Larry Davidson to an ankle injury in the second quarter to hold a 78-73 lead in the fourth period.
But the Breakers took over down the stretch, making all the right plays and out-scoring the home team 24-11 over the closing minutes.
Guard Rotnei Clarke had his shooting radar working, pouring in 36 points – the most by an NBL player this season.
His haul wasn’t enough to lift Wollongong to victory.
McLeod applauded his side’s fighting spirit and believes the Hawks’ 1-4 record is not indicative of their commitment to winning.
‘‘Obviously we’re disappointed with the end result, but the endeavour and the effort was certainly there,’’ he said.
‘‘When you reflect on it, we’ve played New Zealand twice and Perth and Adelaide on their home courts. They’re all pretty good teams, and we showed tonight we can compete, even after losing Larry.
‘‘To limit the points in the paint against this team was a good effort, and we shot the ball well enough to win the game, but we just didn’t come up with enough defensive plays at the right time.
‘‘But after the result on Friday night and the travel back from Perth, to come out and play with the heart and endeavour we had tonight, it was a great effort and I’m really proud of the guys.’’
The Breakers were up 18-12 midway through the first period while Hawks captain Oscar Forman was on the bench with his second foul.
The Breakers were ahead by five at quarter-time and led 49-45 at half-time.
Davidson went down midway through the second period with his team trailing by a point.
The lead changed hands through the second half but the visitors pulled away to secure their second win of the season – both over Wollongong.
Kevin Tiggs tallied 18 points for the Hawks, Tim Coenraad had 12 points and nine rebounds, while Dave Gruber and Rhys Martin combined for 13 points.
Alex Pledger led the Breakers with 19 points, though Mika Vukona was the standout with 18 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
‘‘We hung around and gave ourselves a chance, but in the end it was offensive boards and turnovers that hurt us, and those things add up against you,’’ McLeod said.
The Breakers have struggled this season and coach Dean Vickerman was a relieved man.
‘‘We’ve had those close games against Cairns, Perth and Adelaide and it was kind of similar tonight going down the stretch ... it’s good to get a first road win,’’ Vickerman said.
‘‘They made their big run and Vukona was huge, consistently hitting that mid-range jump-shot, and that really kept us in the game. We made some big threes to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
‘‘Rotty was a handful. Pledger did a good job of challenging his shot, but he made better plays and gave them a chance to win.
‘‘They’re a good team. Any time you get a win here it’s a good win.’’