American guard Rotnei Clarke’s impressive 27-point haul propelled the Wollongong Hawks to a much-needed 73-69 victory over the Sydney Kings tonight at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Clarke paced the Hawks with 15 in the first half and made clutch shots over the final two quarters, as Wollongong racked up their third win from their opening 10 games.
Fellow guard Rhys Martin, who became a father during the week, added 13 points, while Kevin Tiggs chipped in 12.
Despite making just 38 per cent of their shot attempts compared to Sydney’s 47 per cent, the Hawks grabbed more rebounds (34-30) and finished with just eight turnovers to the Kings’ 16.
Former NBA forward Sam Young scored a team-high 16 points for the visitors but had an otherwise forgettable night, connecting on just 5/13 field goals and chalking up seven ugly turnovers.
Ben Madgen had 14 points for Sydney but hit 6/14 shots and finished with five turnovers.
Wollongong centre Larry Davidson made a successful return from a four-game layoff with an ankle injury, tallying eight points and four rebounds.
Davidson also used his cunning to draw an unsportsmanlike foul on Sydney’s AJ Ogilvy which helped sway the momentum in the home team’s favour in the third quarter.
Hawks captain Oscar Forman endured a tough shooting night (1/9) but worked hard for his 10 rebounds.
Dave Gruber and Tim Coenraad also made crucial contributions, combining for 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Hawks’ win boosted their record to 3-7, though they remain equal-last after Cairns (3-7) snapped a seven-game losing slide with tonight’s crushing 98-78 home victory over Adelaide.
Sydney slipped to 5-5 for the season yet kept hold of third spot behind Perth (11-1) and Adelaide (8-4).
The Hawks and Kings square off again next Saturday in round 10 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod was delighted with his team’s effort, particularly after the Kings bolted to a 12-2 lead after three minutes.
Sydney were ahead 20-19 at quarter-time and scores were locked at 37-all at the main break.
The Hawks were up by seven in the closing stages before Sydney’s Charles Carmouche drained a three-pointer as the full-time siren sounded.