Timely win lifts Wollongong Hawks

BASKETBALL

After scratching around in last spot for most of the season, the Hawks climbed off the bottom of the ladder with Saturday night’s 69-63 road win over the Sydney Kings.

Three-time reigning champions New Zealand (4-9) slipped to the back of the pack with Friday’s home loss to title favourites Perth (12-1), while Wollongong (4-7) are now just one win behind the fourth-placed Kings (5-6).

The Hawks will feel good about themselves during the NBL’s two-week Christmas break and look forward to their December 27 (away) and December 31 (home) clashes with third-placed Melbourne (6-6).

GALLERY: Fighting Hawks sink Sydney

‘‘Adelaide is second on the ladder and we had two really close games with them and we were sitting on the bottom, so it just shows what the league’s about and that it’s irrelevant where you are,’’ Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod said.

‘‘It’s where you are in each series and it’s about making weekly progress, and we’ve made some really good progress in the last month.

‘‘It’s hard to get a win in this competition because it’s so close, but we’ve still got a lot more progress we can make and that’s exciting for us.’’

The Hawks showed off their newfound resilience against the Kings, overturning a double-figure deficit in the first half and playing with far more poise than the home side in the second.

Their  win came seven days after a 73-69 home victory over Sydney.

‘‘The really pleasing thing is that we try to make daily and weekly progress, and the guys have really hung in there,’’ McLeod said.

‘‘We’ve probably had a few games that got away from us, but we’ve slowly stayed in there and we’re starting to gel as a group.’’

Sydney led 17-11 after the first quarter and were up 35-33 at half-time, but there were signs the Hawks were getting on top.

They grabbed the momentum in the second half and ended the third period with a five-point lead after Larry Davidson’s buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Sydney outscored the visitors 14-3 in the first six minutes of the final quarter before Wollongong mounted a spirited fightback.

Oscar Forman and Rotnei Clarke nailed back-to-back threes to erase a six-point deficit and Forman calmly sealed victory with four straight free throws.

‘‘We did a good job of disrupting and we were able to build that little bit of pressure after they dominated the game early.

‘‘We were able to find a way to stay in the game. We hit some big threes and made some big buckets at different times that took the pressure off us.

‘‘We gained that little bit of momentum and we were able to make some plays down the stretch and finish it off with foul shooting,’’ McLeod said.

‘‘We tried to win the effort areas and that’s a big part that’s let us down in the past. Twelve turnovers isn’t too bad, our rebounding was pretty good, and we made some buckets when we needed to.

‘‘The coaching staff is rapt. All teams want to see their players get some recognition and reward for the effort they put in.’’

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