A rampant 29-point third quarter wasn’t enough for the Wollongong Hawks to extend their winning run against the Melbourne Tigers in Melbourne on Friday.
Tigers star and the league’s leading scorer Chris Goulding shot 30 points for the evening, including seven of 11 from the perimeter, and nailed crucial back-to-back threes late in the fourth quarter to steal the 74-67 victory for his side.
The late surge undid a thrilling fightback from the Hawks who trailed by as much as 12 points during the first half before skipper Oscar Forman and super sub Kevin Tiggs engineered the fightback that saw the Hawks leading deep in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t enough however, with Goulding producing eight straight points to kick the Tigers ahead 69-65 and put the final nail in the Hawks' coffin.
The Hawks outscored the Tigers 32-16 in the paint but had no answer for Goulding and backcourt partner Nate Tomlinson from range late in the game.
Rotnei Clarke top-scored for the Hawks with 16 points but it was Forman and Tiggs who delivered the crucial points midway through the game to overturn a 12-point deficit and put the Hawks in the position to win the game.
The Hawks managed to keep Goulding off the scoresheet in the first quarter but he stormed back into the game in the second delivering 10 of his 30 points to see the Tigers ahead 33-22 with three minutes left in the half.
Just as signs were looking ominous for the Hawks, Forman fired from the perimeter before Rhys Martin pulled down a rebound from a misfired Goulding shot and found Tiggs on the breakaway.
The star import slammed it home to put an exclamation point on the half and cut the lead back to 36-29 at half-time.
The Hawks outscored the Tigers 29-18 in the third quarter with Forman nailing his second shot from the perimeter early and Tiggs producing six of his 13 points to take the lead at 43-42 with four minutes remaining in the quarter.
Wollongong extended their lead to 56-49, their biggest lead of the match, before a three-point shot from Goulding brought to Tigers back to 58-54 going into the final stanza.
The Hawks fought their way to a 65-61 lead with two and a half minutes remaining before Goulding’s eight-point flurry stole the victory for the Tigers.
The loss will leave the the Hawks fuming ahead of their return clash with Tigers in Wollongong on New Year’s Eve.