GALLERY: Hawks in heartbreaking NYE loss

BASKETBALL 

The Wollongong Hawks finished 2013 at the bottom of the NBL ladder after Tuesday night's 91-81 double overtime loss to Melbourne at WIN Entertainment Centre.

American guard Rotnei Clarke almost single-handedly carried the Hawks to victory, pouring in a season-high 37 points (nine of 10 three-pointers) and knocking down several crunch time shots.

But Wollongong blew it, failing to go on with the job after leading by eight with less than five minutes to play in regulation.

The Hawks dropped to 4-9 for the season and face the daunting prospect of hosting league leaders Perth on Saturday.

Aside from Clarke, no other Wollongong player reached double figures,

"We didn't have enough guys playing at the level we need them to be at," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.

Mustapha Farrakhan led the Tigers with 23 points and Chris Goulding finished with 22.

The Hawks fought hard all night, but ultimately ran out of gas against the third-placed Tigers (8-6).

Hoping for a positive start, the Hawks got exactly the opposite, allowing the Tigers to skip to a 12-2 lead.

Melbourne were working hard at the defensive end and Wollongong struggled to create open shots.

Wollongong's Dave Gruber was back on the bench 90 seconds into the game after picking up two quick fouls. His replacement, Larry Davidson, helped get the Hawks going with seven points and three rebounds in the first quarter.

Wollongong trailed 24-13 at the end of the period, making 39 per cent of their shots and racking up four turnovers.

The visitors pushed the lead out to 30-17 in the second quarter, but that's when the game was turned upside down.

Wollongong were suddenly energised at the defensive end and the turnovers started piling up for a visibly shaken Melbourne.

The Hawks seized control, taking their first lead of the game at 31-30 on a pair of free throws by Clarke.

By the time the first half ended, Wollongong had scored unanswered 18 points to be up 35-30.

Clarke had 14 points after being held scoreless in the first quarter, while Davidson had seven points and five rebounds.

The Tigers had eight turnovers in the second quarter and made just two of 12 shots.

The Tigers hit back in the third quarter, tying the game at 35-all.

Wollongong turned up the heat again and peeled off a 16-6 run.

Melbourne responded with an 8-2 spurt of their own, cutting the home team's lead to 53-49 at three-quarter time.

The Tigers continued to chip away, knotting the score at 53-all on the back of Farrakhan's hot streak.

Just when the Hawks seemed to be slipping, Clarke nailed back-to-back threes before Oscar Forman hit a jump shot for a 61-53 lead, with five minutes to play.

The Tigers refused to lie down, drawing to within a point, with 24 seconds remaining.

Goulding had a chance to put his side up with nine seconds left but managed just one of two foul shots, leaving the game tied at 67-all.

Wollongong failed to get a decent shot up in the dying moments, sending the game into overtime.

Mark Worthington came to life in the extra period, scoring three baskets to give the Tigers a six-point lead.

Just when the party was dying for Wollongong, they came storming back again, with Clarke hitting miraculous shots to force a second overtime.

But the Tigers had the last laugh, beating Wollongong for the third time in as many meetings this season.

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