Halfway home: Hawks face long haul to top four

BASKETBALL

Championships might not be won in January, but the Wollongong Hawks face their moment of truth this weekend at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Wollongong (4-9) dropped back to last on the ladder with the New Year's Eve home loss to Melbourne and play their third game in eight days on Saturday against title favourites Perth.

The round 12 clash marks the crucial midway point of the Hawks' 28-game season.

If they lose to the league leaders, Wollongong will have to win at least nine - more likely 10 or 11 - of their final 14 games to have any chance of repeating last season's top four finish.

Their meeting with the Wildcats has become a now or never situation.

"It's a tough ask," coach Gordie McLeod said.

"The big thing now is recovery because we're playing three games in eight days, and they need to ... reflect on what happened. We'll talk about it as a team and talk about what we need to improve on going in against Perth.

"You don't want to get caught up on the emotional roller coaster, and we've got a process in place for that. We'll evaluate what we've been through and look at the beast that we're playing, and it's a pretty good beast coming in on Saturday."

Wollongong's double overtime loss to the Tigers overshadowed the brilliant shooting display by import guard Rotnei Clarke.

After having zero points in the first quarter, Clarke had 14 at half-time. He hit an array of improbable shots throughout, particularly in the first extra period, and was a near-perfect 9/10 from the three-point line.

"It's disappointing. The points don't matter if you don't come away with a win," Clarke said.

"We fought hard but we didn't do enough to win."

Clarke expects the Hawks to move on quickly from the year-ending loss.

"We've done a good job of that all year long," he said.

"That's the cool thing about coming into this organisation. It's all positive and upbeat.

"The coaches do a good job of coaching us critically and doing that in a positive light.

"It's a good atmosphere to be around and I don't think any of us will be down. We'll come back ready to work and prepare for Perth."

Despite logging 47 of a possible 50 minutes against the Tigers, Clarke felt fresh after the game.

"My body feels pretty good," the 24-year-old said.

Melbourne remained in third spot, boosting their record to 8-6.

It was the Tigers' third victory from as many meetings with Wollongong.

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