Hawks right back in the mix

BASKETBALL

Hard as it may seem to believe, the Wollongong Hawks are poised to rocket from last to fourth in the space of 12 days.

After slipping to the bottom of the ladder with the New Year's Eve double-overtime loss to Melbourne, the Hawks jumped two spots to sixth with Saturday night's 96-91 overtime victory over league leaders Perth.

If they beat Cairns on the road on Saturday and results from a couple of other games go their way, Wollongong will find themselves in the top four for the first time this season.

"We've been making good progress every week and we're putting ourselves in a position to win some games," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.

"Last week was tough with three games in eight days, but the guys are hanging tough and playing well together."

Aside from being out-rebounded 43-29 in the upset of the Wildcats, Wollongong out-played the title favourites in every other key area.

And unlike the loss to the Tigers, the Hawks didn't leave star guard Rotnei Clarke to do all the scoring.

Clarke still scored 28 points, but four others were in double figures, while Dave Gruber had nine points.

"Rotnei's getting hot and draws some attention, and he got other guys involved and moved the ball," McLeod said.

"We got Kevin [Tiggs] going and got those contributions all over the court at different times, and that's the way we need to play.

"Rotnei's going to get his points, but he's also going to get a lot of attention, so we have to find different ways to keep him involved and put him in a position to do what he does.

"To get over the line, we need other guys making shots, and that was really pleasing on Saturday because that was missing in our game against the Tigers."

Tiggs had 14 points and five steals, moving up to fourth in the league in steals. He was also his team's go-to man in overtime, as the Cats struggled to contain his clever moves in the paint.

"It was crucial that we got our fifth win to stay with the pack, and now we want to move up," said captain Oscar Forman, who reached a milestone against the Cats, playing his 100th game in Hawks colours.

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