Forget about the playoffs - the Wollongong Hawks are in danger of finishing with the dreaded wooden spoon.
The Hawks slipped a little further from finals contention on Friday night in rain-soaked North Queensland, losing 80-67 to the last-placed Townsville Crocodiles.
Seventh-placed Wollongong (6-13) are on a four-game losing streak and have the Crocs (5-13) snapping at their heels.
The Hawks have nine games remaining and will be desperate to avoid becoming the second team in the club’s 35-year history to finish at the bottom of the ladder.
Wollongong’s 1997 team has the dishonour of being the club’s only wooden spooners.
Despite a positive start last night, Wollongong trailed at every break.
Kevin Tiggs top-scored for the Hawks with 17, Tim Coenraad added 15, while Rotnei Clarke was held well below his season average with 12.
The Crocs destroyed their opponents at the three-point line, hitting 10/24. Wollongong connected on just 5/18 threes.
Guard Steve Markovic starred with 20 points (3/4 threes) and eight assists, Josh Pace had 14 points, while Brian Conklin and Pete Crawford chipped in 12 apiece.
Clarke was aggressive early, launching five of his team’s first six shots and scoring their opening six points.
Both teams struggled to score and the Hawks were ahead 6-5 after five minutes before veteran guard Crawford’s three gave the Crocs a lead they never relinquished.
Townsville out-scored the visitors 7-0 over the next few minutes before a Tiggs basket broke the drought.
Oscar Forman knocked down a shot after a Crocs turnover to trim the gap to four points but import Pace scored in the closing seconds to give Townsville a 20-14 quarter-time lead.
The home team made 47 per cent of their shot attempts compared to 43 per cent for Wollongong. The Hawks missed all three of their three-point attempts.
Crawford and Clarke each had six points.
Townsville’s lead had been cut to three when Crawford nailed his second three of the night to make it 29-23 with six minutes left in the half.
The margin swelled to 10 with Mitch Norton’s three before Coenraad replied with a three of his own to make it 39-32 at half-time.
Crawford was up to nine points and Conklin had eight.
Clarke led Wollongong with eight, while Coenraad and Forman each had seven.
The third quarter mirrored the second, as both teams continued to struggle to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Every time the Hawks crept closer, the Crocs would make a big three, pushing the margin back up to 10 with a little under four minutes left in the quarter.
When the siren sounded to end the period, Townsville held a 51-44 lead.
Tiggs had upped his tally to 13 points and Conklin led the Crocs with 12.
Townsville never looked like folding in crunch time, breaking an eight-match losing streak and giving coach Shawn Dennis something to smile about.
The Hawks are back at home on Sunday week against Adelaide.