Hawks double a warning to rivals

BASKETBALL

Time will tell if they've left their run too late, but the Wollongong Hawks appear to be peaking at the right end of the season.

The Hawks climbed into sixth spot with weekend thrashings of Townsville and Sydney, pulling to within a single win of the fourth-placed Kings.

Three straight victories has boosted their record to 9-13 with six games remaining.

Wollongong host titleholders New Zealand on Friday night and play their ensuing two games at home against Adelaide and Cairns.

A road clash with Townsville is scheduled for round 22 before the Hawks wrap up the regular season with final-round games against Sydney (home) and Perth (away).

Coach Gordie McLeod believes his side is primed for a strong finish.

"As a coaching staff, we're so proud of our group," he said.

"We've been building and getting better and better. When they get a kick in the guts, they just put the hard hat on and the attitude is just unbelievable.

"It's been pleasing to see the way we're playing as a unit.

"We've really taken it to another level."

Proving the previous week's 22-point rout of Adelaide was no fluke, the Hawks led Townsville by 24 after three quarters on Friday night.

Despite a patchy final period which yielded just 10 points, their defence held firm and they won comfortably by 15.

Wollongong were even better the following night against their long-time rivals, turning a 48-45 half-time lead into a convincing 102-84 victory.

The Hawks won the rebound battle for the third straight game and hit 54 per cent of their shots.

They knocked down 12/25 three-point shots and had just seven turnovers compared to 12 for Sydney.

Guard Rotnei Clarke put on a shooting clinic, making 14/23 field goals and 7/7 free throws for a season-high 39 points.

Kevin Tiggs had 22 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while centre Larry Davidson continued his recent resurgence with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Tyson Demos added eight points and three other players finished with six apiece.

The Hawks have beaten the Kings in all three of their meetings.

"It's tough to get wins in this league, and to get two in two nights is a tremendous effort," McLeod said.

"All coaches want to see their players get reward for the effort they put in. We can't acknowledge the players highly enough.

"It's just great going to work. You've got a bunch of guys that are into it and they're doing the work before and after practice."

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