Hawks' defence hailed after Breakers thrashed

BASKETBALL

Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod believes the Hawks' resolute defensive effort laid the platform for Friday night's 88-68 demolition of title holders New Zealand.

The Hawks chalked up their 10th win of the season and their first in four meetings with the Breakers, staying in the finals hunt with five games remaining.

Wollongong's dominance of New Zealand in the rebounding department (41-31) was a big talking point after the game.

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But McLeod kept referring to his team's defence as the main reason behind the thrashing.

Indeed, the Hawks had given up an average of 98.3 points in three losses to the Breakers.

They sliced a whopping 30 points off that figure on Friday, restricting the visitors to 39 per cent shooting and forcing them into 14 turnovers.

"If we're going to keep teams to 68, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. That was the big stat," McLeod said.

"They'd scored 92, 97 and 106 on us the last three times we've played, so we had to find a way with our defence.

"We challenged ourselves. We knew if we were going to have any chance, that was where we had to get it done.

"We took away their inside game and forced [them] to try and beat us from the perimeter, and we did that well. We had four really good defensive quarters."

Knowing they were without productive import Kevin Tiggs (knee injury), the Hawks needed assertive contributions at both ends of the court.

Rotnei Clarke led the charge with a game-high 28 points, while Larry Davidson, Tim Coenraad and Dave Gruber had 10 points apiece and a collective 18 rebounds. Oscar Forman played a key role with 13 points and five rebounds and guard Rhys Martin tallied seven points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Wollongong are fifth with a 10-13 record and looking forward to hosting second-placed Adelaide this Friday night.

"Every game's a must-win game. That's the way I see it," McLeod said.

"I don't know how you get to the end of the year and turn it up a few notches. I don't know how that's possible. This was our last chance to have a crack at New Zealand, and beating every team in the comp at least once is a big goal for us. That's where we try and keep our focus."

Tiggs will miss the clash with the 36ers but is an outside chance of returning for the following week's home game against Cairns.

"The guys are playing with confidence and playing with a good tempo, and we're getting contributions all over the court," McLeod said.

"It's nice to see them get rewarded for the hard work they've put in."

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