Defiant Hawks walk tightrope to finals

BASKETBALL

It was only a few short weeks ago that the Wollongong Hawks were trying to avoid becoming just the second team in the club's 35-year existence to finish dead last.

Four straight wins later and the Hawks are now capable of climbing as high as third by the end of the season.

Of course, a couple of losses would push them back into the wooden-spoon danger zone.

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But finishing third, let alone fourth, isn't the long shot it was a fortnight ago.

"These last four games have really been the first time all year that we've gotten out and pushed the ball, and played the style we've been hoping to, and it's really paid off," Hawks centre Larry Davidson said.

"The shots are going in and that gives everyone confidence."

Wollongong are fifth with a 10-13 record, Sydney are fourth at 11-11, while third-placed Melbourne are suddenly very vulnerable at 12-11.

Since beating league-leading Perth on the road a month ago, the Tigers have lost three on the trot.

The Hawks' run to the finals consists of games against Adelaide (home), Cairns (h), Townsville (away), Sydney (h) and Perth (a).

Sydney play Perth (h), Melbourne (a), New Zealand (a), Adelaide (h), Wollongong (a) and Townsville (h).

The Tigers' finishing schedule includes meetings with Townsville (h), New Zealand (a), Sydney (h), Cairns (a) and Adelaide (a).

The Hawks have the most favourable draw, though there is a definite chance their final-round clash in Perth could decide their fate.

"The ones at home we definitely have to win, because we've got a tough game in Townsville and an even tougher road game in Perth, and we want that last game to be a bit of a holiday," Wollongong playmaker Rhys Martin said.

"I probably wouldn't put it past us, of all the times for us to get a win over in Perth, but you don't want to have to count on it."

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