Hot Hawks flying high as Adelaide dispatched

BASKETBALL

They are the NBL's hottest team with five consecutive wins, but the Wollongong Hawks must keep raising the bar.

The Hawks kept hold of fifth spot with Friday night's enthralling 91-89 defeat of Adelaide, boosting their record to 11-13 with four games to play.

Wollongong host Cairns (10-15) on Saturday night and finish the season with games against Townsville (away), Sydney (home) and Perth (away).

Perth (18-6) and Adelaide (15-9) have all-but locked up the top two spots, but very little separates the remaining six teams.

Incredibly, the Hawks can finish as high as third and also plummet as low as eighth.

Cairns kept their finals hopes alive with Saturday night's 92-87 home win over New Zealand and share a history of close contests with Wollongong.

"Next week we have to make some progress. We can't stay still," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.

"We need to get better as a group and we need our individuals to try and get that little bit better.

"Cairns have all the pieces, and for whatever reason when we play them, it always seems to go down to the wire."

Despite being without injured import Kevin Tiggs, the Hawks out-lasted the 36ers in a classic battle.

Wollongong held a 15-point lead in the opening moments of the final quarter, only to fall behind with a couple of minutes remaining.

The Hawks' fighting spirit shone through and more than 3000 fans - the best home crowd of the season - went home happy.

"It doesn't matter by how many. It's about getting over the line," McLeod said.

"The thing that was a little disappointing was that we need to look at our defence in the fourth quarter, and how they started making perimeter shots and opened us up.

"There's a lot of positives to come from the game. Points from turnovers was pretty good and we out-scored them on points in the paint, and that's a big part of their game.

"The real pleasing thing was that we addressed the rebounding at half-time. We gave up 12 offensive rebounds at half-time and only four more in the second half."

After losing two games to the Sixers earlier in the season in Adelaide, the Hawks won twice in Wollongong, claiming the four-game series on a superior for-and-against differential.

"The really pleasing thing is that we've played that team tough in four games and they're sitting in second spot, so we should take positives from that," McLeod said.

"We got some good contributions, as we need to do when you're down a guy [Tiggs] who's been giving you 16 [points] a game. We have to share that load."

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