TAIPANS 82 HAWKS 79
The Hawks' five-game winning streak came to a screeching halt with a nail-biting 82-79 defeat to traditional bogey side the Cairns Taipans in Wollongong on Saturday night.
The Hawks looked dead and buried after trailing by as much as 22 points during the match before storming back into the contest on the back of a remarkable 34-point fourth quarter including 13 points from star import Rotnei Clarke.
Clarke shook off what was an uncharacteristically wayward shooting performance to that point to bring the match from a 65-48 at three-quarter-time to just 78-74 with under a minute remaining, but the Hawks ultimately left their run too late.
Clarke finished with 24 points, while Tyson Demos was outstanding with 13 points and several big defensive plays to bring the Hawks back into the match.
The loss was a serious blow to the Hawks' finals chances ahead of a tough road match with Townsville next week and what's shaping as a season-defining crunch match with the fourth-placed Sydney Kings in the final round.
It was always going to be a tight match with just three points separating the two sides in their previous three matches this season and the Taipans having won five of their previous six games in Wollongong.
Star import Jamar Wilson top-scored for the Snakes with 18 points in just 16 minutes on the court.
Cam Gliddon and Stephen Weigh were also hot from the field, managing 18 and 16 points respectively.
Wilson got the Snakes off to a flyer, scoring their first six points and notching nine in the first quarter to finish the half with 14 points.
Clarke was uncharacteristically wayward, shooting 1/5 from the field and leaving the Hawks trailing by five 19-14 at quarter-time.
Demos made an immediate impact when injected from the bench, scoring five quick points and drawling three offensive fouls with his trademark niggle.
Skipper Oscar Forman also found his range with 11 points, nine of them from the perimeter to bring the Hawks back into the game at 33-34. It was the closest the Hawks came to taking the lead all night.
The Taipans kicked away again on the back of eight points from Weigh and a pair of threes from Gliddon to bring the halftime score to 46-38 to the visitors
Wilson nailed two classy pullup jumpers to stretch the lead to 14 immediately following the resumption, before being subbed with a knee injury.
Gliddon and Weigh continued to fire from range to stretch the lead 22 points before a three from Clarke and four points to a fired-up Demos pegged the lead back to 65-48 at three-quarter-time.
With the result seemingly in the bag, the Taipans visibly slackened, allowing the Hawks back into the match in the fourth quarter before late free throws from Gliddon and Matt Burston closed out the result.