Plucky Wollongong make no secret of their plans to nullify Sydney’s interior offence in Friday night’s do or die battle at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Inside scoring is generally a strength for the Kings, but the Hawks have successfully deployed a zone defence in three previous wins over their NSW rivals this season.
And while Sydney have out-scored Wollongong by a collective 94-92 on points in the paint, the Hawks made life difficult for Kings centre AJ Ogilvy in those three meetings.
Ogilvy is averaging an impressive 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and three assists against Wollongong, but just 7.3 points.
The Hawks will be out to frustrate Ogilvy and muscular Kings forward Sam Young on Friday.
‘‘We need to keep them out of the paint,’’ forward Tim Coenraad said.
‘‘They do a good job on penetration, with Sam Young and AJ Ogilvy being such a big presence inside, and they get a lot of cheap points and a lot of free throws.
‘‘We want to force them to the perimeter and eliminate their transition game. At the same time we have to take care of the defensive boards because they have a lot of guys who can get on the glass. If we can do that we’ll be a good chance to win.’’
Widely written off after losing 13 of their first 19 games, the Hawks have won six of their past seven to be sharing fourth spot with Sydney.
Wollongong play their final game of the season on Sunday against the Wildcats in Perth, while Sydney host wooden spooners Townsville on Saturday night.
But neither of those games will mean a thing if the Hawks win on Friday. That would guarantee Wollongong the last playoff spot.
‘‘The atmosphere is going to be great,’’ Coenraad said.
‘‘The crowds have been getting better since we’ve been winning. We’d really love the fans to come out tonight because it’s a clash against our rivals. It’s a massive game.’’
The Kings were thrashed by New Zealand last Thursday before bouncing back three days later against Adelaide.
‘‘They have some great talent and are a team who can put points on the board,’’ Coenraad said.
‘‘But we’ve had success against them, so hopefully we can keep that success going and that will push us to the play-offs.’’
Hosts expect bench to fire
If Friday’s duel between Wollongong and Sydney comes down to a battle of the benches, the Hawks expect to have the edge.
As much as Hawks coach Gordie McLeod can count on Tyson Demos and Larry Davidson to provide a positive impact off the bench, import Kevin Tiggs stamped himself as a frontrunner for NBL Sixth Man of the Year honours in a designated back-up role.
After he missed three games with a knee injury, Tiggs returned to action in last week’s comeback win over Townsville and scored seven points in nine minutes.
Teammates believe that Tiggs shook off any rust against Townsville.
‘‘It’s good to have Kev back because he brings a lot of talent and a lot of energy off the bench, and that really keeps us going,’’ forward Tim Coenraad said.
‘‘He scored the ball really well before his injury and he’s had that one feeler game to get himself back in. He’s had a good week of practice this week and he’ll be ready to go.’’