Hawks embrace 'free hit'
There was no chest-beating statement with Sunday night's "free hit" in Perth, but it doesn't mean the Wollongong Hawks won't take a far more defiant stance in this Friday's opening game of the semi-final series.
The Hawks squared off with the Wildcats in the final game of the regular season on Sunday, losing by 21 points after being down by three at half-time.
The game had no impact on the final standings and essentially served as a tune-up for the semi-finals.
"It was nice getting on that plane, knowing we were going over and we got a free hit first," Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod said.
"It was a free hit for both teams."
Despite taking an early 10-0 lead, the Hawks were gradually reeled in.
They fought hard to stay in touch in the first half, but the Wildcats applied the defensive blowtorch with a decisive 23-6 third quarter.
The fourth period was fairly even, but the minor premiers cruised to an 86-65 victory, their 21st of the season.
"We were keen to come out and play aggressively, and really try and work hard defensively to make things happen, and we did a pretty good job at that. But they wore us down as it went on," McLeod said.
The Hawks have set up camp in Cats country for the week.
Game two of the best-of-three series will be played in Wollongong on Sunday at 3pm.
The Hawks were all but out of top-four contention when they lost 13 of their first 19 games. They won seven of their final nine to finish outright fourth.
"We've worked really hard to get into the play-offs, and now what we've got to do in the coming week is work out our game plan - which we haven't been able to do so far - and beat them over here," McLeod said.
"We're better to stay and train over here. We just feel it's better for us to do, to take out that travel component."
The Hawks have always struggled in Perth. This season they lost two games in Perth by an average of 30.5 points. The Wildcats also prevailed 89-76 in Wollongong before the Hawks overcame the Cats at home 96-91 in overtime.
Tickets are on sale for the second game at the WEC from usual outlets.