Hawks to take Wildcats head-on

BASKETBALL

Wollongong forward Tim Coenraad believes title favourites Perth are under pressure to live up to expectations.

The Wildcats proved unstoppable for long stretches of the 28-game regular season, chalking up 21 wins to run away with the minor premiership.

Heavily favoured to capture the championship, the Cats are tipped by NBL pundits to sweep the Hawks in a best-of-three semi-final series, which gets under way with Friday's game in Perth.

After losing 13 of their first 19 games, the Hawks won seven of their final nine to claim fourth spot.

They are determined not to be play-offs fodder.

"We've still got plenty left in the tank," Coenraad said.

"When the play-offs come around you get a sense of new energy. It's not a grind any more. It's that one game you have to get over.

"We've got plenty of energy and plenty to give, so I'm really looking forward to Friday. All the pressure's on them. They're the ones who are expected to win.

"They're the regular-season champs and are tipped to win the whole thing.

"We're going to give them a red-hot crack on Friday night and try and come away with one."

The Cats beat the Hawks in three of four meetings, including 40-point and 21-point wins in Perth.

Game two shifts to Wollongong on Sunday at 3pm, while a third game, if required, is scheduled for next Tuesday back in Perth.

"We're really looking forward to it," Coenraad said.

"They're minor premiers and championship favourites, you have to go through them at some stage. It's good we take them on early, and hopefully we'll catch them by surprise."

Wollongong lost to the Cats in Sunday's final regular-season game but it meant little to either team.

The Hawks stayed in Perth to prepare.

"Flying over the day before the game takes a bit of a toll, so being here for the week should be an advantage," Coenraad said.

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