Hawks have more to give

BASKETBALL

They have been playing sudden-death games for almost two months but the Wollongong Hawks aren't a spent force yet.

Written off as a top-four contender in January, the Hawks won seven of their last nine games to finish alone in fourth spot and secure their third finals berth in five years.

That set up a David v Goliath semi-final with championship favourites Perth, which tips off with Friday night's opening game in a best-of-three series.

While the Hawks already defied the odds to get this far, they insist they aren't just in the play-offs to make up the numbers.

"We're definitely pleased, but we're not satisfied," rugged forward Dave Gruber said.

"We're extremely excited about the opportunity. Only four teams make the play-offs and there's four teams that are wishing they were in our shoes right now.

"It's nice to have the opportunity to come over here [to Perth] and show people what we can do, because we think we have a pretty strong team. We like what we've done and we like where we're at."

Wollongong clinched the final play-off spot with last Friday's home win over arch rivals Sydney.

Of their four clashes with the Wildcats in the regular season, the Hawks won once by five in overtime and lost the other three by an average of 24.7 points.

"We're taking the approach that it's a new season. We start fresh with a clean slate," Gruber said.

"Perth has been the benchmark the last few years, always in the finals, so you always expect to come to Perth at some point if you want to win a championship.

"We had a lot of goals in the regular season and fortunately we accomplished enough of those to get to the post-season.

"The good thing is that we're in Perth for a few days and we can settle in as a group and band together. We've got a great group of guys who get along really well off the floor and that'll help with our preparation towards the finals," Gruber said.

Every team wants to peak at the right end of the season and Wollongong are playing with a lot of belief and confidence.

"The best thing is that you're still playing games that matter at this time of year," centre Larry Davidson said.

"It's tough when you know your season ends when the draw ends, so to have that opportunity to still be in the mix and be playing for something makes it that much more special.

"Now that the games are so valuable, there's definitely a different feeling to the start of the season when you don't really know what to expect from the team. Now we kind of know what to expect and how we want to play, and everyone understands what's on the line. There's definitely excitement and anticipation."

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