The Illawarra Hawks chalked up three successive victories for the first time this season and kept themselves in touching distance of top spot with an impressive 95-91 road victory over New Zealand Breakers on Friday night.
Despite prevailing by just four points at North Shore Events Centre, the Hawks were always in control to boost their record to 7-6 on the campaign and solidfy their place in third on the ladder.
Former NBL MVP Rotnei Clarke continued his hot streak with 22 points, including five threes, while gun import Marvelle Harris returned to chip in 17 points.
Tim Coenraad (11 points) and Mitch Norton (10 points) also breached double digits in another stellar team display. In the absence of suspended star Corey Webster, Breakers guard David Stockton stood up.
The American import had 24 points and 10 assists. Back-up centre Rob Loe had 21 points off the bench on a difficult night for the hosts.
Illawarra asserted their dominance early on and had a double digit buffer midway through the opening period on the back of a 12-0 run. Clarke was the chief destroyer in the early onslaught with eight points before the Breakers fought back to trail 29-24 at the first break.
Playing with confidence, the Hawks found a variety of avenues to score to maintain their advantage in the second as AJ Ogilvy, Cody Ellis and Coenraad all chipped in to have them 55-40 up at the main change. The third quarter brought more of the same before the Breakers showed signs of life through Stockton.
He made three successive trebles and had 13 points for the quarter, only to have his efforts matched by Clarke, who had 11 in the term.
Illawarra led 78-63 at three quarter time and looked to be heading towards a comfortable win when they got the wobbles. A 10-1 Breakers run early in the fourth gave them a sniff and despite some resistance from Harris midway through the quarter, they refused to give in.
A Loe treble with 40 seconds remaining had them within seven points and when the Breakers back-up big man hit a lay-up shortly after the margin was five. Unfortunately for the hosts, their fightback would run out of time.