It was the emotion-charged victory which could come to define the Illawarra Hawks’ campaign.
Less than 48 hours after being smashed by 32-points in Adelaide, the Hawks put in one of their finest team performances of the season to break Melbourne’s hearts at WIN Entertainment Centre.
The 106-88 triumph on their home floor was both determined and polished.
And it may well provide the springboard for the club’s pursuit of an NBL finals spot in 2017. With competition points at a premium on a unbelievably tight NBL ladder, the importance of the win wasn’t lost on Hawks coach Rob Beveridge.
“This is the desperate part of the season,” he said.
“It is that close that we can’t afford to drop home games.
“It is our goal obviously to try and win as many as we can at home but we just have to continue to get better.
“I think we are really starting to get there. I haven’t been happy with the way that we played at times this season but there have been times that we have shown we are pretty good. [Against Melbourne] we showed that.”
The stunning win over Melbourne completed a dramatic turnaround for the Hawks, who were easily beaten by the ladder-leading 36ers. The 117-85 loss was labelled ‘embarrassing’ and ‘humiliating’ by Beveridge.
However the experienced coach also used the disappointing match as motivation for his players following what he described as an ‘enormous’ week of emotional highs and lows for the club off the court.
“Obviously the game against Adelaide was as bad as any we have ever played as a group but I think that challenged us because we have worked too hard just to let this go,” Beveridge said.
“We spoke to the group and there was no ranting and raving. It was like ‘come on guys’, we are better than this.
“I thought [against United] defensively in particular we were outstanding against one of the most potent teams in the league.”
Star import Rotnei Clarke was outstanding again in the victory with 25 point. Big-men Nick Kay (20 points) and AJ Ogilvy (14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists) also made superb contributions and Tim Coenraad (15 points) was great.