Tyson Demos played his first game in almost 18 months, as the Hawks’ Championship Men couldn’t match defending champions Bankstown down the stretch in a hard-fought 84-74 loss at the Snakepit on Saturday night.
Demos was returning from a serious knee injury and scored five points off the bench. But the NBL utility didn’t play in the fourth quarter after having his shoulder crunched in an off-the-ball screen in the third term.
‘’I’m fine. It’s nothing serious, just a cork,’’ Demos said.
‘’It’s good to be back. Being out so long I’m not going to rush things. I’m playing all season and want to help develop the young players and be there for them.’’
The Hawks led 44-41 at halftime and 59-57 at the last change but couldn’t match the more experienced Bruins in the final term.
Ex NBL star Steve Markovic showed his poise and had seven of his 21 pts in the fourth, while Svetomir Gavrilovic poured in a game-high 28.
Keelan Ward (18) led the way for the Hawks, with Sean Mullan (16 pts) strong in all four terms. Scott Hunter and Bailey O’Brien worked hard throughout. It was Illawarra’s second loss to start the season but their work ethic was excellent and the Bruins (2-2) – even without their Sydney Kings NBL star and League MVP from last season Jason Cadee – remain one of the benchmark sides.
‘’Bankstown are still a very strong. Even without Cadee they’ve got veteran and loads of experience. They are ABA-hardened and will be tough for anyone,’’ said Hawks coach Darren O’Brien before the match.
Illawarra trailed 25-19 at quarter-time but a bench-led 9-0 run earned them 30-28 lead before Ward made a three on the halftime buzzer to give the home side a 44-41 advantage.
The lead changed five times in the third quarter and the Hawks led by a basket at three quarter-time. But with Markovic steering the Bruins backcourt, the champions lifted in the final term, winning it 27-15.
In the other Waratah League games at the Snakepit on Saturday, the Hawks Youth League Div 1 Women beat Bankstown 74-40.
All 10 Hawks scored with Paige Phillips (16 points) top-scorer.
The Hawks’ Div 1 Men lost 99-79 to Shoalhaven with Ben Smylie (17 pts) the Hawks top-scorer and Tigers’ Thomas Ozolins (22) the game-high scorer.
The rebuilding Hawks Championship Women were beaten 83-52 by the Bruins.
The Hawks’ Championship Men are away to Newcastle next Sunday and are next at home v Maitland on April 8.