Wollongong Roller Hawks claim national wheelchair league crown

Too good: The Wollongong Roller Hawks won the National Wheelchair Basketball League grand final on Sunday.

Too good: The Wollongong Roller Hawks won the National Wheelchair Basketball League grand final on Sunday.

For the fourth time in their history – and first time in five years – the Wollongong Roller Hawks are national champions.

Completing a remarkable season and putting to rest the disappointment of recent finals campaigns, the Hawks outgunned Sydney Metro Blues 79-70 in the final.

An 11-0 run in the second quarter set the platform for victory after a tight start to the contest.

The Roller Hawks advanced directly to the final after comprehensively defeating Kilsyth on Friday night 78-54. 

The Cobras then made a quick exit from title contention when they were upstaged by Sydney in the preliminary final, before also losing the third-place play-off.

The game also had a tinge of controversy, with the Metro Blues found to have six players on the court before half-time, as they struggled to contain the Hawks’ onslaught.

A substitution mix up with 3:19 left in the second quarter saw two Sydney players sub in but only one sub out.

No one noticed until after the Roller Hawks ran their play with the Blues’ bench receiving a technical foul for the breach.

But nothing would stop the Hawks from winning the title.

“It feels awesome,” Luke Pople said, who led the team with 25 points. “It’s great to finish off the season the way we wanted to, great result.”

Brett Stibners was named Finals MVP averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds and 6.5 assists across two games.

“It’s amazing mate,” an elated Michael Auprince said. “Not only is it the first championship for Wollongong in several years, but my first ever.”

“I’ve waited for this one since I first entered the league as a 16-year-old.”

Auprince finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and was tasked with stopping the league’s leading scorer, Joe Chambers.

“Chambers is a big body who has amazing touch as soon as he gets a millimetre in the key,” Auprince said.

“He is someone who I watched hours of game footage of when I came to basketball. Playing against the guy who you are trying to play like makes for a tough time.”

The Roller Hawks stretched their lead to 11 in the closing minutes of the first half before a shot under the basket by Clarence McCarthy-Grogan and a three pointer by Chambers cut the lead to six at the main break.

Sydney cut the deficit to four just after half-time, but Nick Taylor instrumental for the Roller Hawks, scoring all 16 of his points by the midway point of the third quarter.

Brett Stibners

Brett Stibners

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