Illawarra continue to run riot over Brisbane

TO THE RACK: Hawks guard Rotnei Clarke drives to the basket in Sunday's win over Brisbane Bullets in Wollongong. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
TO THE RACK: Hawks guard Rotnei Clarke drives to the basket in Sunday's win over Brisbane Bullets in Wollongong. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Introducing the NBL’s newest one-sided rivalry.

For a seventh consecutive match, the Illawarra Hawks consigned the Brisbane Bullets to defeat on New Year’s Eve. 

This time it was a 104-82 drubbing in Wollongong. It’s now been close to a decade since the Hawks lost to Brisbane.

The Bullets were out of the competition from 2008 to 2016 but are still to manage a win since returning. 

Illawarra’s latest win came in dominant fashion and was their third league success in a row.  After leading by just four points at the half, they ran riot in the second stanza to boost their record to 8-9 heading into 2018.

MVP candidate Demitrius Conger was at his brilliant best again while Brisbane guard Travis Trice (32 points) shot lights out on a losing side.

Conger finished with a near triple-double, tallying 24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Star guard Rotnei Clarke had 21 points while Nick Kay (16 points), Tim Coenraad (10 points) and Cody Ellis (nine points) all had outstanding games in another high scoring display.

“I felt that the tempo was definitely us because that’s the way we want to play,” Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said. 

“We want to rack up the points but we have to do a better job defensively.

“We have made a commitment that for us to be successful, we have to play a certain style of game.”

Brisbane were without star Perrin Buford (ankle), forcing his fellow import Trice and veteran forward Daniel Kickert (17 points, eight rebounds) to pick up the load.

But it was Illawarra who shot out of the blocks as Clarke and Kay both found their range to help build an early buffer.

When Coenraad drained a corner three in the final minute it gave them a commanding 32-24 advantage at the first break.

Conger followed a crowd pleasing fast-break dunk with a pretty step-back jumper to get the Hawks going when matters resumed.

Trice, who had 24 points at half time, did his best to keep his side in the hunt. The American had his eye in from range, shooting 5/6 from three point land in the first half.

He drained a further three from the charity stripe with seconds remaining in the half to help peg back the margin to four points when they went to dressing rooms. 

Kickert showed his offensive skill-set with a classy spin move before kissing one of the backboard to keep pressure on the hosts in the third.

A determined and-one play from Kay put the momentum squarely back in the Hawks’ favour and when Ellis made off the glass Illawarra had restored their double digit buffer.

Ellis led the assault at both ends of the floor in the fourth after they led 81-72 at the final change. 

The bench forward pulled off a massive block on Brisbane’s Mitch Young, grabbed three steals while also keeping the scoreboard ticking on offence. His energy proved infectious as Illawarra surged clear for an important win. 

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