THEY’RE two of the NBL’s genuinely elite scorers, but Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge says the Hawks can’t rely on star imports Demitrius Conger and Rotnei Clarke to get them to the playoffs.
Conger has averaged 22 points and six rebounds in his past seven games – including a double-double in Saturday’s win over New Zealand – to force his way into MVP contention.
Clarke is also fourth in the league for scoring at 18 points a game and, while he had only 12 points, he produced seven assists against the Breakers
What was most pleasing for Beveridge however, was the across the board contribution in the 11-point win. Nick Kay starred with 20 points and nine rebounds while Cody Ellis provided 10 points from the bench.
Rhys Martin (9) and Kevin White (8) also made solid contributions while AJ Ogilvy had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks in 15 minutes on the floor.
It’s something that will need to continue if the Hawks want to see post-season action according to Beveridge.
“Right now everyone’s going to go out and target Rotty [Clarke],” Beveridge said.
“We know that and teams are doing a hell of a job. They’re double-teaming, holding, bumping, grinding whatever they have to do to stop him.
“Everyone’s now talking about Meech [Conger] as an MVP [candidate] so people are targetting both those guys.
“For us to be successful, we need everybody to step up. Nick’s got to play his role, Cody, Rhys, Whitey… I thought Whitey was exceptional [on Saturday] with the defensive tone he played at.
“We need everybody in our team to contribute and not just rely on our imports or the supposed stars in the team.”
The Hawks turned a two-point three-quarter-time buffer into a double-digit win against the Breakers just a week after surrendering an 18-point lead to go down by two to Melbourne.
Beveridge panned that performance as soft in the aftermath, but was full of praise for his side’s response against New Zealand.
“The week wasn’t about going back like a kicked puppy dog feeling sorry for ourselves,” Beveridge said.
“Unfortunately, people will remember [last week’s] meltdown or whatever you want to call it in that fourth quarter but we are playing very good basketball at the moment.
“We know we can beat any team on any given day and that’s the attitude we’re going with.”
The win brought the Hawks within three wins of the third-placed Breakers, who they’ll face another three times.
They’re four wins off of fourth-placed Adelaide who they also face three times, the first game coming on the road on Friday. With two games in hand on the 36ers, unseating either side is now well within the Hawks reach.
“We know it’s going to be tough,” Beveridge said.
“We’ve got New Zealand [another] three times, we’ve got Adelaide three times so it’s going to be very, very difficult but at least we know our destiny is in our hands.
“We know every game is difficult but, because we know they’re both teams ahead of us, they’re must-win situations for us.
“We’ll just focus on us and continuing to get better. We’ve got to play with that urgency and desperation with that belief that we can make the playoffs.”