Pope bids farewell

One of the Waratah Australian Basketball League's greats will play his farewell match for Illawarra in this afternoon's showdown with Central Coast at the Snakepit.Forward John Philip will line up for the Seahawks for the last time before heading overseas. The 26-year-old was cut by the Wollongong Hawks in February after five seasons in the NBL. A dual-MVP of the WABL, Philip won back-to-back scoring and rebounding titles in 2004 and '05.Last week, the man nicknamed Pope showed he had lost none of his shooting touch, exploding for 45 points and 11 rebounds in his team's road win over league leaders Bankstown. Illawarra coach Matt Flinn said his side was losing a popular teammate."Pope's a two-time MVP and, in my opinion, the best player that has ever suited up for this team. He'll be missed," Flinn said."The thing about Pope is that he's not only a great competitor, he's also a quality person. There's never any falseness about his character, or the way he goes about his training."What you see is what you get - and what we have got over the past five or six seasons is a champion player at this level."The numbers he got against Bankstown speak for themselves, but where he will mostly be missed is off the floor."These boys are fairly tight with each other, they hang out together and they've got a lot of respect for Pope. That helps with chemistry and his departure will leave a big hole."On the plus side, the Seahawks are almost certain to secure the services of another former Hawk - rugged forward Troy "Truck" Pilon - for the remainder of the season.Pilon was on fire in his team's Illawarra Championship Division win on Wednesday at the Snakepit, hitting 7/8 three-pointers."Having Troy will be a massive coup for us. Hopefully it goes ahead and he's on board with us quickly," Flinn said.The eighth-placed Seahawks (5-4) have won three straight and are eyeing a play-offs spot.Central coast (5-3) are coming off last week's impressive win over North Sydney."They'll be very well coached and have a traditional style of in-your-face defence," Flinn said."They shoot the ball very well and have some players who are experienced and know how to score. We're playing good basketball at the moment, we're getting consistent contributions from a lot of people, and if we provide the effort and execution at both ends they will have to play well to beat us."Tip-off is at 4pm.

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