Hawk Tim Coenraad looks to pass the ball during his team's 82-79 win over the Adelaide 36ers, which saw the Hawks climb to second on the ladder. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER
You can stroll contentedly into the finals or soar in like a hungry predator.The Wollongong Hawks chose the second option after wrapping up the 28-game regular season with Saturday night's 82-79 overtime win over the 36ers in Adelaide.Backing up from the previous night's 12-point home victory over Melbourne, the Hawks ensured they headed into the play-offs on a high note, notching their 16th win of the season and ultimately clinching second spot on the ladder behind minor premiers Perth. Full coverage of the Wollongong Hawks "The great thing about this time of year is that we're playing next week, and that's something everyone associated with the club should be proud of, from the front office to the fans and sponsors, and to the players and coaching staff," Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod said."It's probably even a little more special when you think about how it's been the closest and hardest-fought NBL season ever, and you look at the teams that missed out like Melbourne and New Zealand."The guys have worked hard to get where we are and should feel good about it and enjoy it, but it all starts again now and we have to keep working hard and get ready for a new challenge next week."After cementing a top-four spot with Friday night's defeat of the Tigers, the Hawks played like a team without pressure against the 36ers.Forward Cam Tragardh was hitting shots all over the place, helping the visitors to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter.Adelaide responded, but Wollongong went to the half-time break with a 40-36 lead.With Tragardh, Larry Davidson and back-up playmaker Luke Martin on top of their games, the Hawks kept the Sixers at arm's length throughout the third period and were up by eight heading into the final quarter.Adelaide launched another assault, taking a five-point lead with under three minutes to play after Wollongong's shooting suddenly turned cold.The Hawks regained their composure, hitting key baskets down the stretch to knot the score at 68-all and send the game into overtime.Sensing they had caught a break after almost blowing it in regulation, Wollongong played with more poise and purpose in the extra period to chalk up just their third win in 14 road games.Tragardh scored six points in overtime to register a team-high 24 on 12/16 field goals, Martin (14), Glen Saville (12 points, nine rebounds, three assists) and Mat Campbell (10 points, six rebounds, three assists) were superb, while the underrated Davidson (seven points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, one steal) was inspirational at both ends of the floor."The way we played against Adelaide is probably a reflection of the team and our season," McLeod said."We fought hard and played good team basketball, and to fall behind and come back shows a lot of character. "It was a pretty good effort to back up from Friday night. "The guys kept fighting and that's been an attribute of this team all year."