KING HIT: Clarke, Hawks clobber Sydney

All those doubters who wrote off the Wollongong Hawks as playoff contenders might want to reconsider.

Twenty-four hours after thrashing Townsville at home, the Hawks won their third straight game by clobbering the Sydney Kings 102-84 on Saturday night at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

The win was Wollongong's ninth for the season and kept them in striking distance of a top four finish with six games remaining.

They also improved their head to head record against their arch rivals to a perfect 3-0 for the season.

American guard Rotnei Clarke spearheaded Wollongong's blitz with a season-high 39 points. Clarke also dished out six assists and had zero turnovers in a sublime performance.

Kevin Tiggs was also sensational with 22 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Hawks out-rebounded their opponents for the third straight game, a stunning turnaround for a team which had been on the wrong side of the rebound count in 16 of their first 20 games.

Both teams battled for supremacy, but the Hawks seemed to sense they had taken Sydney's best punch early in the third quarter, turning a tight contest into an unlikely blowout.

Wollongong had key contributions all over the court from every player.

Sydney scored the game's first two baskets before Clarke hit his first shot.

Wollongong built a 9-6 lead, all of which were scored by Clarke.

Dave Gruber became the Hawks' second man on the scoresheet before Clarke knocked down another three to keep the visitors ahead.

When Tiggs nailed two free throws, the margin was up to six.

James Harvey made a couple of timely three-pointers for the Kings and rookie Cody Ellis followed with a three of his own to give the home team a 27-26 lead at quarter-time.

Both teams made more than 50 per cent of their shots, while the Hawks held a slight edge in the rebound count.

The mercurial Clarke was already up to 14 points and Ben Madgen had eight for the Kings.

Clarke upped his total to 20 in the blink of an eye in the second period, helping the Hawks to a 35-30 lead.

Tim Coenraad and Tyson Demos each 'airballed' a three-point attempt, yet Wollongong still managed to stretch the lead to 38-32.

The pair made amends before the first half ended, with Demos calmly drawing the defence and finding an unmarked Coenraad for a three-pointer.

Madgen scored on a lay-up and free throw to bring his side within a point, but Wollongong punched back to make it a six-point game again.

The Hawks missed a golden opportunity to grab their biggest lead when they turrned over possession, an error which was compounded when they allowed Shaun Gleeson to squeeze off a three on the half-time buzzer.

Still, Wollongong were well placed with a 48-45 lead.

Clarke was the standout with 20 points and four assists, Tiggs had eight points and Coenraad added six.

Madgen led Sydney with 11, while Young was kept relatively quiet with five points and four of his team's six turnovers

The Hawks worked hard under the boards, grabbing 17 rebounds to Sydney's 16.

Clarke picked up where he left off, quickly adding nine points to his tally, as Wollongong's lead swelled to seven.

Dave Gruber scored back to back baskets and Larry Davidson followed with a circus shot after another strong defensive stand.

When Demos splashed a three late in the period, the lead had ballooned to 16.

Demos then hit one of two foul shots before Tiggs did likewise to put the Hawks up by 18.

Madgen knocked down a jump-shot as time expired to make it 75-59 after three periods.

The Hawks defiantly went on with the job in the fourth quarter to chalk up an impressive victory.

Air time: Oscar Forman and the Hawks thumped the Kings on Saturday night. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Air time: Oscar Forman and the Hawks thumped the Kings on Saturday night. Picture: GETTY IMAGES


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