ILLAWARRA’S injury woes have deepened with star import Kevin Lisch leaving the court and not returning in the Hawks tense 79-74 loss to Cairns on Thursday night.
Lisch contributed seven points before being felled by a hard but legal screen from Taipans big man Alex Loughton early in the third quarter.
The former league MVP limped off the court clutching at his right knee. He returned to the bench in the fourth quarter with his knee in a brace and is now in doubt for the Hawks second road clash with Melbourne on Sunday.
With regular offensive general Rhys Martin already side-lined with a knee injury, the loss of Lisch will be a big headache for coach Rob Beveridge just one match into his tenure in Wollongong.
The composure of Martin and Lisch was sorely missed by the the Hawks down the stretch after the scores were locked at 38-all at halftime and 71-all with just 2.35 on the clock.
Illawarra shot at an impressive 63 per cent from the perimeter with Kirk Penney hitting two of two from three-point range in the fourth quarter to top-score for the Hawks with 12 points.
Called in as a late replacement for Martin, former Kings guard Jarrad Weeks had 12 points in the second half while Tyson Demos also racked up 10 points from the bench, shooting two of four from three-point range.
The Taipans shot just eight of 22 from long-range in response but hit when it mattered in the fourth quarter with Shaun Bruce and Cam Gliddon both nailing clutch threes in the final 90 seconds to put their side clear.
Gliddon led the home-side in scoring with 19 points but it was veteran recruit Mark Worthington who proved the biggest thorn in the Hawks side with 12 points, four assists, seven rebounds and five steals from the bench in his first appearance for his new team.
Stephen Weigh had 15 points while Loughton  and Bruce  also reached double figures.
The Hawks took an early 10-7 lead on the back of a pair of threes from skipper Oscar Forman who found his range early.
The Taipans hit back on the back of five points to Gliddon with Torrey Craig and Bruce and Worthington all contributing four points from the bench in a 9-0 run to finish the first quarter in front 25-16.
Demos made his presence felt from the bench with six quick points and a steal to start the second period
Tim Coenraad and Lisch both netted four unanswered points in a 10-0 run to momentarily take the lead 33-31.
Gliddon’s second three-pointer re-took the lead for his side with both sides trading baskets to keep things locked at 38 apiece at the main break.
Weigh had five of his 15 points in the third quarter while Worthington contributed four while Demos had five for the Hawks to keep the game on a knife-edge at 52-50 heading into the final term.
Penney hit two of two from the perimeter early in the fourth while Tim Coenraad and Cody Ellis both hit from long range to give the Hawks a 69-66 lead with 3.40 remaining on the clock before Gliddon and Bruce closed the show for the Taipans.