ILLAWARRA made the long-haul flight from Auckland to Perth without Kirk Penney on Monday as the Kiwi sharp-shooter battles a hamstring injury picked up in the Hawks double-overtime win over the Breakers on Sunday.
Penney has made light work of torturing his former club so far this season and had 14 points at halftime in Sunday’s clash at Vector Arena.
It was an ominous sign for the Breakers but the Hawks were left to close the show without their most lethal three-point shooter when he limped from the court clutching at his hamstring early in the fourth quarter.
Penney pulled up sore on Monday morning and flew solo back to Sydney to be treated by club medical staff in Wollongong.
He’ll be monitored ahead of a possible late dash west on Wednesday in time for Thursday’s clash with the Wildcats at Perth Arena.
The loss of their leading scorer would be a massive blow for the Hawks as they look to avoid a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Wildcats but, with the play-offs just around the corner, coach Rob Beveridge said he won’t be risking his 35-year-old superstar if he’s less than fully fit.
‘‘He’s woken up pretty sore with his hammy, ’’ Beveridge said.
‘‘We’ve made the decision that, rather than flying him all the way to Perth, we’ll send him back to Wollongong where we have our own medical staff and have them check him out.
‘‘Rather than sit him on a plane for eight-plus hours and have it flare up where we can’t do anything about it we’d rather have him in our home environment.
‘‘If they make the decision over the next couple of days that he’s good to go then we’ll fly him over Wednesday we’ll play Thursday then he’s back home again.
‘‘Right now I’d never put anyone in any jeopardy.
‘‘We’ve got a lot ahead of us and we’re not going to risk playing Kirk Penney against Perth just because we want to beat them.’’
With Penney sidelined at crunch time in Sunday’s clash fans were left to marvel at the effort of star guard Kevin Lisch who became the first Hawks player to notch 40 points in a game since CJ Bruton in 1999.
He had 19 of those points in the double-overtime period in a display that showed why Beveridge labelled him ‘‘one of the best closers of all time,” earlier this season
‘‘He’s such a special player,’’ Beveridge said.
‘‘He could go down as one of the great imports to play in this league.
‘‘He can just do everything, he can score, he can defend, he can pass.
“Whatever you need him to do he does.
‘‘With Kirk going down in the second half he just stepped up and said ‘okay, I’ll carry the team’.
‘‘It’s just the mentality he has, he’s uncompromising and he’s a winner.
‘‘He’s one of the nicest guys on earth but he’s one of the hardest-nosed players I’ve ever coached.
‘‘He doesn’t whinge he doesn’t complain he just gets in there and does it.’’