Curse continues as Illawarra crumble in Perth

THE Illawarra Hawks title challenge came to a shuddering halt as their Perth curse continued in a crushing 89-74 defeat to the Wildcats in game three on Friday night.

Despite the return of NBL MVP Kevin Lisch from ankle injury, the Hawks were no match for a hungry Wildcats outfit at Perth Arena.

They were out-hustled and out-muscled in what was a disappointing end to a remarkable turnaround season for the club.

It sent them packing for the 2015-16 campaign, twelve months after they finished last in the NBL.

Perth's victory sets up a home grand final series against the New Zealand Breakers and was their 24th straight against Illawarra in the West Australian capital.

Matt Knight was dominant scoring 15 points and nine rebounds while Jesse Wagstaff (17 points), Jermaine Beal (17 points) and Casey Prather (15 points) all played big parts in the win.

Illawarra got 18 points from Kirk Penney, but struggled to find any sort of rhythm on a night to forget.

They shot just 20-52 attempts (38%) and gave up 23 turnovers.

It allowed Perth to take control from the get-go.

Prather got busy early, scoring the hosts first seven points but the Hawks stayed in touch through a series of threes from Cody Ellis, Penney and Lisch.

When Penney hit a mid-range jumper over Damian Martin, scores were level at 18-all.

Perth took a slender 20-18 lead into the first change and began to build their advantage to start the second.

A Jesse Wagstaff three ensured momentum was firmly in their hands and when Jermaine Beal connected on a driving lay-up the lead was 11 points.

It was an advantage they maintained for most of the second quarter as the Hawks struggled handling the basketball.

Getty Images.

Getty Images.

Perth's suffocating defence forced them into a massive 11 first half turnovers.

Despite their lack of care for the ball, they only trailed the hosts 49-42 at the half.

That lead quickly grew in a typically one-sided third quarter.

As has been common for the Hawks during their barren run in Perth, they failed to muster after the break.

They were held scoreless for the first four minutes of the period.

Their frustration boiled over when Ogilvy got into fiery confrontation with Prather which saw both players given technical fouls.

The scoreboard finally got ticking after a strong move to the basket from Rhys Martin, but they had a double-digit margin to run down.

Their season was hanging by a thread when Shawn Redhage hit from long range for the hosts to extend the margin to 20 points.

A late rally, led by Martin, had them 70-56 down at the final change but that was as close as they'd come.

Perth showed their typical playoff polish in the final term to make sure there was no fairytale comeback.

A show-stopping Prather dunk over Ogilvy summed up the Hawks' night.

It was party time from then on as the Wildcats set up another grand final meeting with New Zealand.

Martin and Lisch both added 11 points for the Hawks.


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