RECORDS tumbled for Illawarra in their season-opener but the Hawks flying start to the season came to a shuddering halt on Thursday night, going 88-84 to arch-rivals Sydney in a bruising encounter at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
Kevin Lisch made his return to the Sandpit for the first time in rival colours and the Hawks faithful were not in a conciliatory mood, booing him on every touch, but the two-time MVP had the last laugh, dropping seven points in the final quarter to seal the gritty twin.
He finished with 20 points and four assists while his back-court partner Jason Cadee proved the destroyer in the first half dropping 17 of his 20 points by halftime including four of five from long-range.
Two-time NBA championship winner Josh Powell made his first appearance for the Kings in what were familiar purple and gold colours and produced several touches of class including a pivotal 10-point third quarter that swung momentum the visitors way.
He finished with 14 points and six rebounds bringing much-needed inside presence as the Kings beat the Hawks 44-39 on the boards. Brad Newley (16) and Greg Whittington (10) were also in the double digits for the visitors.
After signalling his arrival at NBL level with a best-on-court effort in the season opener, Marvelle Harris was again the Hawks best, sinking seven points from the line in the final term as the Hawks sought to snatch a late win. He finished with 23 points and four assists.
AJ Ogilvy had 10 points in the first half but found himself in foul trouble early in the third to finish with 13 points while Rotnei Clarke (17) was the only other Hawk in double figures. The Hawks were also left sweating on the fitness of guard Mitch Norton who left the court in the first quarter with a hamstring complaint.
The Hawks big guns got the ball rolling with Clarke producing eight points in the opening quarter while Ogilvy added four as the home side built an eight-point buffer at 16-8. It was Cadee who responded to finish the first term with 10 while Newley added six as the visitors took the lead 22-20 before a deep two from Oscar Forman gave the Hawks a one-point advantage at the first break.
Ogilvy had four to start the second quarter before another two triples to Cadee saw the Kings re-take the lead midway through the term. Harris sprung to life to finish with 10 points for the quarter while Lisch made a belated response to the jeers with eight points, including two threes, to give the Kings a slender one-point lead. It appeared certain to last to the break only for a Cody Ellis three to beat the buzzer and give Illawarra a 50-48 lead at the main interval.
10 points to Powell and a three to Lisch saw the Kings go out to the biggest lead of the match at 69-60 a buffer they maintained to the final change. Powell dropped another bucket to start the final term before Harris took the game by the throat with seven points from the stripe.
With the game in the balance, it was Lisch who showed the most composure with seven points to maintain the advantage before both Whittington and Newley missed gimme lay-ups to give the Hawks a sniff down the stretch.
Rhys Martin drained a clutch three to tie the scores at 83 apiece with less than 30 seconds to play before Aleks Maric and Newley iced the game from the line.