ILLAWARRA will head to Sydney on Sunday still hunting their first win of the season after a second-half capitulation saw them slump to a 74-64 loss to the Wildcats at Perth Arena.
The Hawks led by six at the main break after a outstanding first half but managed just 21 points in a meek second-half surrender that has them staring down the barrel of an 0-3 start to the season when they face the Kings.
The Hawks did the seemingly impossible in keeping their grand final tormentor Bryce Cotton scoreless in the first half and to just three points for the evening, but it wasn’t enough to halt a Cats onslaught in the second stanza.
The hosts started the third quarter with a 9-0 run – with the Hawks producing just seven points for the term – and scored 14 unanswered points to start the fourth en route to the 10-point win.
Cotton wasn’t the only star kept quiet, with Hawks star big-man AJ Ogilvy finding himself in foul trouble that kept him to just two points and a single rebound for the evening.
Perth’s big men’s flourished as he sat, with Angus Brandt finishing with 17 points and five boards while Jean-Pierre Tokoto had 14 points, Lucas Walker added 10 and Dexter Kernich-Drew had 11 in a 10-minute cameo.
Demitrius Conger led the visitors with 16 points and five rebounds while Rotnei Clarke also had 16 and Tim Coenraad contributed 11. It will see two desperate sides take to Qudos Bank Arena with Kings also at 0-2 after going down by two the Breakers in the earlier match.
The hosts shot out of the blocks with Brandt and Walker picking four points each on an 8-0 to give the Cats a 10-2 lead. Jean-Pierre Tokoto also chimed in with five with Mitch Norton keeping the Hawks in touch from the line.
The injection of Clarke turned the quarter on it’s head, with his nine points helping the visitors reclaiming the lead 21-19 at the first break.
Coenraad kicked off the second term with a two triples while Delvon Johnson had four points, including an alley-oop slam on a dish from Clarke.
Conger also chimed in with four and a three-point play to finish the term with 10 as the lead swelled to eight, though AJ Ogilvy was forced to sit with is third foul.
In his absence, the Hawks had no answer for Brandt inside with his seven points to finish the term keeping the Cats in touch as they trailed by six at the main break.
Cotton finally broke his duck with a triple to start the third term, sparking a 9-0 run for the Cats to quickly overturn the deficit. Conger stopped the rot with a neat finish at the basket and a huge rejection of Cotton at the other end.
Kernich Drew and Coenraad traded threes to close the term but it was all Perth in the fourth with Kernich Drew adding nine points to go with Brandt’s five to close the show for the hosts.