ILLAWARRA landed their first blow on Melbourne United and blew away their first-quarter woes, with an 87-81 win in Wollongong on Thursday.
Coach Rob Beveridge promised changes and he delivered, unveiling a small-ball starting five that got the job done early and took a five-point lead into the first break.
They then led by nine at the half and 13 at the final change before, in role reversal from previous clashes, United mounted a rearguard action to get within three.
There were some nervous moments but the Hawks steadied, largely through a vintage 18-point performance from veteran David Andersen, to seal the win.
Tim Coenraad relished the start in the Hawks small-ball lineup, dropping nine of his four points in the opening quarter and finishing with five boards.
Brian Conklin had 15 points and eight rebounds, while Todd Blanchfield finished with 10 and Cedric Jackson had a crucial seven rebounds with seven points.
In the absence of Chris Goulding, who didn’t make the trip to Wollongong as he nurses a knee injury, Mitch McCarron led the visitors with 18 points. Casper Ware also had 18, with Josh Boone contributing 17 points and eight rebounds.
The Hawks will now turn their attention to hosting Perth in Wollongong on Sunday where they’ll look to take their ledger to 4-4.
Jackson showed no early effects of a niggling groin injury, starting the game and dropping the first points.
DJ Kennedy hit back with a triple and a dunk on a breakdown, but Coenraad really took momentum with four quick points and his first triple to finish with nine points for the term.
AJ Ogilvy also had a rare three on a 14-5 run that saw the Hawks lead 25-20 at the first break. Conklin had the first bucket of the second term but Ware hit back with his first three.
Andersen had a three of his own and Grida pushed the margin out to 10 with his own bomb from deep, forcing Vickerman into timeout.
Ware and Grida again trade threes, the latter re-claiming a 10-point lead. McCarron went three of three from the line in response, while Moller added two from the same spot on a 6-0 run that saw Beveridge call a timeout at 41-37.
It had the desired effect, with the Hawks closing the term on a 10-2 run before Ware had the last say of the half with a buzzer-beating three that closed the gap to nine at halftime.
Ware and Coenraad traded baskets to start the third before Andersen took control with his side’s next seven points including a triple.
It saw the lead swell to 15, the biggest of the game, before four points to McCarron and a three from Barlow cut the margin back.
Jordair Jett sprung to life with seven straight points, with a slam from Ogilvy closing the term at 72-59 in the hosts favour.
United made a hot start to the fourth, with Ware dropping five straight to punctuate a 10-4 run that had Beveridge calling timeout.
It had little effect, with Boone and McCarron adding to a 12-0 run that cut the margin back to three.
Again it was Andersen who steadied for the Hawks with Blanchfield slamming one home and adding two more from the line for a seven-point cushion. Ware and Boone mounted a final charge before Kevin White closed from the foul-line.