THE clock may well have run down on Illawarra’s finals chances – literally – after the Hawks went down 102-96 to Adelaide in Wollongong on Saturday night.
It was bizarre night that saw more than eight minutes of the second quarter play out without a shot clock in operation after it froze with the Hawks leading 34-25.
With staff unable to get it working again after a near 10 minute delay, the decision was made to proceed without the 24-second limit on offensive possessions.
It left coach Rob Beveridge fuming as it sparked a 26-18 run from the visitors who closed the gap to two by halftime.
“It’s pretty unprofessional,” Beveridge said.
“At the end of the day you have the expectation that, we work our arses off, you turn up and you want everything to be like clockwork, no pun intended.
“It changed how we were doing things. Down the stretch [of the quarter] they ran a 40-second offense. Joey [Wright] did nothing wrong, he was just playing by the rules because there was no damn shot clock.
“It totally changed the whole dynamic of the game. We had a good game plan, I liked what we were doing, Conk was outstanding, we were getting the ball and dominating.
“It did throw us, it changed the game plan, it changed the flow, you’re sitting around for a long period of time for a technical issue which is pretty frustrating.”
The Hawks steadied to lead by six at three-quarter-time before a nine-point fourth-quarter from Nathan Sobey snatched an important win for the 36ers.
Sobey finished with 23 points and six assists in a stand-out display, while former Hawk Demitrius Conger continued a love affair with the WEC, grabbing 19 points and six assists.
Ramone Moore was key with 22 points while Daniel Johnson finished with 15 points. Brian Conklin led the Hawks with 22 points, while Todd Blanchfield had 19 points and five assists.
Tim Coenraad (12) and AJ Ogilvy were the other Hawks in double figures but it wasn’t enough to avoid a slide to 8-11, making the playoffs mountain incredibly steep.
Blanchfield shot out of the blocks with eight quick points, including a three-point play, while Conklin also had nine for the quarter with and and-one of his own as the hosts snuck out to a 15-9 lead.
Conger had four in response, as did Johnson to keep the visitors in touch, with Wright getting a response from his bench, with Jacob Wiley and Moore chiming in with four each.
It did little to stall the Hawks momentum with Coenraad again proving a bench spark plug with seven points from the bench, including a long bomb.
It was part of an 11-2 run that saw the hosts take a 33-22 lead to the first break. Johnson opened the second term with a triple and Emmett Naar responded before the clock froze.
It seemed to give the 36ers a lift, with Conger finishing from the line and adding seven more before the quarter was out, including a three-point play.
Conklin was re-injected an took back the initiative for his side, adding four points from the paint to keep a seven-point cushion. Johnson got going with nine for the quarter to leave the score 53-51 at the main break.
Sobey had three straight to take Adelaide’s first lead of the match to start the third, though Ogilvy hit straight back with a slam sparking an 8-2 run that forced Joey Wright into a timeout.
Sobey and Blanchfield traded threes, and Moore and Coenraad did the same as the quarter developed into a shootout.
An Andersen tip-in on the buzzer gave the Hawks a six-point buffer at the final break. Naar and Sobey traded threes to start the final period but seven unanswered points forced Beveridge to halt proceedings at 81-79.
Harry Froling closed the gap with a three before Deng took the lead from the line. Sobey took a three-point lead with back to back buckets before consecutive threes from Jett and Blanchfield gave the Hawks another buffer.
Another three from Froling and put-back from Conger again gave the 36ers the lead before Moore closed the show from the line.