Hawks coach Rob Beveridge admits Illawarra were their own worst enemy in a failed last ditch finals push Brisbane this week, but he remains adamant his squad won’t quit in their final two games of the season.
Illawarra’s hopes of making the post-season went up in flames in a heartbreaking 98-87 overtime loss to the Brisbane Bullets on Thursday night.
Despite leading down the stretch and having three chances to ice the game in normal time, the Hawks were gunned down by the hosts in the added period.
Import guard Jordair Jett missed a pair of crucial free throws with 30 seconds remaining before Todd Blanchfield spurned his effort from inside the key in the final seconds.
The Hawks retained possession after Blanchfield’s miss, but an errant inbounds pass from AJ Ogilvy denied them any chance of taking another shot.
Brisbane then dominated overtime to keep their own playoff dream alive while crushing Illawarra’s chances.
"Obviously it is disappointing to lose in overtime but we had our opportunities to win the game," Beveridge said.
"One of the lessons we always taught to the young kids is that free throws win games. We were up and we missed a couple of free throws, we turned the ball over, we missed three foot shots and lay ups.
"Right now it is not a blame game towards anybody because I thought the effort and the fight was fantastic, but from a learning perspective, it will be reinforced that this why we have to be better from the free throw line. This is why we have to box out."
While the late misses proved costly, Beveridge pinpointed another area of the game which he felt had truly cost the Hawks.
"We lost the game because of rebounding," Beveridge said.
"It was 18-2 on second chance points. That just doesn't get it done. We always look at the one percenters and all of those little things.
"When we do all that we are a very good team. But we shot ourselves in the foot tonight. We gave up way too many offensive rebounds at crucial times."
Illawarra (12-14) would now need to win both of their remaining games against New Zealand Breakers by enormous margins and for both Adelaide 36ers (14-12) and Brisbane (13-13) to lose their matches.
Beveridge admitted the Hawks’ chances of making the finals were ‘done’, but said he was proud of the way his troops had competed in the second half of the season.
"We just didn't get our stuff together in the first half of the season but the back half has been fantastic," he said.
"We have beaten every single team in the league and we were fighting for a playoff spot on [Thursday] night. And that was a hell of a game.
"I am super proud of the guys. Obviously there is a lot of disappointment because we lost and the reality is we are out. We have to close out the last two games. We can't quit. We won't quit."
Illawarra host New Zealand on Saturday night at WIN Entertainment Centre.