ILLAWARRA’S bid to deliver a parting gift to their fans fell flat, with the Hawks hammered 96-81 by New Zealand in their final home game of the season on Saturday.
Days after both sides were knocked out of the finals race, the Breakers led from start to finish and looked anything but a side out of the playoffs picture.
Shawn Long continued to push his MVP claims with a dominant display in the paint, finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five huge blocks.
The Hawks also find no answer for fellow big man Tai Wesley, who finished with 23 points and seven rebounds, with the pair the only to Breakers in double figures.
Brian Conklin led the Hawks with 20 points, while Jordair Jett had 14 points and six rebounds. Tim Coenraad and Todd Blanchfield were the other Hawks in double digits.
It was a disappointing finish on their home floor, though the Hawks will have the chance to deal the same fate to the Breakers faithful in New Zealand on Thursday – their last outing of the season.
Coach Rob Beveridge conceded his side hadn’t yet put the pain of last Thursday’s overtime defeat to Brisbane aside in time for tip-off.
“It was really deflating after the loss in Brisbane,” he said.
“We’d been fighting hard all season and we knew what the the scenario was but the reality that you can’t make the playoffs… it really hit hard.
“With such a tight turnaround I think it was just difficult, particularly mentally, to really get up for tonight.
“It was going to be one of those things, who wants it more, and it just felt New Zealand had a lot more grunt than what we did.
“We tried, it wasn’t like they quit, I thought they really had a crack, I think we were just very deflated going into the game.”
Long asserted his dominance from the outset, opening his account with a three and grabbing five more as the visitors grabbed a 14-9 advantage.
Jackson had four and Blanchfield found his range from deep to keep the margin at five. It went out to seven on triples from Delaney and Moore.
Coenraad fired back with his first from long-range before Wesley grabbed two more buckets and a put-back o-board to take his tally for the term to 10.
Wesley pushed his side’s lead out to 10 with his first points of the second term but a three from Marshall Nelson and fast-break lay-up from Jett quickly pulled it back to five.
Conklin had an and-one play and another six points from the foul line on a 16-4 run that cut things back to one.
Webster had three from the line before Jarrad Weeks dropped a triple at the other end of 11-2 run that saw the visitors re-take a 10-point buffer at halftime.
Long had an and-one and a slam straight out of the break, though Jett also got going, grabbing six of his side’s first seven of the term.
A long bomb from Abercrombie forced Beveridge to call timeout just four minutes into the quarter with the margin at 12.
It had little effect, with Wesley dropping four straight after the resumption and Abercrombie adding two more from the line as the lead ballooned to 18.
Kevin White looked to peg it back with his first three but Patrick Richard fired straight back with a dagger of his own to keep a handy cushion.
Conklin fired up with the last four points of the quarter to bring the margin back to 13 at the final break but they were never back in the hunt.
Blanchfield nailed a long-range three early in the fourth but the hosts quickly put the Breakers in the bonus, with the remainder of the game largely playing out from the stripe.