Your Illawarra Hawks are 1-1 after a hard-fought 88-84 loss to the Sydney Kings on home turf. ‘Return of the imports’ was the theme running into the round 2 fixture, with 2015/16 NBL MVP Kevin Lisch stealing the points from 2013/14 NBL MVP Rotnei Clarke.
Unfortunately for the 3000 fans in attendance, the Hawks couldn’t replicate their scoring effort against Adelaide last week, shooting 39% from the field on the night.
The first quarter was a tight affair, with both star point guards attempting to get off to quick starts. As customary, each time Kevin Lisch touched the ball he was booed by the passionate home fans, and it seemed to work, with Lisch failing to score in the opening quarter.
The score sat at 23-22 at the 10-minute mark, with the Hawks up-tempo play evenly matched by the bigger bodies and slower offense of the Kings. Rotnei Clarke had 8 points in the first, with the ball being distributed evenly amongst each Hawk on the floor.
Mitch Norton left the game early with a hamstring injury that resulted from a hard drive to the basket. His departure left coach Beveridge without his starting point guard for 35 minutes of the match forcing the rotation of Clarke, White and Martin into further minutes.
The second quarter was as tight as the first, with the Hawks continuing to push the pace, to have Sydney reverse the trend to suit their bigger bodies. The score chopped and changed on numerous occasions but remained tight, with Cody Ellis hitting a buzzer-beating three to send the Hawks into the long break up 50-48.
For the Kings, their slower game pace allowed their talls to dominate in the paint, with Illawarra struggling to produce offensively. Most of the offensive production came from young gun Jason Cadee, the shooter adding 17 points on 4/5 3-pointers in the first half.
With both former MVP’s relatively quiet in the first half, it was AJ Ogilvy stepping up for the Hawks, finishing the half with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Marvelle Harris, loving the big stage, had 13 in the half.
The third quarter was where the damage occurred. The Hawks only managed 12 points and lacked the defensive pressure that saw them dominate in their season opener. Shots rimmed in and out, with the Hawks shooting 2/16 from three after 30 minutes of play. It ended up costing them in the end.
The fourth was a tense 10 minutes, as the Kings stalled to close out the game. The Hawks continued to fight hard, with star guard Rotnei Clarke finding it hard to get open in the closing minutes. Kevin Lisch did the damage at either end, finishing the game with 20 points and 7 defensive rebounds.
The game ultimately came down to one final offensive play, with Marvelle Harris getting a no call on a drive to the rim, with the Kings taking the chocolates in their first 2016/17 meeting.
Coach Beveridge spoke to media after the game and spoke of the areas that need addressing ahead of Sunday’s game in Melbourne, before admitting his side showed a lot of character during the tough loss.
“We did fight, there’s no question we didn’t fight, we just didn’t fight hard enough,” Beveridge continued.
“We let ourselves down from the free throw line. It’s real simple, you make the foul shots and we’re actually in the game.
“They out rebounded us; we’re big and we got out rebounded. That’s good that we can reinforce to our players, we got beat on the boards and missed free throws.”
Illawarra play again in three days time in Melbourne, with the game scheduled this Sunday at 3pm. The Hawks next home fixture is a tantalising double-header weekend beginning with a showdown against Perth on October 28 at 7:30pm and culminating with a 7pm Sunday night game against Cairns on the 30th.
Story by Jarrod McGrouther