When the defending Champions roll into town, you want to make an impression. In 1986 we did just that. After missing the playoffs in the 1985 season, the Illawarra Hawks re-tooled in the off season and brought in some additional firepower.
The defending NBL Champions the Brisbane Bullets were no slouches, with a roster which had the likes of: Leroy Loggins, Cal Bruton, Larry Sengstock, Ronnie Radliff, Danny Morseau, John Dorge and Robert Sibley, the Hawks were in for a battle.
In front of the Snakepit faithful the Hawks were up for the challenge, led by Gordie McLeod, this was the first season he had additional backup in the trio known as “The Killer B’s”. Aussie big man Ray Borner had joined the club during the off season from the Coburg Giants, Jim Bateman came via the Geelong Supercats, and Don Bickett who had joined the club as an import straight out of college.
The Hawks held the lead during the first half, being up by 4 points after the 1st quarter and holding a 14 point lead at halftime. But the Bullets knew how to win, and were not going to leave town without a fight. Clawing back in the 3rd quarter to trail 8 before the Hawks were able to hold them off in the 4th quarter eventually winning 94-90.
Loggins (who went on to win the NBL MVP) was in devastating form scoring 36 points, grabbing 13 boards, and picking up 7 steals. He was ably assisted by Radliff who picked up 16 points.
For the Hawks it was Borner who led the way with 29 points and 18 rebounds (10 of those on the offensive end), while Bateman picked up 19 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. McLeod controlled the floor and added 15 points and 6 assists.
The Killer B’s added explosiveness to a team that missed out on the playoffs the previous year. With Borner and Bateman adding much needed muscle inside, and Bickett adding his athleticism and steady jumpshot, they helped guide the Hawks to the playoffs in 1986, eventually being knocked out in the Semi Finals by the eventual NBL Champion Adelaide 36ers.
In 3 seasons with the club, Bateman played 80 games averaging 19.33 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Leaving at the end of the 1988 season to join the Newcastle Falcons.
Borner also left at the end of the ’88 season to rejoin the North Melbourne Giants. Later having stints at Geelong and Canberra. He did make a cameo appearance back at the Hawks in the 2001 season, appearing in 2 games before retiring. In a total 74 appearances at the Hawks, Borner averaged 17.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
Bickett was called back into the 1988 team to replace Alphonse Hammond early in the season. He also played 4 games in the 1989 season before parting ways with the club. Don averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds in 81 games for the club.
The Killer B’s were definitely crowd favourites, and in their two full seasons together managed to help lead the club to the semi finals both times.