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Hawks fall to United in Playoff decider

14 Mar
2 mins read
The Hawks fell just short of the Championship series, going down 100-94 to Melbourne United.

NBL title-favourites Melbourne United have held off a spirited Illawarra Hawks challenge to book their place in the Championship Series for the first time in three years.

Melbourne never trailed in their 100-94 win at John Cain Arena on Wednesday night but were pushed all the way before Shea Ili made decisive plays to settle a gripping contest.

Ili finished with a personal season high 22 points to help United close out the best-of-three Playoffs series after a split pair of overtime thrillers in the opening two games.

Sam Froling (23 points) and Justin Robinson (19 points, seven assists) did their best to lift the Hawks to another playoff win but there was no repeat of the late game-two heroics for the visitors.

The result put an end to Illawarra's rags-to-riches run, as last year's wooden spooners fell one game short of the season decider.

Melbourne were in control from the start but were never able to completely shake the plucky Hawks in a decider that seemed destined to go down to the wire.

Dellavedova gave Melbourne early energy with a tough offensive rebound, basket and extra point after a foul from Will Hickey as United's 15-6 start and huge presence on the glass forced Illawarra into a time-out inside three minutes.

The most fight the Hawks showed in the opening exchanges came via Froling's big hit on Dellavedova and a heavy foul by Wani Swaka Lo Buluk on Goulding.

A trio of Robinson triples breathed life into the contest and restricted United's quarter-time lead to 30-22.

Froling and Gary Clark helped Robinson get the Hawks back within three points late in the second quarter but Melbourne's stranglehold on the contest meant the half-time buffer should have been greater than 54-47.

Travers exploded with seven points in a 9-0 run to start the third quarter that put Melbourne's lead back out to 16 points.

Gary Clark rolled his right ankle and spent time off the court but returned and scored a late triple between Ili's big plays to keep the Hawks' flame flickering until the end.

The Hawks finish the NBL24 season with one of the great redemption stories in recent league history and are excited about what the NBL25 season will bring for the Foundation club.

HUNGRY JACKS NBL PLAYOFFS GAME 3

MELBOURNE UNITED 100 (Ili 22, Travers 15, Clark 14, Goulding 14)

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 94 (Froling 23, Robinson 19, Clark 14, Lee 12)

BOX SCORE

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