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Hawks level series in home thriller

11 Mar
2 mins read
Illawarra's championship tilt remains alive after levelling the Playoff series 1-1 on Sunday afternoon.

The rags-to-riches fairytale remains alive for the Illawarra Hawks after they conjured a thrilling 113-108 overtime win over Melbourne United in Game 2 to level their NBL Playoff series 1-1.

Gary Clark (31 points, 16 rebounds), Tyler Harvey (23 points), Sam Froling (19 points, 13 boards) and Davo Hickey (career-high 18 points) played starring roles to drag the Hawks to within one victory of a Championship Series berth.

Before a sell-out WIN Entertainment Centre crowd, the unsung Hickey's huge offensive rebound and putback on the full-time buzzer, after Clark's tough left-handed miss, levelled the scores at 97-all and forced the extension.

Illawarra then ran away with the match, outshining Melbourne 16-11 in overtime.

"We wouldn't be sitting here with a smile on our face if it wasn't for this young man (Hickey)," beamed Hawks coach Justin Tatum, celebrating his 45th birthday in style.

"Our composure towards the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime was exceptional."

Game 1 hero Matthew Dellavedova (20 points, eight assists) was again superb for United, aided by centre Jo Lual-Acuil (18 points) and sixth man Ian Clark (17).

But the visitors, who dominated overtime in their series-opening home win on Friday, didn't have the answers this time.

Melbourne controlled proceedings initially, jumping ahead 6-0 then 15-6, with Lual-Acuil aggressive in the paint, as United out-rebounded Illawarra 15-5 en route to a 25-19 quarter-time break.

Gary Clark, the only Hawk to fire early in that opening term, had some help in the second quarter from fellow import Harvey and playoff surprise packet Hickey as the home side hit back to edge ahead 50-49 at half-time.

The lead changed hands 14 times in a frenetic, end-to-end third period, at the end of which Melbourne led 75-73 on Shea Ili's late triple.

Dellavedova's tough drive inside the last 30 seconds of regulation gave United a three-point lead, which Harvey's floater sliced to one.

Chris Goulding's uncharacteristic missed free throw paved the way for Hickey's buzzer-beating heroics.

Botched foul shots continued to haunt Melbourne in OT, in which Clark and Froling dominated inside and Hickey continued to thrive at both ends.

"We did a lot of things well," United coach Dean Vickerman said.

"But we've got to start shooting over 70 per cent from the foul line."

The series-deciding Game 3 is at Melbourne's John Cain Arena on Wednesday.

HUNGRY JACKS NBL PLAYOFFS GAME 2 

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 113 (Clark 31, Harvey 23, Froling 19)

MELBOURNE UNITED 108 (Dellavedova 20, Lual-Acuil Jr 18, Clark 17)

BOX SCORE

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