Hawks rise to the occasion, advance to GF
It was a war of attrition at Titanium Security Arena in Thursday night’s National Basketball League semi-final decider, and for the better part of 40 minutes only one team truly turned up.
The Illawarra Hawks showed the poise needed on the big stage, holding off a stunning late Adelaide 36ers run, winning 106-98, and booking a date with the Perth Wildcats in the Grand Final.
Buoyed by 66 bench points the Hawks played like the 36ers have played the majority of the season – unified and clinical. Marvelle Harris and Rotnei Clarke captained the ship in the first half, whilst resurgent big men Cody Ellis and Tim Coenraad finished the journey in the second.
Looking down and out for the majority of the second half, the stubborn Adelaide unit gave themselves a few defibrillator jolts.
It sparked life into the crowd and almost brought about a monumental resuscitation of their season – down 21 at one point – with the iceman Jerome Randle helping draw the margin to within five points with two minutes left.
But Illawarra’s early work was too much to rope in for a timid Sixers side that came out clearly rattled by the occasion. Although it wasn’t all breathing easy for Hawks coach Rob Beverage.
“It was never in doubt. I say that to my wife and kids all the time. It was heart attack material for a minute there,” he said.
“I’ve never been part of something that miraculous though; you lose your main focal point and everybody stepped up.”
Hawks gunner Clarke drained two bombs from behind the arc, right at the peak of Adelaide’s fourth-quarter comeback, to sink the Sixer ship.
Nathan Sobey looked to have gone missing with only a single basket to his name at half-time but had a 20-point second half in his best Jekyll-and-Hyde show.
Physicality was Illawarra’s modus operandi, as Nick Kay picked up two fouls in the opening 15 seconds.
A chorus of boos greeted visiting centre AJ Ogilvy who quickly became the focal point of the opening quarter. Ogilvy had three unsuccessful bites of the cherry at one stage before being blocked by Hodgson and eventually looked to roll his ankle, subbing out at the three-minute mark.
Defensive willpower stifled Adelaide in transition as they shot 1/7 from the 3-point arc. Antagonist Rhys Martin had two quick threes; Clarke put Randle on skates with a behind the back lay-in and Illawarra led 27-18 at the first break
Not afraid of some rough and tumble, the Hawks collected 29 personal fouls to Adelaide’s 21.
All cylinders were firing in the Hawk machine as the bench contributed more than half their points with 32 to half-time
A Joey Wright rocket was unleashed in a timeout during the second as he took the team to mid-court trying to elicit a reaction from his players.
It had the opposite effect.
Captain Mitch Creek was trying hard for the home side in the first half; his and-1 play giving Adelaide a brief reprieve. Ogilvy checked back in with the clock about to strike halftime but went down on his ankle again, leaving the court down the race in tears.
It was mayhem at that point as Marvelle Harris was on fire with 15 points and partner in crime Clarke was also enjoying himself with 13.
“We came into a tough environment tonight and I’m just really proud of our guys,” an elated Clarke said post-game.
Anthony Drmic earned himself a technical for a flop and it summed up Adelaide’s first half. The visitors were flying with only a single turnover and a 56-42 advantage.
Adelaide’s usual proficiency from the stripe failed them, landing only 27 of 39.
Illawarra’s brutes got into some foul trouble post-break as Kay picked up his fourth, and the team reached the bonus within the first four minutes.
Adelaide took advantage, lifting the tempo and slinging from deep as the lead was trimmed to six points.
Meanwhile Drmic was given his second technical foul and ejected from the stadium, baffling to coach Joey Wright.
“It’s just disappointing that we have Drmic ejected in this series and then you have Ogilvy grab someone’s ankle in the other game and nothing happened. He definitely got hit on that shot,” Wright said.
The war of attrition was handed to the Hawks as they grit their teeth and held on, a Kevin White dagger on the buzzer stretching the lead to 18 points.
It was game over.
An exciting NBL Grand Final series begins on Sunday between Perth and Illawarra.
Illawarra Hawks 106 (Clarke 20, Harris 17, Martin 13)
Adelaide 36ers 98 (Randle 26, Sobey 22, Creek 10, Drmic 10)
News Source: NBL Media