THE Wollongong Hawks are hoping Friday night’s 86-78 win over NBL cellar dwellers Adelaide signals a change of fortune.
The breakthrough game allowed new import Malcolm Grant to display his shooting prowess as Wollongong dominated the match to wrestle back control of a season that was spiralling out of control.
But the real test will come on Sunday when the Hawks face the second-placed Wildcats, a fixture more likely to reflect where Wollongong are placed with eight games to go in the regular season.
Grant, who arrived in the Gong less than two weeks ago, top-scored with 21 points, which included four three-pointers. But the victory wasn’t a one man show, he was well supported across the court as the Hawks delivered a trademark team performance.
”Malcolm’s shooting was fantastic, but we’ve been able to see that at training. He can shoot,” Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said. ”But the game wasn’t just about him. We had contributors from all over the court. It was a big win for us.”
Big man Larry Davidson produced a sublime performance. He pulled down 10 rebounds, scoring 14 points while Oscar Forman, a former 36er, contributed 18 points.
The win was reminiscent of the Hawks early-season form when they produced consistent four-quarter pressure that saw them sit on top of the ladder after seven wins from their first eight games.
The horror run that followed saw the Hawks lose nine from 10 games before Friday night’s eight-point victory, a run that had the Hawks on the brink of dropping out of the top four. Their lack of luck was exemplified by the loss of their two in-form guards Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle to knee injuries in the same game. Glen Saville’s season – and career – also ended with a knee injury.
”We had a horror run of luck with injuries and results that didn’t go our way. That stretch was hard for everyone,” McLeod said on Saturday. ”The win is reward for the hard work everyone has been doing in training to try to get that next win, we have plenty of hard work left. We’ve got another game to focus on now, what is probably the hardest fixture in the league, the travelling itself is a test … [being] the second game in three days is a real test.”
On this occasion, the travel will not disadvantage the Hawks as Perth, too, have to travel back from New Zealand. The Wildcats were thumped by 17 points in Auckland on Friday, the top-placed Breakers out-rebounding the Wildcats 37-26, an area McLeod identified as critical to a Hawks victory.
”We have to rebound well. We have to dominate the paint and win those contested boards,” he said. ”We need to be able to deal with their full-court pressure and exhibit our own defensive pressure.”
Grant is nursing a slight back strain but the guard should start the game.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.