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Backcourt stars shoot Kings to first win

The Sydney Kings reloaded with internationally renowned stars in the off-season, but it was one of the club’s home-grown locals who shot down the Illawarra Hawks 88-84 on Friday night at WIN Entertainment Centre. Kings guard Jason Cadee had a night to savour in Wollongong, hitting a sizzling four-of-six threes on the way to 20 points, while backcourt mate Kevin Lisch enjoyed a triumphant return to the Hawks' house on his way to 20 points, seven rebounds and two steals at his old gym. A hero for the Hawks last season when he captured NBL MVP honours, Lisch was booed every time he touched the ball, but it only seemed to add to his hunger for a win. The Kings were dominated by Brisbane in last week’s season-opener, but atoned with a more polished performance to claim their first victory for 2016-17. "I never take these things personally, and the fans here are great," Lisch said post-game. "It's a relief to get that first win and it's irrelevant where it happened. It's a great atmosphere to play in and if I was a fan I'd boo myself." Two-time NBA champion Josh Powell featured prominently in his NBL debut for Sydney, finishing with 14 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench after arriving in Australia 48 hours ago. The Hawks went into the game as favourites but struggled to match the Kings’ physicality. Compounding Illawarra’s loss was a hamstring injury suffered by starting guard Mitch Norton in the opening quarter. Sydney trailed by one at quarter-time and two at half-time before Powell and Lisch took over and inspired the Kings to a 71-62 lead at three-quarter time. The Hawks fought back to tie the game at 83-all before Aleks Maric and Brad Newley hit clutch free throws down the stretch to clinch the win. Powell made his first appearance less than four minutes into the game after Maric headed to the bench with foul trouble. Illawarra started well to be ahead 16-8 but the Kings hung tough, chipping away and taking their first lead late in the first period. Veteran Hawks forward Oscar Forman splashed a long two in the closing seconds to give his side a 23-22 quarter-time lead, but Illawarra had made just one of five threes. Cadee was up to 10 points and stayed hot in the second period, knocking down his fourth three from as many attempts. The Kings stood toe-to-toe with the Hawks and stopped them from pouring on the points by cutting off their lethal transition game. The visitors appeared to have the final say of the quarter with Lisch’s three, but Marvelle Harris (23 points) scored on a tough fade-away shot before Cody Ellis drew a charge and drained a buzzer-beating triple to give Illawarra a 50-48 half-time lead. "They controlled the tempo and thoroughly deserved to win that game," Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said. "It shows you can't take anyone lightly. Anybody can beat anybody. This isn't the national bush league, it's one of the toughest leagues going around. "This is a wonderful learning experience for us." Illawarra (1-1) heads south for Sunday afternoon’s road clash with winless Melbourne United, while the Kings aim to make it a perfect week when they host the Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. "We really want to get a win on home court for our fans," Sydney coach Andrew Gaze said after notching his first win. Illawarra (1-1) heads south for Sunday afternoon’s road clash with winless Melbourne United, while the Kings aim to make it a perfect week when they host the Cairns Taipans on Saturday night. SYDNEY KINGS 88 (Lisch 20, Cadee 20, Powell 14) ILLAWARRA HAWKS 84 (Harris 23, Clarke 17, Ogilvy 13) BOX SCORE
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