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R6 Report: Late Beal barrage buries Hawks

A clutch fourth quarter performance by American guard Jermaine Beal carried the Perth Wildcats to a 99-96 comeback win over the Illawarra Hawks on Wednesday night at WIN Entertainment Centre. The Wildcats broke Hawks hearts for the second time in three weeks, mowing down the home team after falling behind by 11 at three-quarter time. Beal was the boss of the final term, scoring 14 of his game-high 26 points in the period. But his streak did not come the way he would have liked, being embarrassed into action after he was turned inside-out by Kevin Lisch on a combination dribble that was iced by a three-pointer. Mocked by Hawks fans as he got back to his feet, Beal (14 points in the final 6:40) was a different player after the incident, inspiring the Cats to their sixth win of the season. The very next possession Beal swished a walk-up triple, taking his tally to 15 before more bombs landed in quick succession. Spring-heeled forward Casey Prather added 19 points for the Cats, while frontcourt workhorse Matt Knight finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. [ooyala code="oxb3VyeDqZYLiK4iPid0lrMCuTQKaPGT" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1920" height="1080" auto="true"] Illawarra guard Kevin Lisch posted 25 points against his former team, as did Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy. Kirk Penney added 19 after a blistering 11-point first term. Perth dominated the battle under the boards, grabbing 45 rebounds to Illawarra’s 33. While Beal rained in shots from downtown, the difference was on the glass where the Cats hauled in a whopping 22 offensive boards and outscored Illawarra 20-10 on second-chance points. “It was perseverance and we rode some backs out there,” Cats coach Trevor Gleeson said. “Jermaine was unbelievable and when he got his ankles broken by Lisch he really fired up. “Even though there was a points spread after three quarters, guys had that look in their eyes still believing we could win.” Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge slammed his team, branding them “soft” in the fourth quarter. “We stopped rebounding and we stopped playing defence, and we’ve harped on about this with the group,” Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said. “We are the worst rebounding team in the league and we do so much at practice on it and we talk about it, but right now the guys are mentally soft and we don’t have the ability to close a game like that out.” IIlawarra grabbed their first lead midway through the opening period before Perth snatched a 28-26 quarter-time lead after forward Jesse Wagstaff nailed a long three at the buzzer. The game had all the hallmarks of their round three thriller as both teams looked to run at almost every opportunity. Illawarra trailed by three before Lisch took centre stage with a couple of spellbinding moves that triggered a 21-6 Hawks run. He poured in 12 points in the period, taking over from backcourt mate Penney and helping the Hawks to a 59-51 halftime lead. The high scoring was punctuated by the hot shooting of both sides - Illawarra hitting 56 per cent and Perth making 53 per cent. The Hawks were on course for their fifth win after three periods, only to get it all wrong when the pressure was on in the fourth. The Wildcats (6-2) fly straight to Auckland on Thursday to prepare for Friday night’s meeting with the New Zealand Breakers. Illawarra slipped to 4-5 for the season and have a 10-day break before facing the Adelaide 36ers at Titanium Security Arena. PERTH WILDCATS 99 (Beal 26, Prather 19, Knight 16) ILLAWARRA HAWKS 96 (Lisch 25, Ogilvy 25, Penney 19) BOX SCORE
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