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GAME REPORT

Hawks Deliver Four Quarters to Down Reigning Champs

You will happily take any win you can over the defending champions and that's what the Illawarra Hawks got at the NBL Blitz on Saturday, beating Melbourne United 97-90.

It was perhaps the highest-quality first half of the NBL Blitz so far delivered by the Hawks and United at Melbourne's Sport and Aquatic Centre in the second half of Saturday's double-header, but it was Illawarra who were able to maintain the rage for the four quarters.

The two playoff teams from a season ago produced quite the impressive first half both in terms of scoring and intensity, and it wouldn’t have been out of place as a regular season contest just two weeks out from the opening of #NBL22.

The Hawks and United combined for 113 points in the first half alone with Melbourne holding a 61-52 edge going into the half-time break, but from there it was all Illawarra.

The Hawks were able to maintain their pace from the opening half while United couldn’t quite, and Illawarra broke the game open in the third quarter with 23 points and holding Melbourne to just 10.

That was enough to secure the Hawks the seven-point triumph on the back of shooting 55 per cent from the field overall. That helped to make up for Melbourne outrebounding them 45 to 29 including 18 to five on the offensive glass.

United converted those 18 offensive rebounds into 25 second chance points, and they got to the foul line a remarkable 39 times, but ultimately made 10 fewer field goals than the Hawks and went just 7/28 at 25 per cent from beyond the three-point line.

It was two new arrivals ahead of the 2021/22 NBL season that were pivotal behind the eventual Hawks victory too with new import Antonius Cleveland delivering 21 points, four rebounds and three steals on shooting 9/14 from the field.

Duop Reath is fresh off helping Australia create history by winning bronze in Tokyo and he also had 18 points and six rebounds on Saturday moving into a starting role. He knocked down 3/6 from three-point land.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes was impressive again in the backcourt with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists while Sam Froling contributed 12 points and four boards, Justinian Jessup 10 points, Tyler Harvey nine points, three assists and three steals, and Akoldah Gak a spectacular four points.

Jo Lual-Acuil continues to be the focal point of Melbourne's offence even if he only got eight field goal attempts, but he converted with six makes on his way to 20 points and nine rebounds while going a perfect 8/8 from deep.

Chris Goulding delivered 19 points and four assists as well while Caleb Agada finished with 16 points and six rebounds.

Next Star Ariel Hukporti made his first appearance and was exciting with eight points and six rebounds in 15 minutes including a powerful two-handed throwdown that shook the foundations of the ring.

Mason Peatling also had 12 points and eight rebounds and Matthew Dellavedova seven points, six assists and four boards.

The Hawks now return to Wollongong to host the New Zealand Breakers on Thursday while Melbourne will finish its NBL Blitz next Sunday against crosstown rivals the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL BLITZ

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 97 (Cleveland 21, Reath 18, Rathan-Mayes 14)

MELBOURNE UNITED 90 (Lual-Acuil 20, Goulding 19, Agada 16) 

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