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GAME REPORT

Hawks Keep Rolling with Another Win in Melbourne

The Illawarra Hawks have gone two from two minus Tyler Harvey the Illawarra Hawks have rocketed to second spot in the NBL handing Melbourne United a second home loss in a week with Saturday night's 96-90 victory.

The Hawks found themselves six points down with five minutes to go, but they outscored United at John Cain Arena the rest of the way 14 points to two to win on Melbourne's home floor for the second time in a week to now have won five straight to sit second at 16-8.

In the absence for a second straight game of star import guard Harvey, Xavier Rathan-Mayes (25 points, nine assists six rebounds) and Antonius Cleveland (22 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block) stepped up to be counted.

Australian Boomer Duop Reath (18 points, nine rebounds) also won the battle in the paint against MVP hopeful Jo Lual-Acuil in what was another supremely impressive Hawks showing.

It was in the paint where the match was won, with the Hawks smashing United 42-29 on the rebound count including 10 at the offensive end to four.

The Hawks strengthened their playoff push by becoming the first time to beat Melbourne twice in #NBL22, but United have now lot three of the past five and will fall from top spot with a loss in Perth on Monday night.

Goorjian was especially proud to get another win over the reigning champs with role players stepping up big.

"We battled on the glass, went toe-to-toe, we weren't intimidated, we were aggressive defensively. Because of who they are, our guys fully understood that it puts a lot more on this win than just the ladder and where we finish," Goorjian said.

"It's a really good stepping stone playing a game like this against a team like this. In cases like this last year, if Tyler doesn't play, we don't win. It was as simple as that.

"The second aspect as we didn't have a stretch guy like Duop who can stretch the floor and play the perimeter. We near had all bases covered, we had a good contribution from the bench.

"Harry Froling is slowly evolving for us and he made the winning play. You put the pieces together, we didn't have that last year."

Melbourne will be sweating on the fitness of Caleb Agada who came flying at Hawks guard Emmett Naar and took a nasty tumble to the floor, forcing him to limp off the court. Adding insult to injury, Agada was stung with an unsportsmanlike foul - his second of the night - and was ejected.

Jack White had a solid night for the reigning champions with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists, Chris Goulding was his usual productive self with 16 points and three assists while Lual-Acuil had 15 points and five boards.

United coach Dean Vickerman said there were positives and they improved since the last game, but the Hawks were simply too good.

"It was a high quality game. I was happy with some of the improvements that we made last week. Our offence was better, we screened a lot better and we moved the basketball," Vickerman said.

"We were in a pretty good place at half-time. But Cleveland was blowing things up at different times and it was tough to run the stuff that we wanted to run. 

"Rathan-Mayes made some tough contested twos at a really high percentage. He was tough, him and Cleveland are both playing at a really elite level right now."

For the most part, it was a seesawing battle with multiple lead changes, but the Hawks had the cooler heads down the stretch.

Matthew Dellavedova had a tough night but he opened the game with a three-point splash - that would be his only points for the game.

White went wild with a long-range leaping jam to show United fans they had come to play. It was free-flowing basketball and both sides were getting plenty of looks which was reflected on the scoreboard as the points piled up.

The Hawks were shooting the lights out with a clip of 9/11 meaning Yudai Baba hit the floor to warm applause for his first appearance for Melbourne this season.

Illawarra was rolling, but when Baba hit an open triple to close the gap to three points, the roof lifted at John Cain Arena. A trademark Shea Ili triple meant that United only trailed 32-30 at the end of one.

Chris Goulding's three put Melbourne on top to open the second term and the lead was soon out to eight, and they were still on top 50-47 at the main break.

The Hawks went on an 8-2 run to open the third term and take the lead once more. They got out to a six-point advantage showing an almost limitless amount of energy. A Cleveland triple then did plenty of damage, leaving United with plenty of work to do. 

Melbourne grafted their way back before an open Agada look gave them a vital triple that closed the gap once again. Then at the other end of the court, Agada took a nasty fall which forced him from the court.

The show had to go on and Mason Peatling ensured it was pleasant viewing for United views with a triple that gave them the lead in a see-sawing contest. It enabled the home side to go into the final term with a four-point lead.

Reath hit a triple for the Hawks to open the scoring in the fourth, but United put the jets on again and was soon out to an eight-point advantage. 

The Hawks refused to wave the white flag, though, and with less than two minutes left on the clock, levelled the scores and set up a grandstand finish.

Rathan-Mayes then took the lead as the Hawks went on an 8-0 run while Harry Froling completed a tough three-point play to keep their noses in front in the final 30 seconds.

It was a lead they were able to hold onto and an important win as the top teams jostle for position ahead of the finals.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 18

MELBOURNE UNITED 90 (White 17, Goulding 16, Lual-Acuil 15)

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 96 (Rathan-Mayes 25, Cleveland 22, Reath 18) 

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