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GAME REPORT

Hawks Overpower Kings in the 'Gong

The Illawarra Hawks shook off conceding the first 11 points to the Sydney Kings at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Thursday night to score 12 in-a-row of their own in the fourth term to set up the 97-89 victory.

It was the second instalment of the storied rivalry between the two NSW clubs for #NBL22. With both teams determined to make a statement returning to action after extended breaks, it was a game of runs in the first half.

Sydney made the first break hitting the game's opening 11 points to catch Illawarra on the back foot. However, the Hawks would dominate the rest of the first term to lead by four by quarter-time.

The Kings made another run of 11 straight points early in the second quarter to lead by seven but the Hawks again responded with their own 10-0 run on the way to being up one by the half.

Sydney again finished the third quarter strongly and were up five to start the fourth term, but the Hawks held them scoreless for more than five minutes while scoring 12 points in-a-row themselves for the eight-point win on their home floor.

It was the first game for the Hawks since December 19 and it was Sam Froling who delivered a career-best night with 27 points and nine rebounds while shooting 12/17 from the field.

Tyler Harvey found his shooting range too making his first five three-point attempts and going 6/7 for the night for 23 points and six assists. His back court partner Xavier Rathan-Mayes added 16 points and seven rebounds with Antonius Cleveland contributing 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian didn’t know what to expect after such a long lay off but liked a lot of what he saw in the win.

"For everybody this was a big day after 25 days. There's no excuses coming into this thing, but you have to say as a coach and player you're not really sure how you'll go having never done this before. It's new ground and don't know how it's going to go," Goorjian said. 

"What we did say was that one of the things you do know is that we'd be spasmodic playing together. The only way you can duplicate that is playing games, the same thing with rotations and what guys play together. 

"We just don’t have a feel with that yet so the areas that we broke down in I thought was expected going into the game. But the areas that were in question, our defence, energy and the communication on the floor, and playing hard, I thought we were tremendous there."

Import point guard Jaylen Adams showed his quality on return for the Kings with 14 points and eight assists but fellow import RJ Hunter lasted less than a minute before leaving the floor with another knee complaint.

Jarell Martin top-scored for Sydney with 23 points to go with 10 rebounds while Wani Swaka Lo Buluk had a career-best 17 points. Xavier Cooks added 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Kings coach Chase Buford felt it was a high-quality game but the Hawks just finished the better of the two teams.

"The only run we didn’t really have an answer for was that last run. They kicked our butts the last three or four minutes of the game, and credit to them. They made shots all night and then executed down the stretch, and we definitely did not," Buford said. 

"Full credit to the Hawks for the way they finished and it was kinda similar to the last game in Sydney. I thought it was a high level game with really good stuff from both squads. They shot the ball well, it was a good game and they shot the ball well down the stretch."

The Kings were on the wrong end of a devastating start earlier in the season against Melbourne United, but it was their turn to fly out of the gates this time around as they put up the opening 11 points in the first three minutes.

Eventually the Hawks scored with Antonius Cleveland knocking down a three ball and the home side would dominate the rest of the opening term. After going down 11-0, Illawarra scored 26 of the last 37 points to go into quarter-time leading 26-22.

The game of runs continued in the second quarter with the Kings again starting it well with DJ Vasiljevic and RJ Adams knocking down three-pointers as part of a another 11-0 run that put them up 37-30.

However, again Illawarra responded with back-to-back threes to Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup as part of their own 10-0 as they assumed the lead.

Sam Froling then finished the half with the last eight points of the Hawks including a pair of long-range jumpers to give the home side a 49-48 edge at the major break.

Froling got his toe behind the line to hit a three to open the second half and when Harvey did the same for his fourth make from beyond the arc, the Hawks wee suddenly up seven, and soon when Harvey connected from deep yet again.

Duop Reath then hit a couple of buckets to keep Illawarra on top but Sydney wouldn’t be going away and got a steadying three ball from Vasiljevic. Jarell Martin also hit from deep soon after as part of him scoring seven straight Sydney points.

Then it was Xavier Cooks giving all the energy to be at the forefront of an 8-0 Sydney run to close the third term and see them go up 78-75.

Cooks extended Sydney's lead to five to start the fourth quarter but Illawarra responded with three-pointers from Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Cleveland to regain the lead before Chase Buford called a timeout.

But from the moment Sydney led 84-83 after two free-throws from Martin, the Hawks dominated scoring the game's next 12 points while holding the Kings scoreless for more than five minutes to turn a one-point deficit into an 11-point game winning advantage.

Both teams back up again in Round 7 on Sunday with the Hawks remaining home to host Melbourne United while the Kings will face the New Zealand Breakers at Qudos Bank Arena.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 7

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 97 (S Froling 27, Harvey 23, Rathan-Mayes 16)

SYDNEY KINGS 89 (Martin 23, Swaka Lo Buluk 17, Cooks 16)

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