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R17 Report: Lisch fires Hawks over Randle's Sixers

The Illawarra Hawks held their nerve in crunch time against a relentless Adelaide 36ers to claim a crucial 104-97 victory on Thursday night at WIN Entertainment Centre. Illawarra outscored the Sixers 31-27 in the fourth quarter, securing their 11th win in their past 14 games and snapping Adelaide’s six-game win streak. Playing without high-scoring superstar Kirk Penney again, the Hawks avenged a 12-point road loss to the 36ers in Round 7, boosting their record to 15-9 and keeping hold of third spot. Fourth-placed Adelaide (13-10) will be hell-bent on making amends when they host Illawarra on Saturday night where the Hawks will still be without Penney. Kevin Lisch scored a team-high 27 points for the Hawks, AJ Ogilvy added 21 and Rhys Martin had 17 off the bench. Sixers dynamo Jerome Randle poured in a game-high 28 points, Ebi Ere had 23 and Daniel Johnson finished with 12. The Hawks overcame a poor shooting night (7-of-32 three-pointers) to eventually wear down the Sixers, winning the rebound battle 34-30 and finishing with 11 turnovers to Adelaide’s 17. "We did a hell of a job of creating physicality and closing it out when Adelaide came back," Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said. "Right now we just want to get better as a group, and we haven’t shown our best basketball against a lot of teams. Tonight’s game from that mental toughness perspective was outstanding." Illawarra signalled their defensive intentions early, with feisty guard Kevin White getting up close and personal with Randle. The tactics seemed to work, as a clearly irritated Randle was held to two points in the opening quarter. Veteran forward Ere provided a spark for the visitors with eight points off the bench, but the Hawks carved out a 26-16 quarter-time lead, despite missing all six three-point attempts. Most NBL followers predicted a run-and-gun shootout, but both teams knew the stakes were high and the defensive intensity was similar to that of a playoff game. Shackled in the first period, Randle took his frustration out on the home side with a signature scoring blitz in the second quarter. The Sixers took their first lead of the game with a stunning 18-6 run, but Illawarra fought back to take a 44-43 lead into halftime. The Hawks were uncharacteristically wayward from three-point range, missing 16-of-17 attempts in the first half. Adelaide were down by six when Randle went down injured and had to be helped to the bench four minutes into the third period. Much to Sixers coach Joey Wright’s relief, ‘The Handle’ re-entered the game two minutes later, finding a cutting Anthony Petrie for a lay-up which tied the game at 65-all late in the third quarter. The Hawks responded again to take a 73-70 lead into the final period. The final period was a shootout but Illawarra had the answers in the closing minutes. By winning the Hawks soured Johnson’s 150th game in Sixers colours and coach Wright's 400th NBL match made up of his playing days at the Geelong Supercats, and coaching the Brisbane Bullets, Gold Coat Blaze and now Adelaide. "They played a great game of basketball tonight," Wright said of the Hawks. "They knocked down shots and executed when they needed to, they mixed their defences up well and they were physical." ILLAWARRA HAWKS 104 (Lisch 27, Ogilvy 21, Martin 17) ADELAIDE 36ERS 97 (Randle 28, Ere 23, Johnson 12) BOX SCORE 
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