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R17 Report: Randle hurt but Ere shines in big 36ers win

Ebi Ere etched his name into Adelaide 36ers folklore with a heroic performance in Saturday night’s 104-90 payback job on the Illawarra Hawks softening the blow of Jerome Randle's knee injury. The 34-year-old forward turned back the clock at Titanium Security Arena with a breathtaking shooting exhibition, erupting for a game-high 28 points after the 36ers lost star import Randle to what appeared to be a serious knee injury early in the second half. Randle later emerged from the locker room on crutches and joined his teammates on the bench with his knee wrapped in ice. It remains to be seen if his season is over, but the Sixers’ title prospects might not be as bright without the NBL’s scoring leader’s 25 points per night. "At this point I'm not sure. He'll have a scan on Monday and we should get some feedback from that," Adelaide coach Joey Wright said. "We had a little lull when he went down but our guys lifted. We got after it defensively and made some adjustments. Ebi's still a great player. He wasn't in shape when he got here, but he's in shape now and he's playing well." Illawarra held a 75-74 lead at three quarter-time before the home side grabbed the game by the throat by opening the fourth period with a devastating 21-2 run. Ere couldn’t miss in crunch time, taking it upon himself to ensure his side avenged Thursday night’s 104-97 road loss to the Hawks. Having only scored 33 points in total his previous five games, Ere has averaged 21.5 the last four to be a force again. Daniel Johnson tallied 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Mitch Creek and Lucas Walker combined for 27 points and 19 rebounds off the bench. Kevin Lisch paced Illawarra with 24 and Tim Coenraad finished with 17. "They were too good in that first five minutes of the fourth quarter and we were too far behind," Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said. "Ebi was outstanding. He was as good as I've seen him in a long time. We got smacked on the boards and we didn't handle their physicality." Adelaide connected on 55 per cent of their shots and smashed their opponents 42-26 on the boards. Ere was promoted to the starting five but the move appeared to backfire when the visitors built an early 13-5 lead. The 36ers worked their way into the contest, moving the ball around and cutting the deficit to one. Jumping-jack forward Walker provided a spark with six points off the bench and Adelaide took a 26-22 lead into quarter-time. Ere found his range with a couple of three-point bombs, stretching the margin to 10 less than four minutes into the second period. Neither team was prepared to give an inch and 32 fouls were called in the first half. Coenraad hit a three to put the Hawks up 54-51 before Ere answered with a buzzer-beating three from the corner to tie the game at 54-all at half-time. Adelaide held a 60-56 lead when Randle fell heavily after colliding with Illawarra centre AJ Ogilvy. Ere kept firing away, but the Hawks hung tough, pulling ahead 67-66 on Rhys Martin’s consecutive lay-ups. Adelaide got back in front by two before Coenraad rained down a three to give Illawarra a 75-74 lead with a quarter to play. It was the Ere show in the final period, as the Sixers consolidated fourth spot on the ladder with a 14-10 record - one win behind Illawarra (15-10). Adelaide host New Zealand next Wednesday, while the Hawks are at home to league-leaders Melbourne United on Thursday. ADELAIDE 36ERS 104 (Ere 28, Johnson 19, Creek 15) ILLAWARRA HAWKS 90 (Lisch 24, Coenraad 17, Martin 15) BOX SCORE
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