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R7 Report: Measured Sixers consolidate top-four spot

A high-octane first quarter assault set the Adelaide 36ers on course for Saturday night’s 89-77 defeat of the Illawarra Hawks at Titanium Security Arena. The 36ers ambushed Illawarra with a 33-point opening-quarter blitz before changing tack and relying on scrambling defence over the final three quarters to claim their sixth win of the season, consolidating fourth spot. Livewire guard Jerome Randle led Adelaide with 20 points and six assists, while centre Daniel Johnson was a powerhouse with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Lionhearted forward Anthony Petrie added 16 points and three other Sixers finished in double figures. American guard Kevin Lisch tallied a team-high 19 for the Hawks, AJ Ogilvy had 17 and Kirk Penney collected 15. The battle of the boards was decisive, as the Sixers won the count 39-29. “We had a good week at training and we just wanted to come out with some passion and get this win that we really needed,” Johnson said post-game. The Hawks (now 4-6) were unable to make coach Rob Beveridge’s 200th NBL game a winning occasion, as the veteran NBL coach vocalised frustration with his team’s inability to rebound and defend consistently.

“I didn’t think we were ever in the game,” Beveridge said.

“[Adelaide’s] defensive stance, the way they were physical, the way they got on the glass early; that set the tone.

“We fought and had a crack, but we’ve got an Achilles heel at the moment and we have to become so much better at rebounding, and that’s ultimately what hurt us down the stretch again. We can’t rebound at the moment.”

Petrie was the focal point of Adelaide’s offence on the first few possessions, scoring a quick-fire nine points, Illawarra held an 11-10 lead before the Sixers took control with a 15-5 run, making virtually every shot they attempted and man-handling the Hawks under the glass. Running on all cylinders, the home side led 33-24 at quarter-time after hitting 12-16 field goals and out-rebounding the visitors 11-3. Randle and Johnson heated up in the second period, while a Brendan Teys triple pushed Adelaide’s lead out to 51-37 with 3:25 remaining in the half. The Hawks replied with seven unanswered points before experienced import Ebi Ere’s three gave the 36ers a 54-46 halftime lead. Petrie (13), Johnson (12) and Randle (10) had reached double digits by half-time, while Penney (14) and Lisch (11) led Illawarra. The Hawks worked harder under the boards in the second period, grabbing 10 to Adelaide’s nine. Offence took a back seat to defence in the third quarter, as the Sixers tightened their grip on the contest by outscoring Illawarra 15-8 for a 69-54 lead. Randle nailed a pair of free throws two minutes into the final period to stretch the margin to 18, though the Hawks kept battling. Aside from a few rushed passes which led to turnovers, the Sixers held their nerve and closed out the win without any serious stumbles.

“We attacked them at all different positions and kept fresh bodies on the court, and kept them under pressure," Sixers coach Joey Wright said.

“We were focused on the first five possessions of the game and controlled the tempo.

“We held them to eight points in the third period and to hold such a potent team to that is a great effort."

Illawarra will be keen to atone when they host NSW rivals Sydney next Wednesday, while Adelaide (6-6) are on the road against Cairns next Friday.   ADELAIDE 36ERS 89 (Randle 20, Petrie 16, Johnson 15) ILLAWARRA HAWKS 77 (Lisch 19, Ogilvy 17, Penney 15) BOX SCORE
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