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R8 Report: Hawks big three shine in NSW derby

Ravaged by injury and illness, the Illawarra Hawks outlasted New South Wales rivals Sydney 96-90 in a nail-biter on Wednesday night at WIN Entertainment Centre. The Hawks secured a much-needed fifth win of the season, despite being without guards Rhys Martin (knee), Tyson Demos (knee) and forward Cody Ellis (blood infection). Kirk Penney (24 points and a career-high eight assists) and AJ Ogilvy (20 points, 10 rebounds) led the way for Illawarra, while Kevin Lisch (17) and Oscar Forman (nine) also played key roles. The Hawks spoiled the return of Sydney’s do-it-all forward Josh Childress, claiming their second win over their NSW rivals in as many meetings. Making his first appearance since breaking his hand in a Round Three home loss to Adelaide, Childress showed signs of rust, missing 12 of his 17 shots. He still filled up the stat sheet at his usual rate with 20 points and 15 rebounds and was a constant threat to the defence. In a back and forth battle featuring 15 lead changes and five ties, the Hawks let a nine-point fourth quarter lead slip to one before Ogilvy’s clutch tip-in with seconds remaining sealed the deal. “We want to protect our home court and make you guys proud,” Penney said to Hawks fans after the win. The Hawks hit an early hurdle when veteran sharpshooter Forman headed to the bench with his second foul after three minutes. They shrugged off the potential setback, building a 17-11 lead before Thornton drained back to back threes, the second of which he turned into a four-point play after being fouled by a closing Jarrad Weeks. Penney took his tally to 10 with a turnaround jump shot in the final seconds of the quarter to give his team a 24-22 lead. But the Hawks soon found themselves in a hole after being outscored 15-4 in the opening minutes of the second period. Penney hit the re-heat button with a couple of timely triples and Ogilvy showed his athleticism with a spectacular block on Angus Brandt’s lay-up to bring Illawarra within a point. They also received a spark from unheralded development player Tony Tolovae, who confidently made both of his shots in a rare cameo off the bench to put the Hawks up 50-47 at half time. Illawarra extended the margin to five but the Kings weren’t going anywhere, regaining the lead midway through the third period. The Hawks responded and were up 70-69 at three-quarter time, holding their nerve when it mattered to claim the win. “It was a hell of a game to coach and watch and I’m very proud of the guys,” Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge said. “We’re going through some adversity at the moment and the guys showed tremendous character. “I tell the guys to forget about all the naysayers out there because we’re doing some really good things for a team in its infancy.” Illawarra (now 5-6) are back on their home court on Saturday night for their second meeting of the season with the Townsville Crocodiles. The Kings (3-9) have a nine-day break before next Friday’s round nine road clash with the Cairns Taipans. ILLAWARRA HAWKS 96 (Penney 24, Ogilvy 20, Lisch 17) SYDNEY KINGS 90 (Childress 20, Thornton 18, Garlepp 17) BOX SCORE
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