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R8 Report: High-scoring Hawks ambush Crocs

Living up to their reputation as the NBL’s most prolific points machine, the Illawarra Hawks showcased their devastating offensive firepower in a pulsating 108-70 victory over the Townsville Crocodiles on Saturday night at WIN Entertainment Centre. Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy laid the platform with a dominant first-quarter, pouring in 11 points without missing a shot, grabbing three rebounds and dishing out three of his team’s 10 assists. Ogilvy finished with 13 points and was well on his way to strengthening his case as a leading NBL MVP candidate before his night was cruelly cut short by injury two minutes into the second half. Illawarra’s 211cm linchpin limped to the locker room before returning to the bench and stayed there for the rest of the game, though the initial diagnosis wasn’t serious. Ageless sharpshooter Kirk Penney ensured the home team capitalised on their white-hot start, racking up 12 second-quarter points as the lead swelled to an unassailable 61-30 at half time. The Crocodiles offered stronger resistance in the second half but the damage had been well and truly done. Penney finished with a game-high 31, classy import Kevin Lisch added 15, while forward Tim Coenraad (12) was productive off the bench. Pleased as he was with his team’s slick offensive performance, Hawks coach Rob Beveridge was even even happier with their workmanlike effort under the boards (37-30). Illawarra’s win was their second over the Crocs in as many meetings. The Hawks were without injured regulars Tyson Demos (knee), Cody Ellis (illness) and Rhys Martin (knee), but Beveridge got good contributions from development players Luke Jamieson and Tony Tolovae. His injured trio is due to return next week. Veteran centre Larry Davidson had one of his best showings this season in his 216th game in Hawks colours – surpassing Gordie McLeod. “It’s pretty cool,” big Laz said of his milestone match. “Taking over Gordie means a lot to me because he played a big part in my life.” Illawarra wasted no time grabbing the game by the throat, surging to a 34-14 lead after the first period. “Offensively we are the most potent team in the league and we’re growing as a group,” Beveridge said. “The defence set the tone for our offence. We’ve won the rebounds the last two games and we’re playing with passion. “AJ just got a knee-on-knee situation and he should be fine, which is a big relief.” It never got close in the second half as the Hawks finished with five players in double figures. Seventh-placed Townsville slipped to 4-10 for the season and host Cairns in a Round Nine Reptile Rumble next Wednesday. “They pressured us early and got the scoreboard rolling and they steamrolled us,” Crocs coach Shawn Dennis. "You know what they Illawarra are going to do. There’s no secrets with Bevo, but we took too many shortcuts." The Hawks are alone in fifth spot with a 6-6 record and will take a full head of steam into next Thursday’s home meeting with top-ranked Melbourne United.   ILLAWARRA HAWKS 108 (Penney 31, Lisch 15, Ogilvy 13) TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 70 (Conklin 20, Kay 14, Jett 11) BOX SCORE
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