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R8 Wrap: Illawarra cash in two wins behind Penney

Basketball is apparently a young man’s game – Kirk Penney certainly hasn't gotten the memo. Keeping Father Time at arm's length, the NBL's hottest player is getting better as the season progresses, and is swinging off down-picks and elevating with the same sharpness seen in his heyday. The NBL's oldest player put in back-to-back game-highs this week as his Illawarra Hawks resurrected their season, while Melbourne United set an uncanny record in beating the Townsville Crocs. Adelaide went into enemy territory and got the win in Cairns, as Perth pounded the Breakers in the West. Illawarra Hawks 96 def Sydney Kings 90, WIN Entertainment Centre Illawarra's big three stepped up in the second instalment of the New South Wales derby. AJ Ogilvy filled the lane in a dominant 20-point, 10 rebound performance as the Kirk Penney-Kevin Lisch duo went to work on the perimeter. The former NBL MVPs combined for 41 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists as Penney notched a career-high eight dimes. Josh Childress appeared to struggle with the game's pace in his first stint back from injury, but quickly acclimated with a 20-point, 15-rebound game that kept the Kings afloat. Marcus Thornton (18 points) and Tom Garlepp (17 points) had efficient nights as Sydney looked to have turned a corner with their best player back in uniform. With Childress starting to find a groove, the Kings were up nine early in the second term, but a couple of quick-hitters from Penney helped the Hawks absorb the Kings' 15-4 run. Sydney kept the game close until the Hawks blew the game open with points on six consecutive trips to open up a winning margin. BOX SCORE Melbourne United 66 def Townsville Crocodiles 63, Townsville Entertainment Centre In one of the strangest NBL games in recent memory, Melbourne United set a League record for fewest field goal attempts in their win over Townsville. Just 43 field goals were shot by Melbourne in one of the slowest games of the season. While Townsville relish the grind, United got the win through the foul line (nine more attempts) and three-point line (three more makes). MVP contender Chris Goulding followed up his quiet Round One performance in Townsville with another, netting just six as Crocs import Jordair Jett locked in defensively. Stephen Holt led the way with 20 points as the visitors got much-needed contribution from Hakim Warrick. It was almost a two-man show for United who were getting scores through Holt and clutch defensive play from Warrick. The win is arguably one of United's most important this season, proving their ability to win while adopting multiple game styles. Clint Steindl converted a fast start into a career-high 25 points but it just wasn’t enough for the home side. BOX SCORE Adelaide 36ers 88 def Cairns Taipans 83, Cairns Convention Centre Lightning-quick Sixers guard Jerome Randle broke Cairns' hearts for a second time this season with a dazzling 28-point display at the Cairns Convention Centre. With just seven points by half time, Randle was playing within himself until bursting out of the locker rooms with a nine-point third quarter. But it was a mere prelude to a 12-point fourth quarter that had the Cairns crowd in awe. Taipans coach Aaron Fearne lamented two offensive rebounds in particular midway through the term while his side was making their run. Both rebounds came within 30 seconds and both led to Randle buckets. The Sixers froze under Cairns' full-court pressure in the final three minutes as the home side got within one possession late, but Snakes captain Cameron Gliddon missed the opportunity to tie with a three. Daniel Johnson (17 points) and Anthony Petrie (11 points) played tough down low while Taipan Mark Worthington (19 points, six rebounds) had one of his best games of the year. BOX SCORE Perth Wildcats 86 def New Zealand Breakers 80, Perth Arena The Wildcats are making the 'twin towers' line-up work in an age where the rest of the NBL plays small. Perth doubled New Zealand's points in the paint (52-26) and second-chance points (12-6), as Nathan Jawai (15 points) and Casey Prather (18 points) made it work down low, while Matt Knight had his facilitating cap on in an all-round seven-point, five-rebound, five-assist game. The inside assault did not stop when the starters left the court, as back-up centre Tom Jervis amounting a double-double in 12 minutes of game time. It is testament to Perth's strength inside that they still managed a six-point win while shooting 1-13 from deep. Breakers scoring machine Corey Webster caught fire in the final term with four impressive triples, but it was not enough to claw back a 13-point Perth lead at three-quarter time. Webster had 23 points but found little assistance aside from Cedric Jackson (15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists). BOX SCORE Illawarra Hawks 108 def Townsville Crocodiles 70, WIN Entertainment Centre Kirk Penney was at his devastating best for the second time this week, netting 20 first-half points to set up a 60-31 half-time lead. The Hawks went on with the job in their 38-point win – their fifth-best in club history and biggest since a 39-point win over the Brisbane Bullets in 2005. Larry Davidson (nine points, nine rebounds) had his best game of the year, he also surpassed Gordie McLeod as the Hawks' fifth-most capped player, but the night was owned by the genial veteran Penney who finished on 31. With a 20-point deficit, Townsville were on their knees by quarter time, but Illawarra showed no mercy. Jarrad Weeks stamped his claim on the Dunk of the Year award, throwing down a LeBron James-like double-pump reverse slam in the third quarter, and from then on it was part time for the locals. Brian Conklin had 20 points in his return game, while fellow Crocs big man Nick Kay (14 points on 6-6 FGs) showed why he is in-line for Rookie of the Year honours. BOX SCORE Round Nine kicks off with a couple of rivalry games as New Zealand hosts Perth in their third encounter in four weeks, immediately followed by Cairns at Townsville. Two top scorers again face off when the hot Hawks play host to Melbourne on Thursday, while Friday's double-header sees Cairns host Sydney and Adelaide in Perth. Singles on Saturday and Sunday when New Zealand plays at The Swamp for the first time and Adelaide at Melbourne to cap the round.
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