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GAME REPORT

Reath Dominates to Lead Hawks over Gritty Kings

He might not have grabbed a lot of headlines when he signed, but bronze medal winning Olympian Duop Reath could prove the biggest Illawarra Hawks addition after leading his team to a hard earned 92-84 win over the Sydney Kings on Saturday.

The rivalry between the NSW foes had built nicely off the court during the week, but the battle on the court didn’t fail to deliver with an entertaining basketball contest with times when tempers boiled over too.

That included in the final minute with an altercation between Illawarra's Sam Froling and Sydney's Angus Glover that ended up involving all their teammates.

Glover ended up being ejected after a standout game for the Kings with 16 points and seven rebounds, but the result had already been decided in the favour of the Hawks and it was their firepower behind the win.

The Kings fought bravely without import pair RJ Hunter and Jaylen Adams along with DJ Vasiljevic and Jordan Hunter, but Illawarra just had all the answers starting with three first quarter triples to Justinian Jessup on his way to 13 points.

Antonius Cleveland then produced a spectacular 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks but overall it was a game where former NBA big man and Tokyo Olympian Reath was the standout.

Showing a strong inside-outside game and energy on the glass, he finished the night with 27 points and seven rebounds on the back of 12/17 shooting from the floor and 3/4 from deep.

Tyler Harvey also had 13 points and three steals for the Hawks, Sam Froling nine points and 11 rebounds, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes eight points, three boards, three assists and two steals.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian was delighted with the grit shown by his team to answer every Kings' challenge.

"I'm very happy with that. There was a lot coming into this game but it's about playing it and on their court with that arch-rivalry, it was a really important game for both teams," Goorjian said.

"I'm really happy to get that win. On the basketball side of this and take all that other stuff out, they are a well coached, very talented team and any time you win this game it's a good feeling."

Xavier Cooks finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for Sydney while Jarell Martin contributed 13 points and seven boards, Shaun Bruce 12 points and five assists, and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk 11 points and five rebounds.

Kings coach Chase Buford couldn’t fault the fight of his group but giving up some key offensive boards and late turnovers proved fatal.

No one cares about our excuses and who we have or who we don't, we have to come out and compete and win. We gave ourselves a chance for most of the night," Buford said. 

"I look at the points off turnovers and we got outscored by 19, and we gave them some easy points at the end of the game. If we just handle some of our own stuff a little bit better we probably have a chance to win. 

"I am proud of the fight and I thought Swaka gave us some tremendous minutes as a starter, Brucey was pretty solid most of the night and there was a lot of pleasing efforts out there."

Justinian Jessup and Angus Glover started off the contest going shot for shot with the two shooting guards knocking down two three-pointers apiece in the opening minutes. The Hawks made the first break to lead 8-2 after Jessup's two threes, but the two from Glover tightened things up.

The hot shooting from both teams continued with Duop Reath hitting a three for Illawarra before Xavier Rathan-Mayes hit the floor to knock down two quick bombs.

Jessup hit a third for the quarter with the Hawks going 6/11 from downtown but the Kings were matching them with threes of their own from Biwali Bayles and Tom Vodanovich on the way to a 25-24 lead thanks to a dominant rebounding effort.

The hot shooting dried up in the second quarter but with Glover continuing to shine with 10 first half points, the Kings got out to a 36-32 edge before a Brian Goorjian timeout. 

From that, the Hawks hit the next eight points and would go on to lead 46-43 at the half on the back of Duop Reath's 13 points. That was despite a dominant Sydney rebounding half with 28 boards to 18, and eight at the offensive end to three. But going 0/6 from deep hurt the Kings in the second term.

The Hawks threatened to open up a handy lead in the early stages of the third term but the Kings kept hanging around with a couple of three-pointers to injury replacement Wani Swaka Lo Buluk.

However, led by Reath, the Hawks closed the third quarter on a 10-2 run to head into the fourth period leading 67-60.

Tyler Harvey hit a three to stretch the Hawks lead to eight to start the fourth term, and every time the Kings would fight back Illawarra had the answers. Firstly it was a three and then clever finish from Antonius Cleveland.

In the end, it was Reath who iced the win for the Hawks when he knocked down a three ball with 1:30 left to secure the eventual six-point even though there was a bit of late heat with a scuffle between Sam Froling and Glover.

The Kings are next up on Thursday night away to Melbourne United before the Hawks host the New Zealand Breakers on Friday for their first home game of #NBL22.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 2

SYDNEY KINGS 84 (Glover 16, Cooks 14, Martin 13)

ILLAWARRA HAWKS 92 (Reath 27, Cleveland 19, Jessup 13, Harvey 13) 

BOX SCORE

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