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SF1 Report: Wildcats overpower Lisch-less Hawks

Just two days after winning the NBL's MVP Award, Kevin Lisch injured his ankle as the Perth Wildcats overpowered his Illawarra Hawks to an 80-68 Game 1 Semi-Final victory at Perth Arena on Friday night. The match up of two-time MVP Lisch up against his old teammate and five-time Defensive Player of the Year Damian Martin was one of the most sought after aspects coming into the Swisse NBL Finals Series. And the stories of Lisch and Martin in Game 1 told the fortunes of their teams. Lisch went down heavily on his left ankle late in the first quarter and did not return, only coming back to the team's bench in the second half in a moon boot on crutches. Contrasting that, Martin was unstoppable and at his defensive best. He started the game guarding Lisch and finished defending another former MVP Kirk Penney and was a critical factor in celebrating the win in his 200th appearance for the Wildcats. Martin finished with nine points, six assists and four steals but it was much more than his numbers that told the story of his impact in the 12-point victory. It was mixed emotions for Martin who enjoyed his pivotal role in the win in his 200th club game, but he couldn’t help but feel for his 2010 Championship teammate Lisch. "If Kev is ruled out for Sunday, we can't take our foot off the pedal because they are still a very dangerous team," Martin said. "He is a fantastic competitor and this will break his heart if he has to miss Game 2 and if there is a Game 3. I genuinely mean that I hope he is out there on Sunday. "You don’t want to win any series because someone's gone down and hopefully he is out there. But if it is bad, all the best to him because he is the MVP and a great guy on and off the court, and a friend." The Hawks did start well with Penney hitting nine first quarter points and they went up 29-23 midway through the second period on the back of three straight threes from Tim Coenraad. But by half-time Perth led 39-36 and then with successive threes to start the second half to Casey Prather and Jermaine Beal, they began to pull away. Illawarra refused to give it up but with Martin's defence and some solid contributors up the other end the Wildcats remained on top leaving the Hawks needing to win at WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday to force a Game 3 back in Perth next Friday. Prather top-scored for the Wildcats with 19 points with Beal hitting 5-of-8 from three-point range for 18 points. Tom Jervis stood up again inside for 14 points and eight rebounds with Matt Knight scoring nine points to go with six boards. Coenraad stepped up for the Hawks with 23 points on the back of 5-of-7 from three-point range. Penney finished with 17 points and AJ Ogilvy 14 to go with 11 rebounds. But with Lisch unlikely for Sunday, more Illawarra players will need to stand up. Hawks coach Rob Beveridge couldn’t fault the effort of his team after Lisch went down and hopes for a bit of luck for Sunday. "He's the MVP of the league and we're playing Perth in Perth and you lose your MVP," Beveridge said. "I'm proud of the boys for fighting as much as they can but all that meant was that it allowed Damo to tag the crap out of Penney. And he did a hell of a job. "It's really hard to tag both Lisch and Penney at the same time and that's why we've been so good, but every time we play the Wildcats for some reason we don’t have our full group." Game 2 takes place on Sunday at WIN Entertainment Centre with tip-off at 3pm AEDT. PERTH WILDCATS 80 (Prather 19, Beal 18, Jervis 14) ILLAWARRA HAWKS 68 (Coenraad 23, Penney 17, Ogilvy 14) BOX SCORE
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