Hawks coach Rob Beveridge says he was always confident Illawarra would rebound from their early season slumber and put themselves back into the NBL championship fight.
Illawarra started the season with a dismal 1-5 record but have since won three straight road games to move within touching distance of the top-four again.
Their latest victory came in a superb come-from-behind 96-87 victory over last season’s minor premiers Adelaide 36ers at Titanium Security Arena on Saturday night.
The Hawks had beaten Brisbane Bullets and Sydney Kings seven days earlier before coming back from nine points down at the final break to seal an epic win away from home.
Beveridge gave all the credit to his troops after the stellar victory which put Illawarra back in the finals fray.
"We have the toughest schedule in the league to start the season so it is difficult but right from day one it was about recruiting the right people with the right attitude," he said.
"The character [of the guys] when things get tough we hang around. We stay together and that showed [on Saturday]. We hung around like a bad smell.
"We were just there. We weren't executing properly and made some turnovers but it was just an incredible performance in that final quarter in particular."
Illawarra only led early in the first quarter against the 36ers before staying in touching distance for most of the second stanza.
Adelaide led 72-63 at three quarter time and looked to have the match at their mercy in front of their parochial home fans.
But Clarke hit back-to-back threes after the final change to put the Hawks back in the match.
Conger drained another treble to put Illawarra in the lead and they never relinquished the advantage from that moment on.
"I have so much faith in the group," Beveridge said.
"Sometimes we have to pump these guys up and get them to believe in themselves a little more.
"I just think we internalise ourselves at times. When things get tough we look within rather than saying hey lets flick this off the shoulder and get in a have a crack.”
The result helped Illawarra continue their recent dominance over the 36ers which saw them knock Adelaide out of last season’s finals.
“Every single time we play them it is going to be great,” Beveridge said.
“Joey [Wright] and I have enormous respect for each other. We are both competitors. We both wants to kick each others arse.
"It is not about beating Adelaide, it is about us staying together under adversity and tough times. We see light at the end of the tunnel.”
The victory moves Illawarra to 4-5 for the season with another double header looming next weekend. The Hawks play Sydney Kings on Thursday before travelling to Cairns to meet the Taipans on Saturday night.