Hawks coach Rob Beveridge refuses to give up on an NBL finals tilt despite falling for the second time in 72 hours to the red-hot Adelaide 36ers on Sunday afternoon.
Two days after being hammered by 22 points in South Australia, Illawarra were on the wrong end of a stunning 112-93 defeat at WIN Entertainment Centre.
The loss sees Illawarra fall to 9-12 on the season.
They must now take the points in every one of their last seven games to have a realistic hope of making this year’s finals. “Mathematically we are still in this,” Beveridge said. “It is really hard to try and sell that but right now it is achievable.
“It is an extremely difficult challenge. We are not kidding ourselves but I love this group of players. I believe in them.”
American guard Shannon Shorter led the charge for Adelaide with 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Skipper Mitch Creek (21 points, seven rebounds, five assists) and former NBA gun Josh Childress (20 points) also played prominent roles in a sensational road performance. MVP hopeful Demitrius Conger had a game-high 31 points for Illawarra, but also had seven turnovers in the loss. Star guard Rotnei Clarke shot 3/22 from the field, including missing all 12 attempts from downtown.
It was evident that Adelaide had lost no momentum from Friday’s convincing win early on as they burst out of the blocks.
The Sixers hit an astounding 15 of 19 (79%) in the opening period as Shorter racked up 11 points in quick time. Illawarra's only lead in the match came when skipper Kevin White drained his second three to put the hosts 19-16 in front. It was a short-lived advantage as Adelaide stormed into the first break 39-30 to the good.
Live-wire Nathan Sobey hit a lay up with the visitors first possession after the break.
Creek continued to chip away inside to guide Adelaide to a 17-point advantage at the main change.
Illawarra returned from the break with renewed vigour. They went on a 14-2 run to start the second half which was capped off by a tough move inside by guard Rhys Martin. Conger drilled a clutch three to margin to single digits.
It was an 11-point deficit at the final break. That would be as close as they’d come.
Sixers coach Joey Wright credited his side’s defence after the triumph.
“I thought we did a great job of getting down and defending and making them take tough shots,” he said.