Hawks win NBL Top End Challenge

Hawks win NBL Top End Challenge

The Wollongong Hawks have stunned the National Basketball League by taking out the Top End Challenge pre-season tournament in Darwin with a tough 94-88 win over the more fancied New Zealand Breakers.

The Hawks came into the tournament as rank underdogs, but on the back of yet another great performance from big man Cameron Tragardh held off a fast charging Breakers’ team to finish the tournament undefeated and win the title.

Scintillating Hawks import Tywain McKee added 21 points and was instrumental in closing out the win.  

Both McKee and Tragardh were named to the All-Tournament Team, along with New Zealand’s Kirk Penney, Townsville’s Corey Williams and Gold Coast’s James Harvey.

The Hawks used a 28-21 advantage in the third quarter to set-up the win but, despite being 16 points down early in the final period, the Breakers mounted a furious comeback in the closing minutes to close the gap to one with a minute and a half to go.

The Breakers closed to within four, 89-85, on a crafty Penney two in the paint and it was Penney again nailing an open three from the right wing to draw New Zealand within a single point, 98-88, with 1:34 left in the game.

Tragardh earned a pair of free throws on the next trip down the floor and made one-of-two to improve the Hawks’ lead 90-88 with 1:16 left. 

Breakers’ import Awvee Storey travelled on the next possession however robbing his team of the chance to tie or take the lead.

A Saville miscue on a pass at the other end led to a turnover, giving New Zealand the ball back with 41.5 seconds left on the clock and the Hawks clinging to a two-point lead, 90-88.

Abercrombie then slipped with 28.5 seconds leading to another travel, giving the Hawks possession once more.  Dillon Boucher was subsequently called for a foul on McKee at the mid-court with 21.2 seconds left and McKee drained both to extend his team’s buffer to four points, 92-88.

Corey Webster missed a tough lay-up at the other end and McKee was fouled again with 11.4 on the clock and the Hawks in the bonus.  He made no mistake, sinking both and then stole the in-bounds pass and dribbled out the clock.

In other games from Saturday night, the Gold Coast Blaze has made a thrilling late rally to pull off an improbable 85-84 win over the Townsville Crocodiles, the Melbourne Tigers have narrowly defeated the Perth Wildcats 84-79, and the Cairns Taipans have downed an undermanned Adelaide 36ers side, 82-72.

Full match reports, boxscores and the tournament schedule can be accessed on www.nbl.com.au.