NBL 2014/15 Round 18: Impressive Hawks end Melbourne’s sputtering season

Wollongong has all-but ended Melbourne’s up-and-down season by delivering a crushing blow in the form of an 82-76 win in their NBL clash.

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The Hawks withstood a late fight-back from an otherwise disappointing Melbourne outfit to post their second win against United in as many weeks, with Melbourne now having lost their past three games – all to the league’s bottom two sides.

The home side started better and had the fans on their feet midway through the first as they jumped to an 18-11 lead.

The Hawks hit back, however, and went into the first break just three points down as former league MVP Gary Ervin began to warm to the contest.

The second term was a non-contest, however, with the visitors keeping Melbourne to just a single field goal for the entire term as they skipped out to a nine-point halftime advantage thanks to a devastating 18-6 quarter.

With their season on the line, Melbourne came out firing in the third, nailing consecutive triples thanks to Jordan McRae and David Barlow, cutting the margin to five.

A Rhys Martin triple on the very next possession put a dampener on things and the home side’s energy disappeared once more, with a couple of second chance buckets the only thing keeping them in touch.

A contentious Luke Nevill turnaround jumper, ruled to have beaten the buzzer, gave the Hawks a healthy 12-point lead at three-quarter time as United’s season hung in the balance.

The fight that everyone had been looking for finally came out of the home side in the final term, with Melbourne ramping up the defensive pressure and starting to attack the rim with ferocity going the other way.

The margin became seven on a couple of McRae free-throws, but as they had done so all night the Hawks continued to answer, hitting tough shots at the end of the shot clock, including an Oscar Forman bomb from deep that was almost simultaneous with the buzzer, to keep United at bay.

Tensions began to rise between Larry Davidson and Daniel Kickert as the clock wound down, but despite all their effort the home side couldn’t seem to get closer than six-points, with veterans Davidson, Ervin and Martin coming up with big plays at crucial times.

With under 40 seconds remaining and trailing by six, Melbourne’s season slipped through Stephen Dennis’ hands as the American fumbled the basketball out of court whilst wide open under the hoop, ending any hope of a miraculous comeback.

Martin led the Hawks to victory with 19 points on six-of-nine shooting from the floor and icing the game at the line late in the piece, while Davidson (16 points, 7-10 FG) was also impressive. McRae, predictably, led Melbourne with 19 points, seven boards and five assists.

Melbourne now faces a trip to north Queensland to tackle Cairns and Townsville in a Sunshine Swing, needing to win all four of their remaining games to be any chance at all of making the playoffs, while Wollongong will travel to Sydney to tackle the Kings in a clash with nothing but pride riding on it.

Melbourne 76 (McRae 19, Kickert 13, Tomlinson 12)

Wollongong 82 (Martin 19, Davidson 16, Carson 11)

@ Margaret Court Arena