NBL 2014/15 Round 20: Sixers secure third spot with tenth straight win

The Adelaide 36ers have booked a Semi-Final series with New Zealand after they recorded a 105-85 victory over the Wollongong Hawks. The win was Adelaide’s tenth straight and their 4-0 record against the Hawks this season was the first time they have swept the series in over a decade.

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Although the Sixers had a lead for most of the game, Wollongong continually nipped at their heels as their admittedly less talented roster showed the fight they have displayed all season. Mid-way through the third term, Mitch Creek looked to have sewn the match up with a steal and fast break dunk that extended the margin to 22 points.

However, a concerted effort from Tyson Demos at the defensive end brought the intensity back into Wollongong’s game. His quick hands and harassing defence allowed his side to get easier looks offensively and they nailed 5-7 from deep for the quarter. Rhys Martin had the hot hand, scoring 11 of his 14 points in the term as Adelaide pulled the margin back to 13 at the final change.

The comeback was short lived though, with a 13-0 Adelaide run to start the fourth quarter finally putting the hosts away. The victory was capped off by a late Luke Schenscher three, the centre’s first of the season.

Playing an up-tempo style of play for much of the game, Adelaide looked comfortable from the opening tip even while resting Brock Motum. They pushed the pace off defensive rebounds and revelled in the open court, grabbing a 16 point advantage by quarter-time on the back of a 14-0 run.

In his final game of an illustrious career, Adam Ballinger provided the only early highlights for the Hawks, scoring their first 5 points of the game.

In an attempt to slow the pace, Wollongong moved into a full court press in the second period but the Sixers response was to follow suit defensively. This meant the floor was wide open and the crowd was treated to successive dunks from Anthony Petrie, Luke Nevill at the other end and Creek on a follow tip-jam.

The ploy seemed to work momentarily for the home side but it was indicative of a game in which every one of their moves or runs was answered swiftly by the Sixers as they took a 21 point lead into the main break.

Wollongong were not short of incentives to win the match as Ballinger (9 points, 5 rebounds) finished his 300+ game career and Brad Hill (11 and 4 assists) played his 250th game. Joining Hill in double figures, the Hawks import pairing of Gary Ervin and Jahii Carson combined for 24 points but as a team, they were unable to overcome Adelaide’s 56 points in the paint and 20 points off 17 turnovers.

Without Motum, the Sixers still had six players reach double figures while all five starters scored 11+. Creek’s 21 on 8-11 shooting was a career high while Jamar Wilson led all scorers with 23. Daniel Johnson recorded a double-double of 11 and 12 boards while Petrie (13 and 8), Adam Gibson (16 and 6 assists) and Schenscher (11 points) all impressed.

Adelaide are certainly the in-form team of the competition and although they will head to New Zealand without home-court advantage, their ten game win streak is a concern for any side that faces them at the moment.

Wollongong Hawks 85 (Martin 14, Carson 13, Ervin 11)

Adelaide 36ers 105 (Wilson 23, Creek 21, Gibson 16)

@ WIN Entertainment Centre