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Clarke inspires Hawks to surge past NZ

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/11/2016
Rotnei Clarke of the Hawks lays up a shot during the round seven NBL match between the Illawarra Hawks and the New Zealand Breakers at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on November 20, 2016 in Wollongong, Australia. © Mark Kolbe/Getty Images Rotnei Clarke of the Hawks lays up a shot during the round seven NBL match between the Illawarra Hawks and the New Zealand Breakers at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on November 20, 2016 in Wollongong, Australia.

American guard Rotnei Clarke shrugged off a surprise benching to spark the Illawarra Hawks to Sunday's crushing 109-78 victory over the New Zealand Breakers at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The NBL's MVP in 2014, Clarke had one of his best games of the season, scoring a game-high 22 points off the bench in his team's fifth win.

Illawarra had six players in double figures as they avenged Friday night's 15-point loss to the Breakers in Auckland.

The Hawks overcame a nervous start and the loss of star import Marvelle Harris (ankle) after four minutes to be up 26-20 at quarter-time, with live-wire guard Mitch Norton scoring eight points.

Clarke had four points before pouring in 11 in the second quarter, as Illawarra surged to a 56-44 halftime lead.

The Hawks showed no signs of slowing down in the second half, sharing the workload at both ends of the court and stretching the margin to 19 at three-quarter time.

Illawarra were never threatened down the stretch and boosted their win-loss record to 5-6.

The Breakers are on the road against the Cairns Taipans next Sunday, while Illawarra have a Sunday away game against injury-plagued titleholders Perth.

"The Hawks came out and played with a lot of courage and heart and unfortunately we didn't match that," Breakers coach Paul Henare said.

"This has been our third double header in three weeks and now we get a couple of days to regroup and prepare for next Sunday's game in Cairns.

"Breakers swingman Kirk Penney conceded it was a good wake-up call for the Breakers.

"That was a good kick in the butt for us," he said. For Hawks coach Rob Beveridge, it was solid defence that really drove his side, particularly after the loss of Harris.

"I'm hoping that game and that performance will be a turning point for us in our season," he said.

"Marvelle will get treatment from our medical staff this week and I expect he'll be a good chance of playing next Sunday."

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