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Hawks beat Sixers to reach NBL grand final

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/02/2017 Steve Barrett

Illawarra Hawks star Rotnei Clarke. © AAP Image/Tony McDonough Illawarra Hawks star Rotnei Clarke. The Illawarra Hawks have survived a late scare to book their first NBL grand final in seven years after defeating the Adelaide 36ers 106-98 in Thursday night's semi-final decider.

Comfortably ahead by 21 points midway through the last quarter, the Hawks had their lead whittled to just five points, as the Sixers produced a remarkable 19-3 run in three-and-a-half minutes.

Rotnei Clarke (20 points) buried the regular-season champions with a huge three-pointer - his fourth - and an amazing long pass to Rhys Martin for another three.

Jerome Randle (26 points) played his heart out and, supported by Nathan Sobey (22), shook off a lacklustre first half to instigate the valiant fightback.

After a hesitant start, the Hawks found their groove from the perimeter, knocking down five three-pointers in the opening term.

Experienced guard Martin came off the bench and sparked an 11-0 burst that propelled Illawarra to a 27-18 quarter-time buffer, which the Hawks built on in the second, largely through Americans Marvelle Harris and Clarke.

Randle nailed a three-pointer on the halftime buzzer to cut the margin to 56-42 at the long break and the Sixers carried that momentum into the third stanza, closing to within six points on a Sobey trey.

Adelaide hit a hurdle when Anthony Drmic was thrown out of the game after his second technical foul for flopping and Illawarra pounced, moving ahead 82-64 at three-quarter-time.

The difference swelled to 95-74 before the 36ers mounted their gutsy comeback that fell short, the Sixers closing the season disappointingly, with six defeats from seven matches, unable to recapture their mid-season magic.

Meanwhile, the only sour point for grand-final bound Illawarra was a left foot injury to centre AJ Ogilvy, who hobbled off in the second quarter.

Game one of the grand final series is on Sunday at the Perth Arena.

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