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Hawks force NBL 36ers semi-final decider

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/02/2017 Tim Keeble

Illawarra Hawks kept their NBL championship hopes alive with a nail-biting 100-94 win over the Adelaide 36ers in game two of their semi-final series on Sunday at WIN Entertainment Centre.Beaten 93-78 by the 36ers in game one on Thursday in Adelaide, the Hawks held their nerve in a high-pressure final quarter on Sunday to force the series to a deciding third game next Thursday back on Adelaide's home court.Guard Mitch Norton rose to the occasion with a season-high 17 points and forward Tim Coenraad had 17 in a strong performance off the bench.Adelaide frontcourt duo Daniel Johnson and Eric Jacobsen combined for 29 points, while recently-crowned NBL MVP Jerome Randle scored a game-high 20 points for the Sixers but made just 8-22 shots and had five turnovers.The Hawks led by five at half-time and took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.Earlier, Illawarra charged to an 7-2 lead before the minor premiers responded with nine unanswered points.The Hawks got a timely lift from Coenraad off the bench and surged to a 28-22 quarter-time lead.Hawks guard Kevin White and Randle were warned after becoming entangled early in the second period, as the home team stretched the margin to 12.Illawarra connected on nine of their first 12 shots in the quarter, but the Sixers stayed in the hunt, drawing to within five at half-time.Coenraad and centre AJ Ogilvy combined for 20 points and 14 rebounds in the first half, while Randle was held to eight on three-from-seven shooting and had five turnovers.Randle clicked into gear with 10 points in the third period, as Adelaide regained the lead for the first time since the opening quarter.Rotnei Clarke drove in for a layup on the buzzer to put the Hawks up 79-78 at three-quarter time.The intensity peaked in the final quarter and the lead changed hands throughout, but Illawarra did enough to seal a thrilling victory and send the series to a deciding third game.

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