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Hawks overcome 36ers by three in NBL

NZN 28/01/2017 Tim Keeble

The Illawarra Hawks have come from behind to upstage the high-flying Adelaide 36ers 95-92 in a fiery Saturday night NBL thriller in Wollongong.American guard Rotnei Clarke posted a game-high 25 points off the bench for the Hawks, who trailed by nine in the third period before storming home to claim their 13th win of the season and remain in second spot.Adelaide's loss is just their second in the past 16 games and they are assured of finishing on top of the ladder.Marvelle Harris finished with 14 points for the Hawks and Rhys Martin added 12.Daniel Johnson tallied a team-high 22 for the Sixers, while Nathan Sobey had 16.Illawarra jumped to a 6-0 lead before the Sixers responded with 11 unanswered points.Sobey and back-up forward Eric Jacobsen combined for 15 points, as Adelaide patiently carved out a 29-25 quarter-time lead.Adelaide coach Joey Wright's arguing match with referee Brad Giersch in the opening moments of the second period earned him a technical foul, allowing the Hawks to tie the game at 31-31.But the visitors quickly broke the deadlock, keeping Illawarra at arm's length over the closing minutes and taking a 49-44 lead into halftime.Adelaide had three players in double figures, led by Johnson's 13, while Harris had 13 for the Hawks.The Sixers stretched the margin to nine but the Hawks replied with a 10-0 run, taking a 71-70 lead into the final quarter.They led by as many as 10 and had to withstand a late surge by the Sixers down the stretch.The Hawks host the Cairns Taipans on Friday and wrap up round 18 with a road game on Monday week against Melbourne United.Minor premiers Adelaide's only round-18 game is next Saturday's home meeting with the New Zealand Breakers.

Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge said they just played the best team in the country and to beat them is special.

"It's an outstanding win for the club. We lost two last week and, if we'd lost tonight, we would've been on a slide.

"Tonight, we showed we can compete with the best team in the league and beat them.

"Every single team in the league wanted us to lose tonight. Our backs were against the wall so it's really pleasing to put in such a gritty performance," Beveridge said.

"That doesn't put us in the playoffs, and we certainly won't make it if we have the attitude we're already there, but what that win does for us tonight is keep us in the fight.

Adelaide coach Joey Wright said it was a physical game.

"If the playoffs are going to be played like that, we'll probably have to make some adjustments as a team.

"The zone slowed us a bit and our defence broke down in the second half. We gave them too many open looks and they executed."

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