Led by the cool brilliance of Rhys Martin, the Wollongong Hawks recorded a stunning 78-75 comeback NBL victory over the Perth Wildcats at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Friday.
The Hawks fought back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit and held on from the free-throw line as Kevin Lisch tried desperately to salvage the result in the final minutes.
Martin (16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) scored 10 second-half points including a crucial steal-and-basket, scintillating drive and two clutch free throws to deny the Wildcats.
The Hawks also found a much-needed boost from rookie Auryn MacMillan, who made the most of his increased minutes with 12 points, four rebounds and two steals.
Lance Hurdle had 10 of his team-high 18 points in the final quarter as the Hawks incredibly maintained their unbeaten run at home (5-0).
Lisch finished with 17 points, Shawn Redhage 15 and Michael Dunigan powered in 12 points and 16 boards as Perth's five-game winning streak was snapped.
After a free-flowing start featuring eight lead changes, Jesse Wagstaff gave the Wildcats a six-point buffer with consecutive three-pointers.
Perth claimed the opening quarter 22-18 as Dunigan made his presence felt in the middle by sending MacMillan's first inside attempt into the stands.
Dunigan and Lisch then pushed the Cats up by eight in the second stanza before tensions flared between Glen Saville and Shawn Redhage, resulting in a technical foul against the Hawks veteran.
Redhage maintained his intensity following the scuffle, adding four points, while a pair of late threes by Greg Hire (13 points, 7 rebounds) stretched the visitors' advantage to 42-28 at the half.
MacMillan ignited the crowd in the third quarter, his gritty work in the paint producing six points in a flurry including the go-ahead basket that capped a 17-2 run.
Hurdle and Lisch then displayed some crafty shot-making as the import guards went toe-to-toe in the final term.
Perth had their noses in front for the initial five minutes, but MacMillan once again produced the final go-ahead basket at 63-62 on a slick pick-and-roll with Rhys Martin and the Hawks never looked back.
How do you expect the Breakers to perform in this season's Australian NBL?Related story: (See story)