Hawks start NBL road trip on winning note

Fraser Barton |

Illawarra are back in the NBL winner’s circle with a 94-75 win over Cairns behind a dominant performance by Tyler Harvey.

The visitors, in their first of a three-game road trip, stifled impressive runs by the Taipans throughout the contest before blowing them out of the Cairns Entertainment Centre in the final minutes.

Facing a five-point deficit with five minutes remaining, the home side lost their sting when Tahjere McCall fouled out, before Antonious Cleveland’s dunk-of-the-year contender silenced the snakepit.

Harvey then took the reins hitting his patented step back jumper to extend their lead to 13 before the final scoreline ballooned out to 19 at the end of regulation.

All five of Brian Goorjian’s starters finished in double figures with Harvey leading with his 24 points, 4-8 from deep and a plus-minus of 26.

Sam Froling had another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Justinian Jessup missed only one shot on his way to 17 points and 10 boards.

Hawks coach Brian Goorjian said wins are never easy in Queensland’s far north and that’s a testament to the culture Adam Forde has brought to the Taipans.

“I’m really happy for us, we played better we moved the ball better, we rebounded better and not only did we win, but I thought we played well,” Goorjian said.

“But walking away from the game you gotta tip your hat to Cairns and coach Forde; a young coach with a lot under his belt, a lot of work to get to this point and what a great job he’s done.

“I fear for the back half (of the season) when they get all those pieces back.”

Goorjian’s side staved off heavy pressure from Taipans star McCall who found his way aggressively to the rim, shooting 11 free throws on the night and finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 

Still missing point guard Scott Machado to a heel injury, Forde made no excuses for the loss but said he could pinpoint his club’s issues.

“The break hasn’t been good for us,” Forde said.

“And you know, there’s things that we need to address – performance based, mentally, the break hasn’t been good, and we have regressed.

“You test your character right in the foundation we’re trying to build.

“This is where you see what your worth is now when you’ve lost again at home.

“So, it’s going to be an interesting week.”