Sixers climb off bottom, hand Hawks third straight loss

Chris Pike |

Trey Kell top-scored with 26 points for the Adelaide 36ers in their NBL victory over the Hawks.
Trey Kell top-scored with 26 points for the Adelaide 36ers in their NBL victory over the Hawks.

The rejuvenation of the Adelaide 36ers under Scott Ninnis has continued, with consecutive road wins getting them off the bottom of the NBL ladder after a 96-89 victory against the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong.

Coming into the round, the 36ers had improved since Ninnis replaced CJ Bruton as coach, but they had yet to win on the road.

They changed that on Wednesday, beating the South East Melbourne Phoenix by 25 points in Melbourne, before heading to the WIN Entertainment Centre to play the Hawks on Saturday.

The Sixers shot out of the blocks, scoring the first nine points, with Isaac Humphries (18 points, 10 rebounds) leading the charge as he continued his career-best form in the league’s Pride Round.

Adelaide led 15-6 early, and while it was a tight contest most of the way, the 36ers did hold a slender advantage for a lot of the evening.

The dying minutes weren’t without drama. When Adelaide were leading by six, Hyunjung Lee was denied a lay-up that was deemed to be blocked clean by Kyrin Galloway.

Lee still had his career-best night in the NBL with 24 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting, but when that goal-tend was missed, Adelaide closed things out at the foul line through Trey Kell (26 points, 10-of-14 free-throws) and DJ Vasiljevic (14 points, 5-of-5).

The Sixers improve to 9-14 and condemn the Phoenix to bottom spot, as they keep alive their faint hopes of reaching the top six with five games remaining.

Galloway stepped up again in the absence of Jacob Wiley with 13 points and six rebounds, with Nick Marshall adding 12 points, and Alex Starling eight points and five boards.

“It’s really exciting,” Ninnis said.

“We’ve been so poor on the road this year so to come around with two wins this week, especially against a team that’s been playing so well over the last couple of months on their home court, it’s outstanding and I could not be prouder about these guys.”

It was the third straight loss for Illawarra, who slip to a 9-12 record to be back to eighth position.

Tyler Harvey had 20 points for the Hawks, but his back-court partner Justin Robinson had another horror night with zero points, missing all six field-goal attempts.

Gary Clark’s sore knee allowed him to play only 18 minutes for two points, after 36 points in Thursday’s loss to Cairns.

Sam Froling had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Hawks.

“It felt like there was a lid on the basket for us but I think we passed up great shots and the shots they were taking were good,” coach Justin Tatum said.

“That’s how it rolls sometimes and we just have to find a way to play more unselfish basketball to give ourselves a better opportunity to make baskets.”