Touted as a David vs Goliath battle, the first-place Sydney Kings have escaped with a one-point win against inter-state rivals and last-place Illawarra Hawks.
In front of a near-sellout crowd at Qudos Bank Arena, the Sydney Kings waited until the final seconds to put the game to bed. Down by two points with 2.1 seconds left on the clock, Angus Glover stood at the baseline waiting to inbound the ball.
Glover found veteran Shaun Bruce in the right corner, ready to receive the ball. Having shot 40 per cent from the field, his shot could have gone either way. The loud crowd went dead silent as the home fans waited in anticipation to see if the ball went in.
With the game in the palms of his hand, Bruce showed he had ice in his veins. Just like teammate Kouat Noi did a few weeks ago against the Taipans, he nailed the game-winner from behind the arc. Thus, earning the Kings a hard-fought one-point win.
“It felt pretty good, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes they feel good and sometimes they don’t,” Bruce said post-match about the ball leaving his hands.
“The basketball gods are with me today.”
Continuing their trend of winning close games, the game should never have gone down to the wire. Having a lead of 13 points at one point, the winners illustrated flawless passing throughout the game.
Guards Derrick Walton Jr and Bruce threw dimes in every direction managing to find the open man.
However, despite their good passing they lacked from three-point range. The Kings ended the game shooting eight from 33 at 24 per cent from beyond the arc, allowing the Hawks to stay in the game.
“They outplayed us, they out-competed us, they played with more of an edge. I think every time they score a basket, we were shocked that they could score. It was just really poor on our part,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.
“Certainly not our best game of basketball and one that I don’t think the better team won.”
Coming into the game as heavy underdogs, the last-place Illawarra Hawks were keen to cause an upset. After getting off to a quick start in the opening quarter, they came back into the game in the second half.
In a special, last quarter performance, they regained control of the lead with five minutes to go. However, they couldn’t hold on to it losing in the final seconds. This loss makes it eight straight losses this season.
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Even though they lost, coach Jacob Jackomas is happy with their resilience in the game.
“They’re the defending champions, so that’s a pretty good effort,” Hawks coach Jacob Jackomas said.
“It’s not time to kick guys, these guys have good resilience as you can see with what’s going on with them.”
American Tyler Harvey led the game with 32 points in a stand-out performance, while Sam Froling backed him up by putting up 17. But, they lacked the star power, which the Kings and other teams have with their three imports. Due to George King’s injury, the Hawks are looking for new options to replace him.
The Sydney Kings will come up against the Cairns Taipans next Monday. Having won and lost against them this season, the game is ensured to be a memorable one. Aiming for their second win of the season, the Illawarra Hawks will come face to face against the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
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