By Steve Barrett, Pagemasters
The Wollongong Hawks honoured recently retired club great Glen Saville with a drought-busting 86-78 victory over the struggling Adelaide 36ers at Adelaide Arena on Friday night.
Behind 21 points and four three-pointers from exciting import Malcolm Grant, the Hawks produced a performance the 563-game veteran Saville would have been proud of to snap a seven-game losing skid and maintain their tenuous grip on fourth spot.
Ex-36er Oscar Forman blasted 18 points including three triples for the visitors, while centre Larry Davidson dominated inside with 14 points and 10 boards.
"Fantastic, especially after the last month for us which has been horrendous," said Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod.
"We laid the platform in the first two quarters. These guys have copped a fair few kicks in the guts. That's a huge win for us."
An ecstatic McLeod paid a warm tribute to Saville.
"You can tell in Sav's voice how much he loves the game," McLeod said.
"There's no-one in our team who worked harder than Glen Saville. He's one of the best post-up perimeter guys in the league.
"His legacy with our club, the national league and the junior team I was involved with will speak for itself."
Forward Tim Coenraad, who had 11 points and six boards, expressed his true admiration for Saville after his mentor's retirement.
"It's safe to say now that he's retired, he was my favourite player growing up," Coenraad revealed.
"I wasn't going to tell him that before he retired. You can't replace Glen Saville - I don't think anyone else can be Sav.
"There was definitely a bit of emotion for us."
The final margin flattered the bottom-of-the-table Sixers, who blasted 17 points in the last two minutes.
Daniel Johnson top-scored for Adelaide with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Stephen Weigh scored 14 before hobbling off the court inside the final 90 seconds after sustaining a right leg injury.
The Hawks started with a 9-2 bang before fading late in the opening term to lead 18-17 at the break.
Adam Gibson laid out rival point man Adris Deleon with a perfectly-executed hip-and-shoulder which, along with an aggressive Weigh baseline dunk, seemed to spark the home side on a 9-0 run late in the stanza.
As is their style, Wollongong set up camp from the perimeter and took complete charge late in the second period, uncorking a 14-1 burst to hold sway handsomely at half-time, 40-27.
It looked uglier still for the home side after the main interval as the Hawks continued to land killer long-range missiles. With Forman and a red-hot Grant firing away at will from outside, Wollongong opened up a 52-34 buffer.
Anthony Petrie - scoreless at half-time with an air-ball and a near air-ball late in the second - notched eight third-quarter points and Nathan Crosswell provided an offensive spark as Adelaide pegged the gap back to 63-55 at three-quarter-time.
But having finally wrestled back some momentum the Sixers rolled over in the fourth.
Adris Deleon was well held for much of the night but produced a magic solo effort late in the piece. Shaking and baking and twice almost losing the handle, Deleon nailed an off-balance, shot clock-beating triple from the car park, which he celebrated by showing three fingers to the deflated crowd.
The gap widened to 20 before a late Adelaide run in junk time reduced the margin significantly, but the result never in doubt.
"They shoot the ball well - that's always the key to Wollongong," Adelaide coach Marty Clarke said.
"There was a patch in the second where they made a couple of threes and we became very anxious at both ends of the floor.
"We didn't execute the fundamentals of the game well enough."
Wollongong Hawks 86 (Grant 21, Forman 18, Davidson 14)
Adelaide 36ers 78 (Johnson 21, Weigh 14)
Crowd: 3628 at Adelaide Arena