By Asa Schuster, Pagemasters
The Wollongong Hawks secured third place and a trip to the playoffs behind a spirited 74-64 victory over the Adelaide 36ers at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Saturday.
On the night the club paid tribute to their greatest player Glen Saville, the Hawks finished the regular season on a high and booked a semi-final date with the Perth Wildcats.
Larry Davidson powered his way to a double-double at half-time to lead the Hawks, finishing with a haul of 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Adris Deleon was sensational in support with seven of his 23 points coming in the fourth.
The retired Saville was called out as the last player during the lineups, he was greeted by a guard of honour on court by his teammates and then awarded life membership to the Hawks.
Nathan Crosswell was also honoured pre-game in his 350th and final NBL game, he connected on his first two attempts and finished with 6 points and 2 assists in his farewell run.
Stephen Weigh (22 points, 9 rebounds) and Daniel Johnson (12 points, 10 rebounds) found consistent scoring opportunities for Adelaide, but their hopes faded during a 12-point third quarter.
Deleon sparked the Hawks in the opening moments, streaking to the hoop for a nifty lay-up before coming up with an opportunistic offensive board and put-back to pave the way for their 11-6 start.
Davidson picked it up from there with nine points and six boards, including a last second tip-in, while young gun Mirko Djeric drained a triple to make it 20-14 in favour of the Hawks at quarter-time.
Deleon and Davidson continued to torment the Sixers in the second quarter, using the long-ball to open up a 12-point buffer, and Djeric continued to show flashes as Wollongong went to the main break up 38-30.
Wollongong picked apart the 36ers with timely interior passes during a back-breaking 15-3 run late in the third term, helping lift the Hawks to 62-42 with ten minutes to play.
Adelaide posted the first three points of the fourth, but a four-minute scoring drought from both teams heavily favoured the Hawks, Davidson and Deleon then broke the spell with a trio of crucial shot-clock beating buckets to send their team into the post-season.
Wollongong Hawks 74 (Deleon 23, Davidson 20, Gruber 14)
Adelaide 36ers 64 (Weigh 22, Johnson 12, Petrie 10)
Crowd: 4512 at WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong