A dominant first quarter from the Wollongong Hawks set up their third straight victory in the Far North, 68-58 over the Cairns Taipans on Friday night.
The Hawks had to survive some tense moments down the stretch after leading by 10 points at the final break as an out-of-sorts Taipans finally came to life.
Triples to Cairns forwards Brad Hill (7 points, 8 rebounds) and Shane Edwards (14 points, 7 rebounds) threatened a boilover, but that comeback was snuffed out by an Oscar Forman triple that was mightily close to the shot-clock buzzer.
That gave the Hawks a five-point buffer and from there Rhys Martin (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) had the answers for the visitors in the final three minutes.
"We handled it well when they made that run at us,'' Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.
"We were very concerned about their mobility, their potency from three-point line and their post and I think the boys did a good job inhandling that and it laid the foundation."
The Hawks exposed an out-of-sorts Taipans to lead 23-12 at the first break, and despite poor shooting held a 10-point advantage at the main break.
Hawks bigs Oscar Forman (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Larry Davidson (15 points, 6 rebounds) were doing it easy around the rim, while cameos from guards Adris Deleon (10 points) and Lance Hurdle (nine) continually hurt the Snakes.
Criticised in the pre-season by Andrew Gaze for lacking height, the Taipans were out-rebounded 36-42, with the count 24-13 at half-time.
That had as much to do with the Hawks’ urgency and anticipation though, as they continuously beat the Taipans to the loose ball.
"We just didn’t have that consistency, we didn't play hard on every possession and we got our arses handed to us on the glass and that’s what’s disappointing," Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said.
"They’re pretty sharp, it was pretty competitive - it always seems to be - and it comes down to execution and they did a better job."
Cairns steadied the ship in the third term and unleashed their run in the final 10 minutes, but could never land the killer blows needed to take the lead.
Fearne said he would be keen to see the replay of the Forman three but felt things had levelled themselves out.
"I thought it was pretty 50-50 but maybe they did get it away in time. But then they let a foul on Kerry (Williams) go," he said.
Points were shared around the Hawks camp, but it was left mainly to Cameron Tragardh (20 points) and Edwards to do the work for Cairns. Star guard Jamar Wilson was restricted to just four points.
Wollongong Hawks 68 (Davidson 15, Forman 14)
Cairns Taipans 58 (Tragardh 20, Edwards 14)
Crowd: 4172 at the Cairns Convention Centre