Phoenix Ground Hawks in their big NBL Cup victory

Southeast Melbourne, Phoenix have defeated the Illawarra Hawks 93-76 to stay in the race for the first NBL Cup.

After Star Point Guard Keifer Sykes missed Sunday’s duel at the John Cain Arena with an ankle injury, Mitch Creek put in 25 points to help the franchise maintain its unbeaten record against the Hawks for its sophomore year.

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Strong team defense and superior ball movement helped South East Melbourne take the 45:37 lead at halftime before Illawarra put an end to hopes of a comeback win 28:18 in the third quarter.

Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell was delighted with the commitment of his squad at the end of the defensive with players of the caliber Sykes, Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau on the injury list.

“I was wondering a little whether we had enough ammo defensively or not and it turned out the guys got promoted and that was great,” Mitchell said after the Illawarra guards Tyler Harvey (14 points) and Justinian Jessup (7)) held well below her season averages.

Yannick Wetzell of the Phoenix fights for a bucket against the Hawks. Graham Denholm / Getty Images

Ben Moore, 22, and Cam Gliddon, 17, provided valuable offensive support, while Kyle Adnam added 11 points and 11 career-high assists after replacing Sykes in the top five.

The Phoenix suppressed Illawarra’s dangerous shooters in the opening quarter, converting five Hawks sales into an additional nine points as part of a 25:13 start. Hawks coach Brian Goorjian was concerned about his team’s initial lack of energy.

“I thought there were some signs (of tiredness) today from some of the guys we’d been on our backs for the last couple of games,” said Goorjian after his side fell double-digit in the early stages.

“This start really got me on my heels, I didn’t expect that and I’m sure the group wasn’t either.”

South East Melbourne’s lead dipped to 31-15 in their second term, but the Hawks took off when Deng Deng responded with a three-pointer and Harvey added two triples in quick succession.

Illawarra’s offensive breakout earned them an NBL Cup point for winning the second quarter, but Creek’s strength in the basket and the final three with three pointers ensured the Phoenix held an eight-point buffer at halftime.

South East Melbourne regained prominence in the third quarter when Gliddon and Moore kept the scoreboard going and a Yanni Wetzell steal and dunk raised the Phoenix by 20 points.

The result not only means that the Phoenix improves to 2: 2 in the NBL Cup, but also consolidates its top 4 position on the NBL ladder and joins the third-placed Hawks with a 6: 5 record.

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