Wollongong bounced back from a road loss in New Zealand on Friday to beat Townsville 86-62 at the WIN Entertainment Centre with the Hawks moving ahead of the Sydney Kings and back into the top-four.
The loss for the Crocodiles tops off a horror weekend. The Crocs came into their double-header having won eight of their last 10 games with the prospect of being in fourth position with a good weekend, but now at 8-14 they are almost at the point of no return.
Townsville lost in Perth by 28 points on Friday and then by 24 in Wollongong on Sunday so the combined 52-point defeats will leave the Crocs flying home with their tail firmly between their legs.
The Perth Wildcats meanwhile made a statement against third-placed Melbourne with a hard fought 83-79 win over the Tigers at The Cage. It improved the Wildcats to a 17-5 record to remain on the heels of the 20-3 New Zealand while Melbourne remains third at 10-11.
In Wollongong, the Hawks came into their clash with the Crocs having lost their last three matches and 10 of their last 11 with knee injuries robbing them of Glen Saville, Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle for the rest of the season.
With Townsville's resurgent form after going 0-10 to start the season as well, the Crocs would have gone into Wollongong confident despite losing in Perth on Friday night but the Hawks were on top right from the outset.
Wollongong stretched its advantage at every interval leading by six points at quarter-time, 14 at half-time, 15 at three quarter-time and then 24 at the final whistle.
It also moves the Hawks ahead of the Kings on the ladder and it would be a tremendous performance to still make the finals after their horror injury run.
Adris Deleon backed up his 33-point game against New Zealand on Friday with another 28 points, five assists and four rebounds against the Crocs. Oscar Forman added 22 points and six boards highlighted by 6-of-7 from three-point territory.
Malcolm Grant also put up 12 points and forward Dave Gruber scored just three points, but did rake in nine rebounds and after the match, he felt it was the effort areas that got the result for the Hawks.
"The effort areas have been big for us lately and we feel like we have been beaten in that area. Coach challenged us before the game to step up in that department and it was up to everybody," Gruber said.
"Tyson (Demos) set the tone for us early, Adris was up and in and the bigs were physical. It was a team effort with all of us trying to lift in our effort areas because we have been lacking in that.
"We need to take care of business. It's now the tail end of the season and it's about series' for us. Townsville's series is still up for grabs and we had to get this win. We now need to take care of business in the Wollongong Hawks uniform, we can't worry about what anyone else is doing."
It was a tough afternoon for the Crocs with Todd Blanchfield top-scoring with 13 points while picking up 12 boards. Gary Ervin and Peter Crawford had 11 points each, and Jacob Holmes 10 to go with seven boards.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, it was a thrilling and heated battled between the third-placed Tigers and second-placed Wildcats, with the visitors prevailing in the end 83-79.
It was a tight first three quarters with Melbourne leading narrowly 60-53 at three quarter-time, but the Wildcats caught fire in the last period putting up 30 points on the back of seven three-pointers to record the victory after big man Matt Knight went down with an ankle injury.
Despite being the lowest percentage shooting team in the league, the Wildcats did well on Sunday especially from beyond the arc nailing 13-of-24 triples at 54 per cent to set up the win despite being heavily outrebounded.
Reigning MVP Kevin Lisch top-scored with 16 points for the Wildcats with Rhys Carter scoring 14 points, Shawn Redhage 12, Jesse Wagstaff 10 and Knight 10 before he went down hurt.
"I am thrilled, because they are a damn good team," Perth coach Rob Beveridge said.
"This was a great rehearsal of what we can expect when we reach the playoffs."
Tigers point guard Jonny Flynn scored a game-high 24 points to go with seven assists and six rebounds but he did shoot 8-of-20 from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point range.
Chris Goulding added 15 points, Liam Rush 14 with 4-of-6 from three and Seth Scott 10.
For Tigers coach Chris Anstey, his team showed they could compete with a top two opponent but let themselves down badly.
"I think we won all the statistical categories that matter, but unfortunately the category we won that cost us the game was bone-headed moments," he said.
"Two fouls after the whistle, a delay of game and a technical foul when we had the ball. Perth are one of the most disciplined teams in this thing and they didn’t have any of those moments."
The two teams will again do battle in Perth on Thursday night.