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Tigers, Hawks head into break winning

By Chris Pike
15 December 2013 11:36AM EST

MELBOURNE and Wollongong recorded Saturday night NBL victories to head into the Christmas break on a high with the Tigers rising to third position and the Hawks getting off the bottom.

In the final round before the NBL takes the week off over Christmas, the Melbourne Tigers beat the Townsville Crocodiles 76-71 in a tight contest at The Swamp while the Wollongong Hawks won the NSW derby against the Sydney Kings 69-63 at the Kingdome.

With one game in Round 10 still to be played when the Adelaide 36ers host the Cairns Taipans on Sunday afternoon, the results on Saturday night see the Tigers improve to a 6-6 record and up into third position in the standings behind the Perth Wildcats and the Sixers.

Sydney's loss sees it drop to fourth position on the ladder with Cairns and Townsville both knocking on the door of the top-four.

The Hawks' win over the Kings saw them jump off the bottom of the table improving to a 4-7 record with the three-time defending champion New Zealand Breakers now sitting last at 4-9 having lost their past three matches heading into the break.

The Saturday night action began at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with the second battle of NSW in as many weeks between the Kings and Hawks.

Last Saturday night it was Wollongong who prevailed at the WIN Entertainment Centre in a tight, low-scoring affair 73-69 and little changed this time around aside from the shift in venue from Wollongong to Sydney.

The Hawks once again prevailed, this time in an even lower-scoring affair 69-63, but it was the win that mattered most for Wollongong with Gordie McLeod's team now having won two straight, and three of four matches to have built some momentum for the first time this season.

It was a disappointing result for the Kings who have now lost their last two matches and three of their last four to only just be clinging to a position inside the top-four.

The lacklustre form from Sydney has coincided with the decision to sign NBA-experienced swingman Sam Young to replace rookie point guard Jesse Sanders.

Sanders was averaging 9.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in a solid start to his professional career, but the Kings felt they needed an upgrade and Young provided just that with 249 games of NBA experience behind him.

And Young has not disappointed with another 28 points, including two highlight-reel dunks, against Wollongong on Saturday night but again not enough of his new teammates stepped up.

Sydney beat Townsville on November 15 in what was Sanders' final game and at that time the Kings sat on a 4-3 record having won three of their last four games.

However, since Young replaced Sanders the Kings were thumped by 43 points in Perth, won a tight one on the road to Melbourne and have now lost to Wollongong the last two weeks.

While Young again delivered a good game for Sydney, talented centre AJ Ogilvy had just five shots for five points with Tom Garlepp the only one of his teammates to score in double-figures with 11 points.

Despite the lack of help for Young, the Kings not having a recognised point guard and despite Sydney's team still possessing talent like Ben Madgen, Charles Carmouche, Brad Hill and returning veteran James Harvey, the Kings still had a good chance to win.

They led still late in the contest but three-pointers from Wollongong imports Kevin Tiggs and Rotnei Clarke was enough to see the visitors come away with the victory.

Tiggs top-scored for the Hawks with 18 points with Clarke adding 16 and centre Larry Davidson 10 as he continues to show just what an important piece of Wollongong's puzzle he is since returning from injury.

Meanwhile in Townsville, the Tigers recorded their second consecutive win following a three-match losing streak.

Even though the Crocs got off to a hot start, Melbourne held the home team to just seven points in the second quarter and were in control from there even though Townsville didn’t go away and kept fighting right to the end.

Olympian Mark Worthington led the way for the Tigers finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Adam Ballinger came up huge in the last quarter with two dagger three-pointers on his way to 14 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots for the night.

The NBL's leading scorer Chris Goulding hit 14 points also with new import Mustapha Farrakhan scoring 11 points while showing some impressive signs.

Townsville big man Brian Conklin led the way for the Crocs with 22 points and six rebounds while fellow import Josh Pace had 10 points and six boards. They were the only two Crocs players to score in double-digits but Jacob Holmes worked tirelessly for eight points and 10 rebounds.

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