Hawks upset NBL minor premiers United

The Illawarra Hawks have finished the NBL season by beating minor premiers Melbourne United 94-84.The Illawarra Hawks have toppled NBL minor premiers Melbourne United with a 94-84 victory at Hisense Arena.

Coming off a dramatic upset win in New Zealand on Friday night, the shorthanded Hawks played without Rotnei Clarke and AJ Ogilvy but a produced a solid four-quarter effort on Sunday to close the regular season with back-to-back road wins.

Forward Nick Kay dominated in the paint with 27 points and seven rebounds while Tim Coenraad (24 points) inspired the visitors with five three-pointers in the first quarter and Demitrius Conger added 20 points.

Tai Wesley and Josh Boone led Melbourne’s scoring with 14 points each while Chris Goulding added 13 points.

United import Casey Prather played 20 minutes in his second game back after a two-month absence due to a dislocated elbow and finished with six points and six rebounds.

Melbourne awaits the outcome of Sunday’s final NBL matches to find out whether they host the New Zealand Breakers or Perth Wildcats in game one of the best-of-three semi-final series on March 3.

Riding a seven-match winning streak, United looked comfortable in the first quarter as they built a 17-11 lead until the visitors caught fire from beyond the arc, with Coenraad nailing four three-pointers and Cody Ellis adding a triple to send the Hawks into the first break ahead 26-23.

Conger’s alley-oop dunk increased Illawarra’s lead to five points in the second term but United worked their way back, with Goulding hitting twice from long distance and assisting a David Barlow triple.

But Kay completed an 11-point quarter with a late lay-up to ensure the teams went to halftime level at 51.

Neither team could make a decisive break in the third quarter until Oscar Forman put Illawarra up by six in the final minute but two late scores to United cut the Hawks’ lead to 72-70.

Illawarra surged to an 81-72 lead early in the fourth quarter, with Kay again doing the damage under the basket but Casper Ware and Barlow combined to reduce the lead to four points.

However, the visitors would not be denied, with three-pointers from Conger and Kay putting the match beyond United’s reach.

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