The Melbourne Tigers have added further embarrassment to their season, receiving a 10 point loss to the bottom of the ladder Wollongong Hawks.
Wollongong answered every challenge the Tigers threw at them to break away in the final quarter, running out 71-61 winners.
Bennie Lewis was extremely aggressive on offence, leading the locals with 15 points while Oscar Forman scored 18 points including 4/6 from behind the 3 point line.
The game proved to be a struggle on offence for Melbourne. The Tigers were missing forward Liam Rush who was inactive due to a strained calf. While the Tigers did hold their own on defence, the Hawks shot a healthy 47% from the field and 45% from beyond the perimeter.
“I think we played pretty hard,” said Tigers coach Trevor Gleeson. “They just had more firepower than us.”
“They shot the ball pretty outstanding from beyond three, and we couldn’t get shots to drop.”
“The last three games we scored in the 60’s. Bennie was aggressive, Ron was disappointing. We don’t need passengers. We don’t have the scoring punch we had earlier in the year. We need to find ways to make it easier for ourselves”
On the flip side, Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod was proud of his team to be able to secure an away win and the season series against Melbourne.
“We mentioned at half time that we thought we dodged a bullet when we gave up so much possession and so many turnovers. So for us to hang in there and the foul trouble that we were in with our guys, I thought everyone did a really good job to stay strong and tough it out.”
“We spoke about if we could lay the platform with our defence that we did in the first half, it was going to give us a good chance to make some adjustments and refocus what we wanted to do.”
In his first game after announcing his retirement, veteran Matt Campbell opened scoring for the match draining a three point basket from the right corner. Melbourne then went on a mini 8-0 run to get out to an early lead however Wollongong reclaimed control of the game to end the quarter with a 16-14 lead.
Melbourne began the second quarter well with back to back three pointers from Bennie Lewis however the quarter took a massive turn down ugly street with the turnover count for both teams rising. Both teams had a chance to reload at halftime with scores being level at 31-31.
Wollongong stepped up their intensity after the main break with Hawks forward Oscar Forman providing the spark from downtown with two unanswered three point baskets. As it seemed Wollongong were breaking away, Gleeson brought on bench players Lewis and Lang to incite a Melbourne comeback. The Cage was up on its feet following a Bennie Lewis dunk on the break however the Hawks clutched to a two point lead at the end of the quarter.
Once again it was Lewis who tied the scores with a two point fade away basket to start the final quarter. It was however a 16—4 run by Wollongong that began to put the nail in the Tigers coffin. Melbourne attempted to make the score line respectable however still fell 10 point losers.
“You want to send your mate off on a high,” game top scorer Oscar Forman said about veteran Matt Campbell.
“You don’t want to lose your last three and he’s off to retirement on a down year.”
“You want to play for him. Obviously you still have to play the system and do what you can but it’s good to see him more aggressive coming out.”
Melbourne is to host its final home game next week against the second place Perth Wildcats, fresh off its Friday night drumming of 4th place Townsville. It looks to be a scary proposition for a Tigers team that has been less than impressive on the offensive end in recent times.
Melbourne Tigers 61 (Lewis 15, Tragardh 11, Greer 8)
Wollongong Hawks 71 (Forman 18, Campbell 10, Conraad 9)