Wollongong Hawks open season with win - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wollongong Hawks open season with win

By Scott Dunn 01/10/2004 11:22:23 PM Comments (0)

The Wollongong Hawks took just one game to answer questions about their credentials with a season opening 96-88 victory over Melbourne at The Sandpit on Friday night.

The Hawks pre-season had been filled with doubts about their ability to handle the NBL's taller teams after they lost centre John Mueller late through injury.

Facing up to one of the league's premier front courts, led by Tigers monster Mark Bradtke, the pairing of Andrew Rice and Adam Ballinger faced down their critics and came up winners.

While Bradtke statistically won the night, the defence of Rice and Ballinger made his job a difficult one, and reduced the rest of Melbourne's inside game to an after thought.

Ballinger in particular provided everything that Wollongong required of him, pulling down 13 rebounds and scoring 15 points.

"Across the board we're a reasonably tall team, but everyone is saying we don't have a strong, bulky centre," Wollongong coach Brendan Joyce said.

"This league is about athleticism, and this unit can be a great defensive unit. I've got dobermans out on the floor wanting to play defence.

"We've learned that we play really well together, and we've got players that are really hungry and have something to prove."

Melbourne got the early advantage when Rice and Ballinger took a break in the first quarter, exploiting the Hawks inside to lead 30-27.

The danger signs were there for Wollongong early in the second as the Tigers surged to the biggest lead of the game straight away, but trailing by seven Wollongong clicked into gear.

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