NBL: Tamworth product Nick Kay has 20 points and nine rebounds in Illawarra Hawks' 90-79 defeat of New Zealand Breakers

STAR: Hawks import Demitrius Conger had a double-double in his side's win over New Zealand on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean
STAR: Hawks import Demitrius Conger had a double-double in his side's win over New Zealand on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean

ILLAWARRA steadied their finals ship with a clinical 90-79 victory over New Zealand in Wollongong on Saturday night.

A week after squandering a match-winning lead against Melbourne on their home floor, the Hawks trailed at quarter-time but led at every other change to close out the win.

Demitrius Conger was again the star for the Hawks with 17 points and 10 rebounds while Boomers rep Nick Kay was also outstanding, falling just short of a double-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

Rotnei Clarke had 12 points and six assists while Rhys Martin had 11 and Cody Ellis provided a handy 10 points on a night the Hawks bench contributed 35 points.

MVP candidate Edgar Sosa was best for the visitors with 20 points while new import Rakeem Christmas had 14 points and eight rebounds in his first NBL appearance.

DJ Newbill (12) and Tom Abercrombie (10) also made handy contributions but the Breakers never really looked like reeling the Hawks in.

The result saw the Hawks land the first blow in a series of four quickfire clashes between the two sides that will likely determine their finals fate.

It was an important win ahead of back-to-back clashes against fourth-placed Adelaide, who edged out Sydney 104-101 on Saturday.

Big man Rob Loe had four early points for the Breakers but it was Hawks skipper Kevin White who really shot out of the blocks with seven points, five of them on a 7-0 run that gave the hosts an 11-6 lead.

Christmas’ injection from the bench proved a big momentum shifter for the visitors, with their new recruit completing a three-point play for his first NBL points.

He finished the term with eight as the Breakers went on a 7-0 run to take a three-point lead into the first break.

Christmas dropped two more points to start the second quarter before six points to Coenraad and a put back slam from Conger forced Breakers coach Paul Henare into a timeout.

Newbill nailed his first triple and Sosa also hit from long-range before Kay exploded with nine straight points for the hosts, giving them a four-point buffer and forcing Henare into another timeout.

Abercrombie added four more to keep the visitors in touch while Conger also dropped four as the Hawks clung to a four-point lead.

It briefly swelled to six on the back of two free-throws from Cody Ellis before Kirk Penney’s first triple cut the margin back to four at the main break.

Newbill quickly squared things after the resumption before Conger exploded with eight quickfire points, including two triples as the Hawks lead swelled to eight.

Christmas steadied from the foul-line before Sosa nailed his third three to get back within three. Ogilvy made his presence felt with two blocks in the space of a minute, one on Christmas that saw the big men go nose to nose.

Penney again had the last say of the quarter with a long bomb to keep the margin tight at 60-58 heading into the final term. 

Christmas scored first in the fourth before a three from Ellis again pushed the margin out to five. Sosa put his side on his back eight points before back-to-back threes from Clarke and Ellis pushed the margin out to eight.

Conger pushed it out to double figures for the first time after a Breakers timeout and they led by 12 on the back of a lay-up from Kay. Newbill had five points down the stretch before Kay, Conger and Clarke closed the show from the foul-line.

The match wasn’t without some late fireworks, with Conger and Breakers veteran Mika Vikona coming together in a stoush that saw them both hit with technicals.