The New Zealand Breakers dealt Illawarra’s finals hopes a knockout blow with a gritty come-from-behind 77-73 victory at WIN Entertainment Centre on Friday night.
Desperately needing the points to keep their post-season hopes alive, the Hawks were gunned down late by a determined road effort from New Zealand.
It moved the fourth-placed Breakers four wins clear of Illawarra, all but ending their finals hopes.
Breakers import Edgar Sosa scored 10 of his team-high 12 points in the second half to propel the visitors to a clutch win.
Big-man Rob Loe scored 11 vital points off the bench while DJ Newbill finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
MVP hopeful Demitrius Conger (24 points) did his best to carry the Hawks on his back, but it was all in vain.
In-form forward Nick Kay had all 17 of his points in the first half.
He didn't miss a shot in the first quarter, nailing 3/3 from the field to inspire the hosts.
Ex-Hawk Kirk Penney (10 points) drained back-to-back threes to get the Breakers within three points at the first change.
An 8-0 run to start the second gave NZ their first lead in the match.
It was a grind for the remainder of the quarter as good defence and poor offense took over on both ends of the floor.
Illawarra led 35-30 at the half-time break before Conger took over in the third quarter.
The American forward was closely guarded, but continued to hit clutch buckets with a hand in his face after the break.
He finished with 13 points to guide the Hawks to a tentative 55-53 advantage at the final change.
That advantage wasn’t enough.
Sosa inspired a 14-4 run to start the last quarter as the Breakers delivered a hammer blow to Illawarra's finals hopes.
They recovered from a double digit deficit in the first half to finish with the points.