Wollongong 86, Adelaide 78
On January 11, sitting on a 9-6 record, the Wollongong Hawks lost a dramatic overtime game to the Cairns Taipans. Dramatic because of the closeness of the game but also for the fact that the Hawks had lost their starting back court to season-ending knee injuries by the game's end.
The Hawks had to wait until early in the week to confirm both injuries were as bad as feared but within days were seeking out their import replacement. They initially went after CJ Massingale but after it was discovered there would be paperwork issues they went after Hurdle's college team mate, Malcolm Grant. Within two rounds Malcolm Grant was suiting up for the Hawks.
On December 5, sitting on a 5-6 record, the 36ers released import CJ Massingale. The club was unhappy with his performance and decided to go for a player more suited to their system who could "create his own shot". It took Adelaide 4 rounds to find it's replacement and get him in uniform. The club lost every game while waiting for it's import and has only won one game since having him in uniform. The club went into crisis mode mid-January and in the midst of it had a key board meeting which was significant for the fact that it had no bearing on the current season other than to say Marty Clarke's job was safe but that they "better try hard" (in my words). Heres' the official statement:
“The Board has met with Clarke and made it clear that the Club, its Members and Partners expect a strong performance by everyone for the remainder of the season.”
Well, that hasn't happened.
Despite being hit with one of the worst injury runs in memory, the Hawks have just kept playing intelligent basketball and have again managed to find a more than suitable import in Malcolm Grant. The American scored 21 points on 6/11 shooting (including 4/5 threes) tonight. Not bad.
Scott Christopherson scored 6 points on 3/7 shooting (0/1 threes). Christopherson scored tonight off three runners/jumpers from close range and was either hesitant or ignored from long range.
In 2 games, Grant has tallied 31 points. In 6 games Christopherson has scored 18pts. Grant played with confidence and composure tonight. Several 36ers are essentially freezing Christopherson out and he's playing with little to no confidence. I'm not saying he should be taking 15 shots a game and is a Kevin Lisch in waiting but the club's treatment and use of him is poor, let alone his selection in the first place.
The club has clearly decided to "put the cue in the rack" for the season and it is having a hugely negative impact on the club. Players are mailing in quarters or even entire games, the coaching staff is being stubborn to the end and fans are slowly pulling back from the club (I don't have official numbers but I'm sure this was the lowest crowd of the year). Who knows what the long-term impact will be of the clubs actions. Wollongong, despite hardly being cash rich and without two of it's best Australians in Martin & Saville are still in with a chance but are more importantly protecting their culture. Adelaide barely put up a fight tonight but rest assured, the Hawks will win some more games this year.
But I digress.......
Wollongong started the game strongly, jumping out to an 11-2 lead before Adelaide finally started to hit some shots. As has often been the case, Christopherson came on and helped stop the rot, with Adelaide closing the quarter with a 7-2 run. The Hawks led 18-17 at the first change.
Adelaide was horrendous in the second quarter, making 5 turnovers while shooting 4/12 from the field for a measly 10 points. It made too many passes several times and at other times made just plain stupid passes. Wollongong shot 8/17 for the period and went into the half up 40-27. It was pretty clear this game was over unless Adelaide found some offensive rhythm.
After scoring just 27 points in the first half, Adelaide exploded for 28 points in the third period. As has often been the case this year though, even though they outscored Wollongong they couldn't totally slow them, with Wollongong going for 23 themselves in the quarter. Adelaide was playing cleaner basketball and looking more like a chance with just a quarter to go, now only trailing 63-55.
Wollongong came out super aggressive in the 4th, outscoring Adelaide 16-5 in the first 6:52. Unfathomably, that meant Adelaide has scored 17 in the game's first 10 minutes, 10 in the next 10 minutes, 27 in the 10 minutes of the third quarter and 5 in just under 7 minutes to open the 4th. Not so consistent. Adelaide made one of it's patented "jerk you around" comebacks when the game was well and truly over, forcing some turnovers and hitting some tough threes. It was all for nothing though as Adelaide went down 86-78.
The club has to deal with another bunch of troublesome questions this week which I'm not confident they are even close to resolving, such as
-Why is Jason Cadee so poor at home? His performance after such as a breakout game was extremely disappointing.
-What's up with Gibbo? May still be troubled by that hip but 28 points over the last 4 games is hardly what you expect from your leader and Olympic representative.
-Why don't Weigh and Christopherson get good looks from outside?
Adelaide faces a tough double next weekend, playing Perth in Perth Friday before coming home to take on the Tigers at home. Another 0-2 weekend will do even more damage to the battling club. Management must respond during the week. It's a shame the country's best basketball journalist is not around to ask the tough questions of the club and to call them out on their actions and in his absence "The Advertiser" is treating the sport with disdain.