HAWKS FLY TO THEIR FIRST VICTORY

Returning NBL MVP Kirk Penney exploded with a game-high 36 points to lead the Illawarra Hawks to a resounding 96-75 defeat of reigning NBL Champions, the New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday night at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Making a huge statement for his team in their first home game of the season, the experienced 34-year old was outstanding against his former side, sinking 7-of-12 three-point shots and hitting all nine of his free throws.

‘’I was going to be aggressive tonight,’’ Penney said.

‘’I really wanted to get after it.’’

Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy was also superb with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocks, while Charles Jackson finished with a team-high 19 points for the Breakers.

Illawarra led at every change to claim their maiden win of the season.

The Hawks were without guards Rhys Martin and Kevin Lisch, while Mika Vukona and Corey Webster were absent for New Zealand.

‘’We’ve said since the start of the season that it’s about us trying to find our identity and how we’re going to play, and when you have a performance like that, playing 10-deep and guys chomping at the bit, it reinforces the style of game we want to play,’’ Illawarra head coach Rob Beveridge said.

‘’That was a special game and it was so good that our home crowd got to see the style we’re playing and how much fun it’s going to be.’’

The Breakers came out firing, racing to a 7-0 lead before Penney stopped the rot with a pair of free throws.

New Zealand maintained the upper hand and built a 14-11 lead, but Penney was running hot, sparking a 15-2 run which effectively changed the game.

He finished the first quarter with 14 points, as Illawarra surged to a 32-19 lead.

The Hawks were getting contributions all over the court and the margin swelled to 20 midway through the second period.

When the half-time siren sounded, Illawarra were up 59-40 and Penney had 22 points.

Ogilvy was dominant at both ends, racking up 14 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks, while Jarrad Weeks had eight points off the bench.

The Hawks had just five turnovers at compared to 16 for the visitors.

‘’Illawarra’s intensity and pressure disrupted us,’’ Breakers head coach Dean Vickerman said.

‘’We didn’t execute as well as we wanted to.’’

Another telling statistic was New Zealand’s making just 6-of-8 free throws – a stark contrast to Illawarra’s 15-of-16.

The Breakers were led by Tom Abercrombie’s nine points.

New Zealand cut the deficit to 15 at one stage in the third quarter but the home side responded again to take a commanding 74-52 lead into the final period.

Penney had 30 to his name and Ogilvy was up to 16.

The final quarter was largely the same as the previous three, as Illawarra registered their first victory of the 2015/16 NBL season.

The Illawarra Hawks next head to Sydney for a date with the Kings on Saturday evening, while the New Zealand Breakers meet the Wildcats in Perth on Friday night.

by Alexander Sanchez

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