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The Wollongong Roller Hawks have survived their sternest test of the season, overcoming last year’s grand finalists, Perth, with 3 wins from 3 games.




There was no love loss in the matches with both teams playing aggressively and refusing to back down.


The sides began neck and neck on Friday night with the Roller Hawks taking a 3 point lead into the quarter time break only for Perth to arrest the lead back and have a 1 point advantage at halftime.


The third quarter proved crucial with Wollongong outscoring the visitors 22-12, establishing a lead the Wheelcats couldn’t peg back in the final term.


Brett Stibners (23 points), Nick Taylor (20 points) and Michael Auprince (19 points, 17 rebounds) all played the full 40 minutes while Clay Kelly (6 points) came off the bench to post his highest minutes of the season after Luke Pople got into foul trouble.


“Clay Kelly came on and played awesome for us, we have that kind of depth so it was no worries for us,” said Pople.


“We have a couple of guys that can come in and do the job. We’ve got Clay Kelly, Brad Fisher, Nick Scott, so many players that can come in and fill roles so it’s good to have.”


“Every game we go into now it’s all about our defence. We say it a million times, our defence is going to win us games because we have some many players in our team that can score,” said Luke Pople.


Game 2 was equally ferocious but on the back of Stibners who sunk 5 from 5 from three point range on the way to a triple double (23 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists) and Auprince who again dominated inside (23 points and 17 rebounds), the Wheelcats couldn’t stay with the host team.


A 28-9 final term blowing out the slim advantage the Roller Hawks had after 3 quarters.


Come Sunday, an undermanned Perth who were only travelling with 7 players could not keep pace with the Roller Hawks, falling behind by 11 in the first quarter with the home side stretching the lead to 22 at halftime.


Auprince was again dominant with 28 points and 21 rebounds while Pople had a strong game himself scoring a triple double with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.


“He’s been huge for us just being that big guy on offence and defence is a massive presence and if we get the ball to him inside the key, it’s going down,” said Pople.


“He’s gone to another level and I think the form that he has been in, he’s going to see an Aussie singlet at the end of the year.”


Low pointer Tim Markcrow echoed Pople’s sentiments in the knowledge that the work of the team is helping create opportunities for the bigs.


“We do the grunt work for them, we make the big boys look pretty!” said Markcrow.


“Our first assignment was to shut down Shauny Norris. We knew he was going to come out strong and firing from the get-go so we tried to get chairs out on him.”


The wins keep Wollongong in first place, with two games to play in a fortnight’s time against the defending champions the Kilsyth Cobras, who currently sit in second place.


Kilsyth split their two games against the Sydney Metro Blues over the weekend. The Metro Blues won on Friday night 100-88 with American import Joe Chambers scoring 50 points on 23 of 26 shooting to go with 15 rebounds.


In the return game on Sunday Kilsyth dominated Sydney with a 26-4 opening quarter that completely shut the Blues out of the game.


In other games, the Queensland Spinning Bullets racked up two important wins against the Red Dust Heelers to leapfrog into fourth place.



Saturday July 22: KILSYTH vs ROLLER HAWKS - 4:00pm @ Kilsyth Stadium

Sunday July 23: KILSYTH vs ROLLER HAWKS - 12:00pm @ Kilsyth Stadium