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The Wollongong Roller Hawks have been crowned NWBL Champions after a hard fought Gold Medal game against the Sydney Metro Blues, running out 79-70 winners.


The Roller Hawks advanced directly to the final after comprehensively defeating Kilsyth on Friday night 78-54. The Metro Blues had to get past the Queensland Spinning Bullets on Friday and Kilsyth on Saturday to qualify for Sunday’s championship decider.


Despite having played an extra game, the Blues showed no signs of fatigue in the opening quarter, consistently applying a full court press in order to keep in the contest.


At the first break, the teams were locked up at 18 all.


Joe Chambers opened up the scoring in the second quarter before the Roller Hawks went on an 11-0 run with Brett Stibners and Nick Taylor finding the bottom of the net from long range.


The Blues had no answer for Wollongong and desperate to stem the onslaught, resorted to running 6 players on the court.


A substitution mix up with 3:19 left in the second quarter saw two Sydney players sub in but only one sub out. No one noticed until after the Roller Hawks ran their play with the Blues’ bench receiving a technical foul for the breach.


The Roller Hawks stretched their lead to 11 in the closing minutes of the first half before a shot under the basket by Clarence McCarthy-Grogan and a three pointer by Joe Chambers cut the lead to 6 at the main break.


Sydney cut the deficit to 4 just after half time before Wollongong shot ahead again to a double figure lead with Nick Taylor instrumental for the Roller Hawks scoring all 16 of his points (on 8 from 13 shooting) by the midway point of the third quarter.


Despite missing some easy baskets underneath and Sydney continuing to maintain defensive pressure, Wollongong was able to keep the scoreboard ticking including two buzzer beaters from Brett Stibners on his way to 21 points for the game.


The Roller Hawks took a 14 point lead into the final quarter and while the Blues never gave up, Wollongong held them at bay as the side started to hit the open looks under the basket they’d been missing earlier in the match.


“It feels awesome,” said Luke Pople who led the team with 25 points.


“It’s great to finish off the season the way we wanted to, great result.”


“It’s amazing mate,” said an elated Michael Auprince. “Not only is it the first championship for Wollongong in several years but my first ever.”


“I’ve waited for this one since I first entered the league as a 16 year old.”


Auprince finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists and was tasked with stopping the league’s leading scorer,  Joe Chambers.


“Chambers is a big body who has amazing touch as soon as he gets a millimetre in the key. He is someone who I watched hours of game footage of when I came to basketball. Playing against the guy who you are trying to play like makes for a tough time.”


Brett Stibners was named Finals MVP averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds and 6.5 assists across two games.


Earlier in the day, the Queensland Spinning Bullets sprung an upset over the Kilsyth Cobras winning the playoff for third, 81-78.