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The Roller Hawks’ title defence has begun in emphatic fashion, winning all four games in the Cluster Round to start the 2018 National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) season.



Wollongong started with a strong display against the Adelaide Thunder outscoring last year’s wooden spooners 16-2 in the opening quarter. However Adelaide showed they are a vastly improved side (as demonstrated by their first win later in the weekend against Sydney) and managed to find some offensive potency in the second and third quarters but the Roller Hawks remained in control throughout, winning 72-41.


Saturday saw a tough double header against the two home sides, Perth followed by Red Dust Heelers. After leading the way on Friday night, Stibners dominated on Saturday morning, torching Perth for a huge triple double as the Roller Hawks claimed a 96-56 win. Stibners finished with 40 points (on 72% shooting) to go with 15 rebounds and 10 assists while Shawn Russell had 18 points (75% shooting) with Nick Taylor (14 points, 13 assists) and Luke Pople (12 points, 14 assists) chiming in with double doubles. Clay Kelly came off the bench and hit all three of his shots while the side’s low pointers all got a good share of the minutes.


Just two hours later Wollongong then faced off against the Red Dust Heelers. The Roller Hawks got out of the gate with a 20-11 opening quarter before Red Dust reeled in the lead in the second quarter to be within 2 with 4:11 to play before halftime. An 8-0 run by the Roller Hawks including 3 straight baskets to Russell gave Wollongong an 32-22 advantage at the main break. Led by Brett Stibners with 23 points and a triple double to Luke Pople (12 pts, 10 reb, 10 ast) the Roller Hawks outscored Red Dust by double digits in the third and fourth quarters to win 75-44.


The Roller Hawks’ final game of the round would be their most earnest as they went up against the Queensland Spinning Bullets who had also won all three of their games leading into Sunday.


The Spinning Bullets jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the two sides see-sawed back and forth through most of the first quarter. With the scores tied at 16-16 with 2:20 to go the Roller Hawks went on a 10-2 run to close out the quarter with Taylor landing 2 three pointers. Wollongong raised the defensive intensity in the second, holding Queensland to just 4 points in the first 5 minutes of the period as they stretched the lead out to 22 and eventually running out 87-56 winners. Russell lead all scorers with 24 points (along with 11 rebounds) while Stibners scored his second triple double for the weekend with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists.


The Roller Hawks sit on top of the ladder alongside Kilsyth, each with 12 points, followed by Queensland on 10.  Adelaide, Red Dust and Perth all sit on 6 points with 1 win and 3 losses each while Sydney had an unhappy weekend, soundly beaten in all four games. (NWBL awards 3 points for a win. 1 point for a loss).



Photo Credit: Facebook (Michael Auprince)

The weekend’s results all came without big man Michael Auprince who is currently in the US playing with the University of Alabama. Over the weekend the Alabama men’s team won the NWBA national championship with Auprince named tournament MVP, leading the ‘Crimson Tide’ with 31 points in a come from behind win in the championship game. It’s just the second time the men’s wheelchair basketball team has won the national championship with the first coming back in 2013.


Round 2 of the NWBL commences on Friday 6th April with the Roller Hawks taking on the Sydney Metro Blues.



Friday March 16: ROLLER HAWKS 72 def ADELAIDE THUNDER 41

Saturday March 17: ROLLER HAWKS 96 def PERTH WHEELCATS 56

Saturday March 17: ROLLER HAWKS 75 def RED DUST HEELERS 44