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Sudden death is the scenario for the Wollongong Roller Hawks after they went down in both their games against the Queensland Spinning Bullets in the final round of the NWBL regular season.


The losses see the Roller Hawks finish in third and will now face the Red Dust Heelers on the first day of the Finals in two weeks in an all or nothing affair.

Round 9 Pople vs Qld


Mother Nature claimed a scalp early when damaging winds caused a power outage across Shellharbour just 90 seconds before the two teams were due to tip off on Saturday evening. With no indication of when power might be restored it was decided that the two games would be played back to back on Sunday morning as both teams looked to secure valuable wins.


The Roller Hawks got off to 6-0 start in the first game before the Spinning Bullets found their groove, going on a 11-0 run to hold the advantage at quarter time.


From there the Roller Hawks were playing catch up but couldn’t reign in the ladder leaders whose disruptive defence held to hosts to a field goal percentage of just 29% and their lowest score of the season; the Spinning Bullets eventually winning 54-42.


“They’re a very good team, they’ve got very good chair skills,” said Roller Hawks coach Brendan Dowler after the game.


“They’ve got a differentiator with their aggressiveness in ‘D’ and their chair skill. They disrupted us offensively and while we tried to adapt to that, we weren’t able to execute.”


“A few turnovers, a few missed layups, a few missed box outs, they all added up.”


After an hour’s break the two sides were back at it again in what was a much tighter contest. The Roller Hawks held the lead for much of the game but couldn’t skip away from the visitors as neither team could get beyond a three point lead in the final quarter in a see-sawing affair.

Nick Taylor sunk a two point shot with 54 second remaining to tie the game at 57 all before the Bullets’ Bill Latham was called for an offensive foul, giving the Roller Hawks a final possession to try and get the win.


Michael Auprince was off with his attempt but he managed to reel in the offensive rebound and kick it out to an open Luke Pople. Pople’s shot didn’t drop, forcing the game into overtime.


In extra time the Spinning Bullets held their nerve down the stretch. A Latham free throw giving Queensland an almost unassailable 4 point lead in the dying seconds and Brett Stibners' 3 pointer on the buzzer a mere consolation. Final score: Spinning Bullets 68, Roller Hawks 67.


“As a coach coming on the road you’re always want to split a road trip, 50%, so to come away with two wins against the reigning champions is a pretty big effort and that last game going into overtime really pushed our guys so to come out on top is a great achievement for us this weekend,” said Bullets coach Nick Such after the game.


Tom O’Neill-Thorne averaged 24.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists over the two games while Latham had a double-double in both games averaging 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.


“Bill’s an x-factor for us. He just gives us that extra height to try and combat the bigger players in the league.”


The Spinning Bullets finish the season in first place and will be title favourites with home court advantage for the Finals in two weeks.


“They’ve got much more cohesion, you can see that they’re playing better together, we disrupted them (in Round 1) so they’ve worked hard through the season and improved and brought an Australian player (Latham) in, and he’s a big guy for them and that negated the advantage we had against them in the first round with our height,” said Dowler.


Brett Stibners finished with a triple-double in the second game and averaged of 12 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists over the two games while Luke Pople averaged 16 points and 5.5 rebounds.


“We need to be able to run our offence with more aggressive defence. It’s nothing new, and we keep saying that. it’s not new. We don’t have to throw the whole game plan out. What we do does work when we execute it but perhaps we get a bit lazy at times,” explained Dowler.


In other games, the Kilsyth Cobras and Perth Wheelcats split their games, with the Cobras’ win on Sunday enough to catapult them into second place.


Meanwhile the Red Dust Heelers have consolidated fourth spot and a finals berth with three wins over the Adelaide Thunder.







Friday 20 July

GAME 1: 6.00pm Queensland Spinning Bullets vs Kilsyth Cobras @ Brisbane

GAME 2: 8.00pm Wollongong Roller Hawks vs Red Dust Heelers @ Brisbane


Saturday 21 July

GAME 3: 6.00pm Loser Game 1 vs Winner Game 2 @ Brisbane


Sunday 22 July

GAME 4: 11.00am Loser Game 2 vs Loser Game 3 @ Brisbane (Bronze Medal Game)

GAME 5: 1.00pm Winner Game 1 vs Winner Game 3 @ Brisbane (Gold Medal Game)