Last year’s wooden spooners the Hawks are enjoying their best NBL season start in the foundation club’s history after stunning title contenders the Cairns Taipans with a 92-76 upset victory.
Still buzzing from their season-opening six point boilover win against Brisbane Bullets on Saturday, the revamped Hawks extended their unbeaten start under new mentor Brian Goorjian to be round one ladder leaders despite suffering a major injury blow before tipoff at Cairns Pop-Up Arena.
Star forward Deng Adel (quad) couldn’t back up from the Hawks’ win in Brisbane while fellow ex-Australian NBA player Cameron Bairstow suffered an ankle injury in the warm-up on Monday night.
It was another hurdle to clear for Goorjian who this year took over the reins of a Hawks outfit that had undergone major changes and challenges since finishing the 2020 season with 10 straight losses in last place.
After a new name, an ownership change and a roster overhaul for 2021, the Hawks have also had to cope with being away from their Wollongong base since Boxing Day due to COVID border restrictions.
But six-time championship winner Goorjian rallied his underdog outfit, masterminding a victory that ensured the Hawks moved to a 2-0 season start for the first time in their 42-year history.
The Hawks only won five games last season.
Inspired by livewire guard Tyler Harvey (25 points, seven assists), the Hawks comfortably led at every break in front of stunned Taipans fans.
After just five points in his NBL debut on Saturday, sharp-shooting guard Justinian Jessup had 24 including 4-4 from three-point range while impressive American import Justin Simon had a double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) for the Hawks.
“We had a couple of setbacks before the game … it (injuries) was a kick in the guts,” Goorjian said.
“We needed everyone tonight and I am so proud of what they did against a good team …(but) it’s early days.”
Last season’s semi-finalists the Taipans were overwhelming favourites after their one-point, season-opening victory over Sydney Kings on Saturday but failed to fire a shot against the upstart Hawks.
Majok Deng had 20 points but imports Cam Oliver (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Scott Machado (11 points, 11 assists) were quiet despite their numbers.
“The Hawks just came in and did whatever they wanted,” Taipans coach Mike Kelly said.
The Hawks led 31-19 at the first break, 50-41 at halftime and 69-60 at the final interval.