Kings March Over Hawks with Record NBL Crowd
Small forward Jae’Sean Tate again underlined his value to the Sydney Kings in the ladder leader’s 92-87 win over a plucky Illawarra Hawks before a record NBL crowd at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.
Tate, in his debut season with Sydney, maintained his record of double-figure scoring in every match, contributing a game-high 24 points in the Kings’ ninth win of the campaign.
The 23-year-old Ohio State University product also picked up six rebounds, two assists and three steals in a five-star display.
Despite the game pitting first against last, a monster Sydney crowd of 17,514 came to see the league’s best team and Illawarra’s Next Gen star LaMelo Ball.
The monster crowd set a new attendance record in the NBL with the added benefit of helping to raise money for the recent devastating bushires.
As for Ball, it’s unlikely any visiting player has received the reception afforded to the potential No. 1 draft pick. Even in warm-up, the 18-year-old drew appreciative gasps from the crowd with every dunk and trick shot.
He did run into foul trouble in the first half and spent much of the second term on the bench. After shooting just 1/7 from the field in the first half for three points, Ball exploded in the third term.
Looking every inch an NBA player in waiting, Ball scored 11 points for the quarter and dished out two assists to stem the Sydney tide after the Kings turned around a 28-24 quarter-time deficit to lead 51-45 at half-time.
Ball eventually fouled out with 43 seconds left in the match and 16 points, six assists and eight rebounds, but by then the Kings had the game in the bag despite Illawarra closing to within a point in the last term.
Star Sydney guard Casper Ware was as productive as ever with 21 points and six assists, while skipper Andrew Bogut grabbed nine boards.
Daniel Kickert, playing his 150th NBL game, was productive off the bench with 10 points, including back-to-back threes to start his afternoon.
Todd Blanchfield led the Illawarra scoring with 22 points, while Sunday Dech added 14 and Josh Boone and AJ Ogilvy 12 each. Ogilvy also nabbed 13 rebounds but couldn’t prevent the Hawks’ eight loss of the season.
There’s no place like home for Sydney who cruised to their fifth home win of the season and ninth overall – the club’s best start to a season since 2007/08.
The Kings’ ninth win of the campaign sets up a mouth-watering clash against Mitch Creek and co. from the South East Melbourne Phoenix in Melbourne next Saturday.
The Hawks are stuck on the bottom of the ladder with just two wins from 10 games. Illawarra will be looking to bounce back at home against the Cairns Taipans on Monday week.
NBL ROUND 7
SYDNEY KINGS 92 (Tate 24, Ware 21, Kickert 10)
ILLAWARRA HAWKS 87 (Blanchfield 22, Ball 16, Dech 14)