The Breakers' roller coaster season took another downward lurch last night as they succumbed to Wollongong in a tempestuous, scrappy encounter on the North Shore last night.
The defeat snapped a two-game win streak for the Breakers, dropping them to 7-7 on the season, while victory halted a two-game slump for a Wollongong side that looked to be running out of steam after a strong start to the season.
The visitors trailed by double-digit margins in the second and third quarters but each time they rallied, mainly through the efforts of outstanding guard Tywain McKee.
The American chalked up 29 points, including the winning lay-up with 15 seconds remaining.
It was a remarkable victory for the Hawks, who held only the briefest leads until McKee's final basket.
"If it was a prize fight we probably got knocked out three or four times but kept finding a way to get back up off the mat," Hawks coach Gordie McLeod said.
The win returned the Hawks to the top of the ladder.
It is an indicator of how tight the league is that, had they lost, they would have dropped to fifth.
Aside from McKee's stellar individual display it was a tenacious rebounding effort and some telling contributions off the bench that earned the Hawks the victory.
They pounded the Breakers on the boards 49-32 and scored 32 points from the bench to the Breakers' 20.
Mid-way through the quarter Tony Ronaldson nailed a three to become just the fifth player to rack up 10,000 points in the league but the defeat left him in no mood to celebrate the milestone.
"It's a crap way [to celebrate it], to me the milestone is irrelevant," Ronaldson said.
"For what we want to achieve and what we talk about achieving a defeat like that is unacceptable.
"We expect to win the championship and we are a long way away from that. If we are a team that is going to get the job done we win games like that. You have to."
Kirk Penney had 17 first half points for the Breakers but he was well guarded in the second spell and ended with just 23.
A burst of scoring from CJ Bruton helped the Breakers kick seven clear early in the final quarter but once again the Hawks rallied.
When Penney missed two free throws late in the game it left the door ajar and McKee had the class to stroll straight through it.
"They did a good job hanging around and making enough plays to keep themselves in the game and give themselves a chance," Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis said.
"The glaring stat is that 50 per cent offensive rebound percentage. It kept them hanging around.
"We had some crucial turnovers and well and that gave them the opportunity to feel like they were in it.
"When you get a game like that at the end sometimes it is who is in front when the buzzer goes."