BASKETBALL: Penrith silenced by Hawks

The Penrith Panthers have lost their seventh consecutive game in the 2012 Waratah Championship League (WCL) competition, falling 90-84 to the reigning premiers the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday night in Round Ten of the competition.

Both teams were entering this game on lengthy losing streaks but even so, the Panthers (6 straight losses) were still hot favourites against the Hawks (4 losses), even though the game was being played in Wollongong.

Whilst the Panthers had lost some high-scoring games during their losing streak, the Hawks had been lethargic in their four low-scoring losses and that overall form guide certainly pointed to a Penrith victory.

Saturday night's game began at a snail's pace, with the Hawks leading 16-15 at the end of the first term, then stepping up the tempo to lead 43-32 and 68-60 at half and three-quarter time respectively.

The Panthers took the Hawks by surprise in the fourth term, simply exploding into life at the start of 'money-time'.

Suffocating defensive pressure and effective transition offence saw the Panthers stun the home crowd with an 11-0 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, sweeping past the Hawks to establish a narrow lead.

The Panthers continued to show great form until midway through the term, when turnovers and missed opportunities would stall their charge, allowing the Hawks to edge back into the lead - an advantage which the home team would hold until the final hooter.

American import Ben Ellsworth was the best for the Panthers on the night, ably supported by Sean Albert, Louis Brandt and Rob Crane.

The Panthers have a bye this weekend and resume on June 16, when they face up to a rejuvenated Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at the Northern Beaches Indoor Sports Centre (NBISC), Warriewood.

The Sea Eagles started the 2012 season disastrously out of form but since the return of Sydney Kings NBL point guard Luke Cooper, have run into a purple patch of form, leaping from the bottom of the ladder to fifth spot.

The Panthers have however been travelling rapidly in the opposite direction on the ladder, plunging from the top (after five rounds) to an ignominious eleventh position, narrowly ahead of the bottom-placed Parramatta Wildcats - but only ahead on percentages.

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