At the conclusion of the Cluster Round to kick off season 2017, Wollongong Roller Hawks have raced to the top of the ladder with an unbeaten start while every team bar one was able to get on the winner’s list.

The Roller Hawks started the weekend with a stirring win over the defending Champs in Kilsyth Cobras on the back of an incredible fourth quarter.

Kilsyth’s lead extended at every break up until the last term as Tristan Knowles tallied a triple-double (23 points, ten rebounds, 13 assists) and with less than eight minutes remaining, they owned a 12-point advantage.

Wollongong responded with a three-point barrage though, courtesy of Nick Taylor (13 points, 15 assists off the bench) and Brett Stibners, who tallied 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter as the Roller Hawks finished on a 27-6 run to clinch the game.

The following day, Wollongong looked in control against the Red Dust Heelers in a bronze medal re-match as they jumped out to a 13-point lead at three-quarter time.

The Heelers clamped down defensively though, holding the Roller Hawks to just nine points in the final period with Ryan Morich (14 points) and Brad Ness (17 points, 15 boards) leading the charge and with just over a minute remaining, the game was tied.

Luke Pople (14 points) and Stibners (13 points, seven rebounds, eight assists) steadied the ship though before clinching the game from the free-throw line in a 52-47 win.

They then took care of the Adelaide Thunder on the final day of the weekend as Michael Auprince (ten points, three steals) and Bradley Fisher (six points, six rebounds) got in on the act to help secure top spot on the ladder.

Following their loss to Wollongong, Kilsyth bounced back with two victories against the Sydney Metro Blues and Be Active Perth Wheelcats.

Knowles recorded another triple-double against the Blues as five players hit double-figures including 24 combined points off the bench from Jontee Brown and Michael D’Amelio before they repeated their gold medal game success from 2016 with a 21-point victory over Perth.

Knowles finished the round with 26.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists per game and out-scored national team Shaun Norris (33 points) in that meeting.

The Wheelcats owned a two-game winning streak entering that clash with Kilsyth, having taken care of the Queensland Spinning Bullets and Thunder the previous day.

Norris was their leader on Saturday, tallying two straight triple-doubles to finish the weekend with 23.7 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists per game and while turnovers did prove a concern, Kim Robins alleviated some of the offensive load on Norris when he scored 26 points against Adelaide.

Sitting alongside Kilsyth and Perth, the Spinning Bullets own a 2-1 record with a loss to the Wheelcats surrounding wins over the Blues and Heelers.

Tom O’Neill-Thorne (27.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and five assists per game) was the only player to hit double-figures in their first two games before Jake Fulwood and Matt McShane combined for 20 points in a win over Red Dust.

Courtesy of playing four games, the Blues currently sit second on the ladder despite their 2-2 record.

They responded to losses against the Spinning Bullets and Cobras with important wins over Adelaide and Red Dust to equal their win tally from the past two years.

Sydney Metro received a range of scoring options from Georgia Munro-Cook, Darren Skuse and John McPhail before CJ McCarthy-Grogan caught fire in their last two games to lead them to victory with two 30-point performances.

Red Dust got on the winners list on Friday night against Adelaide, winning by 34 points as Ness led the charge before Adam Deans (a double-double against Sydney Metro), Rob Pike and Jannik Blair showed they have the ability to match it with the rest of the league on their day.

In a return to the NWBL, the Thunder were unable to record a victory but the hard work and dedication that was required to get back on the hardwood is reward in itself.

The team will be better for the court time as well, hitting only 29% from the field as a side although Adam Roocke (12.8 points per game), Jay Dohnt (3.8 points, seven rebounds) and Phillip Stevens who pulled down 7.5 rebounds per contest off the bench showed positive signs.

LiveStats for all games can be found here with Round 2 tipping off on Friday, May 26.


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