Tasmania JackJumpers have maintained their hold on fourth spot on the NBL ladder after withstanding a strong challenge from the undermanned Illawarra Hawks to complete a 92-89 victory in Wollongong.
The injury-ravaged Hawks battled hard throughout Tuesday night's meeting at WIN Entertainment Centre in the hope of claiming a morale-boosting result and bringing a run of eight straight losses to an end.
But Tasmania absorbed every Illawarra charge and played with greater efficiency when the game was on the line, Rashard Kelly (18 points) and Josh Magette (nine points, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals) playing their part in the JackJumpers' 12th win of the season.
"It wasn't a work of art but any road win in this league is a good win," Magette told ESPN after Tasmania fended off the Hawks to bounce back from a tough home defeat at the hands of Melbourne United.
"We knew it was going to be a tough night, they made some tough shots throughout the game. We were probably a little sloppy from time to time but we dug in when it mattered."
The visitors appeared on track for a comfortable win when they surged ahead by 12 points in the second quarter but the Hawks came roaring back with co-captain Tyler Harvey scoring 13 points in a four-minute stretch to keep his side in the contest.
The JackJumpers made their move in the final quarter to skip out to a 14-point lead and held onto secure the win and remain at the head of a list of five clubs battling it out for a top-six finish and a spot in the Play-In Tournament.
With Michael Frazier II becoming the fourth Hawks import lost for the season through injury, Harvey piloted the offence to produce a game-high 22 points while Sam Froling (21 points, eight rebounds, eight assists), Deng Deng and Daniel Grida (16 points apiece) provided valuable support.
Illawarra shot the ball accurately in the opening quarter but let themselves down with sloppy ball handling as the JackJumpers converted five Hawks turnovers into 10 points, Jarrad Weeks adding a pair of three-pointers as Tasmania edged ahead 29-26.
Tasmania kept rolling with a 13-4 start to the second period until Harvey's timely intervention, the visitors needing a run of seven straight points from Milton Doyle to close the half with a 54-47 advantage.
The home side outscored Tasmania 17-15 in a dour third quarter, Froling's steady play and Mangok Mathiang's athletic feats at both ends of the floor keeping the Hawks in the hunt for a breakthrough victory, but came up short after falling behind by double digits early in the final term.