Pineau carries Phoenix to vital NBL win

Adrian Warren
Coach Simon Mitchell (pic) has praised Dane Pineau after SE Melbourne's NBL win over Illawarra

Another massive rebounding effort from emerging South East Melbourne forward Dane Pineau has helped his side to a 90-82 away win over Illawarra and kept them in the NBL playoff hunt.

A 17-0 second-quarter run to the Phoenix, which turned a nine-point deficit into an eight-point lead, swung Sunday's game in Wollongong in their favour.

The Phoenix led by 18 at one stage in the third quarter, but a resurgent Hawks slashed the deficit to two with just over four minutes to go.

The visitors closed out the win to move above the New Zealand Breakers into seventh place.

Pineau, considered a strong contender for the league's most-improved player award, was a huge factor despite racking up three fouls well before halftime.

He made all seven of his field-goal attempts, and finished with 14 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks.

It followed up a 17 point-20 rebound effort in the Phoenix's last game.

"He's a warrior. He's playing his butt off," Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said of Pineau.

"There were a few forces working against us tonight - we had to show a lot of resilience."

Kendall Stephens was another big contributor for South East Melbourne, coming off the bench to score 20 points and making six three-pointers.

Conversely, Illawarra made just three of 20 long bombs, while the Phoenix connected with 12.

Between them, the two teams missed their first nine field-goal efforts, but the Hawks scored the last six points of the first quarter to lead 26-18 at the end of the term.

The Phoenix outscored Illawarra 29-13 in the second quarter to lead 47-39 at halftime.

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Phoenix, who had 11 turnovers after two quarters and Tai Wesley missed his first six-field goal attempts before finally making one in the third quarter.

"Tai Wesley was doing all the hard work for me. Every time he was blocking a big, I was getting a free run at it," Pineau said.

"At the other end, he was getting guarded by the better defender and I got to run around a bit and get those little drop offs."

Captain Todd Blanchfield top-scored for Illawarra with 15 and three players tallied 13, including Sam Froling, who added 11 boards.

"Coaching this team is such a rollercoaster," 'said Hawks coach Matt Flinn who lamented giving up 57 points in the two middle quarters.

"Scoreboard pressure got us at the end."

He was proud of the effort of his younger players, putting his faith primarily in an all-Australian line-up without imports during their fightback.