Mitch Norton of the Illawarra Hawks.
Mitch Norton of the Illawarra Hawks. Mark Metcalfe

Hawks force playoff decider against 36ers

BASKETBALL: The Illawarra Hawks will head for Adelaide on Thursday for a winner-takes-all decider after forcing a game three in the NBL semi-finals with the 36ers in Wollongong.

The Hawks ran out 100-94 winners in a thrilling second game of the three-match series at WIN Entertainment Centre to set up the decider, with the winner to face the Perth Wildcats or Cairns Taipans in the NBL finals series.

Thrashed by the 36ers in game one, the home team fought back well against the minor premiers with unsung guard Mitch Norton taking centre stage.

Norton stepped up with a season-high 17 points, while Tim Coenraad also bagged 17 and 10 rebounds - the second double-double of his career - in another strong performance off the bench.

Jerome Randle scored a game-high 20 points but was just eight from 23 from the field and had five turnovers.

The American drew the ire of the home fans and was booed throughout the game for labelling the Hawks a dirty team.

The Hawks led by five at half-time and took a one-point lead into the final period.

The final quarter was a see-sawing affair with the lead changing hands a number of times before Norton and the Hawks sealed the deal to set up an intriguing decider.