Basketball prodigy LaMelo Ball has produced his best NBL game of the season to lead Illawarra to a 101-91 away victory over Cairns.
In front of a packed crowd on Saturday night at the Cairns Convention Centre, amid the hype around potential NBA No.1 draft pick Ball, the Hawks led from start to finish and controlled the game for most of the night.
Illawarra produced their best opening half of the year with 59 points to hold a 14-point buffer at the main break.
The Taipans fought until the end, but were no match for the Hawks, who easily won every statistical category.
Ball finished with 24 points, which included five three-pointers, eight assists and six rebounds.
"I've been in the gym working on my shot with JJ (Redick)," Ball said.
"It's a good win for us. Hopefully, we get something started so we can get some more wins."
The teenager was supported by Sunday Dech (21 points), skipper David Andersen (17) and Josh Boone (15).
"Everyone saw tonight the level that we train at," Illawarra coach Matt Flinn said.
"We've been leaking points hard so we've done a lot of work to fix that."
Flinn said he was happy to notch up their first road win of the season.
"It's so hard to get wins in any game, whether you are home or away," he said.
"We've done a lot of soul searching in our group - a lot of rough video sessions."
The coach said Ball was the real deal.
"Everyone saw tonight what we see in practice," Flinn said. "He's very talented and gets talked about in draft circles for a reason.
"A lot of people have tried to get after him but he keeps ticking those boxes."
The Taipans had a spread of contributors but no one was able to get on top of the Hawks.
Mirko Djeric came off the bench to lead the scoring with 19 points, while imports Cameron Oliver (16), Scott Machado and DJ Newbill (12 apiece) played their roles.
Cairns coach Mike Kelly rued his side's opening half.
"Illawarra came to play and I don't think we did," he said.
Illawarra move to a 2-7 record with both of their wins coming against Cairns. The Taipans also have two wins but have played one less match.
Australian Associated Press