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Illawarra Hawks surge past Sydney Kings in NBL derby

A potent new Illawarra line-up overcame a sluggish start to defeat a Sydney Kings side flattened by a potentially serious injury to import guard RJ Hunter in Wollongong.

The Kings (3-4) scored the first 11 points of the game on Wednesday night and had another 11-0 run, but Illawarra fought back to score a 97-89 victory,

Illawarra shot 56 per cent from the field and scored 10 unanswered points in a decisive five-minute surge In the final quarter.

Down the stretch, Hawks' coach Brian Goorjian opted to go with one big in Sam Froling and four smalls after trying out that formation in the club's latest hiatus in their stop-start campaign.

Illawarra (4-1) were playing their first match in 25 days and Sydney their first in 19.

With usually dominant Hawks' centre Duop Reath restricted to just six points, Froling stepped up, posting 27 points, the biggest score of any man from his distinguished basketball family across 437 NBL games.

Import guard Tyler Harvey, who hadn't made a first quarter shot in the Hawks first four games, broke that duck and went on to nail his first six three-point attempts on his way to a 23 point haul.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes added 16 points and seven boards and the Hawks had just a bit too much firepower for their intra-state rivals, especially when Goorjian turned to his new line-up.

"It was a line-up we never played in the (first) four games and that was the four small guys with either a Sam or Duop," Goorjian said.

"Sam was having a great one tonight so we went with him and the four smalls in the fourth quarter and that was really the game changer.

"Getting Tyler (Harvey) and Xavier on the floor together with Justinian (Jessup) and AC (Antonius Cleveland), that was a really tough line-up and that was really the turning point and what led to the victory."

The Kings' sizzling start was undermined by another knee problem for Hunter, who had only played two games earlier in the season.

He logged just 59 seconds on Wednesday before his knee appeared to buckle and he was forced off the court.

"I feel for him, I don't want to speculate on what's happened but it seems serious," Kings' coach Chase Buford said.

Sydney's other returning backcourt import Jaylen Adams contributed 14 points and eight assists in his first game back from an ankle injury, which limited him to just a single previous appearance.

Double doubles from frontcourt stalwarts Jarell Martin (23 points and 10 rebounds) Xavier Cooks (16 and14) spearheaded Sydney's offence and guard Wani Swaka Lo Buluk continued his strong start to the campaign with a career-high 17-point effort.

"The only run we didn't really have an answer for was the last one," Buford said.

"They kicked our butts the last three or four minutes of the game.

"They made shots all night and then they executed down the stretch and we definitely did not, so big credit to the Hawks for the way they finished."