Ball lights up NBL with breakout game
LaMelo Ball became the youngest player in NBL history to record a triple-double and emphasised his claims to be the No.1 overall NBA draft pick in 2020.
Ball's game-high 32 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists helped Illawarra beat Cairns 114-106 in overtime at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
The 18-year-old's game-tying three-pointer with six seconds remaining on Monday night sent the contest to overtime with scores locked at 99-99. He then played his part in overtime to get the Hawks home.
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"Pretty much I just believe in myself and my confidence levels is just really high," Ball said of his performance.
"So every shot I take I feel like it's going in.
"I try to improve every day, pretty much, and just work my hardest."
Tim Coenraad (27 points), Sunday Dech (15), AJ Ogilvy (11) and Todd Blanchfield (10) all reached double-figures for the home side who recorded just their third win of the season, DJ Newbill contributed 27 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals for the Taipans.
Fellow US import Scott Machado scored 22 for the Taipans, while Majok Deng chipped in with 19 points and six rebounds.
Six of the hosts' first seven baskets were assisted by Ball, allowing them to jump out to an eight-point lead midway through the opening quarter.
Mike Kelly's men then reduced the lead to three, before two late three-pointers by Ball ensured the Hawks led 29-23 at the first break.
The Hawks led 59-47 at halftime and despite 10 third-quarter points from Ball, taking his tally to 24, the Taipans closed the margin to eight (79-71) heading into the final period.
The Taipans' charge continued in the fourth, clawing their way back to within five points following a three-point-play from Kouat Noi.
But a deep triple from Ball with six seconds remaining sent the game into overtime, in which Dech scored six of the Hawks' 15 points to seal the victory.