THE Waratah League finals chances of Scott Balsar's Illawarra Hawks took a hit on Saturday, after losing a tight contest to the Hills Hornets 80-63 at the Snakepit.
Coming into the youth men's fixture, the hosts, featuring Shoalhaven's Gavin Costain and Ziad El Tobgy, knew they'd have to be at their best to top the second-placed Hornets.
Thankfully for coach Balsar, his troops came to play, racing out to a 20-12 lead by the first break.
The grinding nature of the contest continued in the third, as the two teams traded baskets for the majority of the term before a late charge by the Hornets saw them lead 51-47 going into the final term.
With 5.53 to go in the match, the hosts trialled 62-59 but that was as close as they got, as seven quick points by Liam Moss - on his way to a game-high 27 - secured the visitors the 18-point win.
In the loss, the Hawks were paced by Costain (19), Zachary Ottosson (17) and Harry Morris (13).
The Hawks, who now sit in sixth with a 4-4 record, must win their final three matches to keep their slim finals chances alive - starting with Saturday's final home game against the Hornsby Ku Ring Gai Spiders.
This will be followed by road fixtures against Penrith and Sutherland.