Hawk David Gruber goes to the hoop during Monday night’s impressive 78-59 victory over US college team St Mary’s at the Snakepit. Picture: SYLVIA LIBERThe Wollongong Hawks honoured the memory of clubman Paul Whiteman with a rousing opening to the season against US college team St Mary’s at the Snakepit on Monday night.Only hours after attending Whiteman’s funeral the Hawks racked up a 78-59 win to kick off a new era. “It was fantastic to come back here (to the Snakepit),” coach Gordie McLeod said.”It was a sad day with Paul’s funeral, and all the guys were at the funeral, and I’m sure he would be happy with that result,” he added. In a fitting blast from the past, more than 1000 people flocked to the Hawks’ traditional home for their first look at the new line-up.The home side led at every change and was up by as many as 25 points early in the third quarter.After taking a 17-10 lead into the second period, the Hawks allowed the tourists to draw within a point before blowing the game open with a decisive 27-7 run to lead 46-26 at half-time.”When you take into account we have only had a couple of sessions together, it was pretty good,” he said.”There is a lot to work to do but there are some good signs with our system and it was pretty pleasing.”They’re a pretty good college team, and when you keep anyone to 26 points for a half you have to be happy.” The Hawks made 28 field goals from 58 attempts, with Mat Campbell leading on 17 points. Larry Davidson tallied 14 points and five rebounds, Glen Saville got 13 points and seven rebounds and Cam Tragardh added 11 points and seven rebounds.Newcomers Tim Behrendorff and David Gruber each chipped in eight points and four rebounds, while playmaker Rhys Martin finished with five points, nine assists and six rebounds. For McLeod it was a walk down memory lane at the stadium where he played his first NBL match in 1979.”I’ll always have fond memories coming in here because the place has so much history,” he said. “Seeing all the people in the stands … hopefully it can build from here.”The Hawks play University of Vanderbilt on Friday night in Sydney.
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