Category: NBL

The National Basketball League (NBL) is the highest level of male basketball in Australia. It features eight Australian teams and one New Zealand team that compete for the title each year. The season runs from October through until March with the Perth Wildcats being the most successful side in recent history.

NBL Classic Contest: Blood Game

EVER heard of the ‘Blood Game’? It was a forgotten classic crested in the rich history of the National Basketball League (NBL), with epic level game play mixed and a historic ending. Fortunately Draft Central have you covered with their rewind of the 1999 meeting between the war-torn Melbourne Tigers and the rising Victorian Titans. 

It was quickly realised by all fans in attendance that this regular season game was going to become the match of the night. Diving for loose balls and fighting for rebounds as both teams came bursting out of the gates with their intensity on full display. All of the characteristics of a great game to come. 

From a fresh perspective, it was clear that Andrew Gaze still had it, even in 1999. At 34 years of age, Gaze displayed superstar-like play making abilities while running the Tigers offence to perfection, all while leading the league in points per game with 29. But it was almost just as clear that the Titans did their homework. Whenever Gaze would hold it at the top of the perimeter, a Titans defender would play nose to nose, going over screens with a supportive big to close the lanes, until the ball left his hands. 

But this would almost always leave an open Tiger to catch it at the elbow, a sacrifice for the Titans that was paying off big time for the Tigers. With Gaze continuing to make the perfect pass and the Tigers’ cast continuing to score the ball, the Tigers were able to establish a 33-22 lead heading into the second quarter.  

The Titans adjusted their game plan immensely, by removing the second man to help, ultimately putting the pressure on Gaze to score man on man. This turned things around instantly in favour of Titans for two reasons. Firstly, after playing a full quarter of taking barely any shots, Gaze was now encouraged to shoot at will, leading to a few clunkers to start the quarter. Secondly, the tempo of the Tigers’ offence was out of sink, as stars like Lenard Copeland, who at that time was sixth in league scoring, was unable to find the looks he had at the start. 

With all of this chaos, as well as a poor effort in rebounding, the Titans were able to muster a massive quarter, leading at the half, 60-53. 

But no Titans fan or player felt safe after watching Gaze on the very first play, drill his way into the paint for a two-pointer, only now reaching double digit points. Gaze, along with what seemed to be every other Tiger, began making every second shot they took. Finishing the third quarter shooting 60 per cent for the game as a team, the Titans were able to stick around by not allowing any easy buckets and clobbering the boards on both ends. Both teams were now facing off for the last quarter, with the Tigers only leading by a point. 

The Titans were on a six game winning streak, held a five game winning streak over the Tigers alone and were now heading into a fourth quarter in front of an ecstatic home crowd. Only a team as prestigious as the Tigers could have a fighting chance. 

The fourth quarter looked like a final. The intensity was epitomised through Frank Drimic’s drive to the rim, resulting in the big man receiving a nasty yet unintentional elbow to the face. The big man who was currently sitting at 21 points and seven rebounds was required to remove the blood spilling from his nose before play was resumed. 

This was only one of many examples of hard charges, diving knees, swinging elbows – all giving the game a worthy name. But with one minute remaining, scores tied, only one team would walk out with their heads high. The Tigers had possession but threw up an ugly contested jumper. The rebound was tipped by both teams and swung out of bounds. The Tigers now had a second go around to win this game. Copeland who had been hot all night missed a contested layup, no timeouts, the Titans running up transition, Darryl McDonald threw to Drimic for the three but missed, forcing over time. 

Just to be expected, the overtime period continued the back and forth nature that had characterised the game all along. Until there was only 35 seconds on the clock, Tigers again with the ball, now down by one. The odd differential meant this play was either to win or lose. Gaze and Copeland played hot potato until Bennett Davison found an opening, easy two. 

With 25 seconds on the clock and a Titans ball, McDonald took two defenders on runs baseline and threw up a floater, nothing but net. Siren goes and the stadium roars in cheers. 

McDonald was just excellent all game so it worked that he took the final shot, finishing the game with 23 points, four rebounds and four assists. A real offensive exhibit for someone who led the league in blocks and steals that season while Gaze was spectacular with 26 points along with seven assists.

These teams faced each other again in the semi-finals, only for Titans to come out on top once again, finishing the series 2-0, just to go all the way to the Grand Final to place second.

Classic Contest: Scott Fisher and North Melbourne Giants win first Grand Final

ALMOST every basketball fan has respect for the National Basketball League (NBL) pioneers, the ones that carved a path for the great league we have today. Yet, even with hardcore fans, most are unable to recite a name other than Andrew Gaze. That is why this Classic Contest in particular provides such an important insight, because it shines a light into the great season and postseason of the North Melbourne Giants, led by NBL trailblazer Scott Fisher. 

Before looking at the historical Game 2 of the 1989 NBL Grand Final, some important context must be provided. Fisher had only been in the league for three seasons, but had already established himself as a household name, losing in the previous year’s Grand Final and winning the MVP in 1989. The team they lost to? Their rival Canberra Cannons, who were now fighting to win back-to-back-to-back Grand Finals. Safe to say, it was time for the North Melbourne Giants to show up. 

For an up-and-coming league only in their tenth season, this game started out perfectly. For the first seven minutes, neither team could find any edge, as both teams gave away the lead twelve different times. It was only when the Cannons dominated the glass, both on offence and defence, that they were able to establish a firm lead that would go as far as 11 points. However, this was shrunk through a successful Giants zone, as it prevented further opponent rebounds and put a stop to fast transition buckets from the Cannons. 

But just by watching this game alone, one can realise why Fisher won two MVPs in his career. Built like a tank, the Californian star was remarkable in driving into the opponent’s rim and either shooting through the defender or kicking it out to an open teammate. A true revolutionary for his time. But even having a superstar like that in your possession, both teams were extraordinarily similar in terms of overall talent and production, evidenced by a 56-all score at the end of half time. 

It was clear to every man on that court that if they wanted to win this game, they had to play at another level – and that is exactly what happened. The Giants began charging to the rim with ferocity, shoulder first into the chests of each Cannon defender. The Cannons picked things up by sending four players to the board on every shot, smashing the rebounding column. Both strategies were equally devastating and matched in their desired effect. 

All that could come from this was a one-point Giants lead coming into the fourth term. This was a perfect situation to see which team had championship DNA. This was also a perfect game to illustrate Fisher’s brilliance. Even when watching this game over 30 years later, any fan can appreciate the sheer court vision displayed, especially once the defence collapsed on the star. 

The defence grew frustrated with Fisher’s playmaking abilities, well ahead of his time, and started throwing out silly fouls leading to a few Cannon players being fouled out. Composed from start to finish, this was all the Giants needed to break away with a small lead that would turn into a final score of 111 to 97, for a momentous Giants victory and their first NBL title. 

The crowd erupted in cheers and a banner hung down into the rafters, ‘The Glasshouse Congratulates GIANTS NBL ‘89 CHAMPIONS’. A perfect end to a perfect season. 

Classic Contest: Andrew Gaze and Tigers win first championship

THEY say great teams become championship teams from how they respond to losses. Well in 1993, the Melbourne Tigers were undisputedly a great team. Led by National Basketball League (NBL) phenom Andrew Gaze, the superstar had dragged the Tigers to five straight finals appearances, but still had nothing to show for it. Funny to think now but Gaze was even thought of as a pretender, ‘the next great talent who could never get over the hump’. The ridicule only peaked the year prior, when Gaze and the Tigers were sent packing after losing the grand final to South East Melbourne Magic. But as of the 31st October, 1993, the Melbourne Tigers were just that, great. 

After going undefeated all playoffs, the Tigers continued their hot streak, winning Game 1 of a tough fought, four point differential, grand final. But things were not as smooth in Game 2, as they took their first loss by seven points. You can imagine the mockery facing Gaze and the Tigers in what would be the final game of the season.  

To add on top of all this historical pressure, the Tigers had to now get it done in front of an emphatic Perth crowd. The pressure clearly took its toll on the Tigers as they failed to make a three until the second quarter, a very unusual occurrence for the sharpshooting team. This was in large part thanks to Gaze’s quiet first half, only dropping 13 points, most coming towards the end of the period. Fortunately, the Melbourne Tigers were not a one man band, and started the third quarter up by just three points. Almost like starting the game fresh again. 

The Wildcats, from start to finish, were exceptional in their ball movement, as they were nearly tripling the Tigers in assists. This was a result of their more team oriented identity, a true characteristic of a championship team. It was with this unpredictability of scoring, that the Wildcats, led by league MVP Ricky Grace, were able to put the ball through the basket in such a consistent fashion. But if they wanted to win this cut throat game, they had to keep Gaze on a tight leash. A hurdle that was being handled nicely, as Gaze only scored two points for the entire third quarter. 

But if the Tigers wanted to win this game, and the silverware, Gaze had to step up. After all, this was his moment. His time to prove exactly why he was considered an Australian basketball prodigy. This entire game centred around whether or not Gaze would rise to championship status or remain a runner up. 

It was all decided in the fourth quarter against a team who had won their last 17 home games who now had their loudest crowd of all. It made it a lot easier that the Wildcats offence turned into a high school run scrimmage quickly, with no player knowing when to shoot or where to stand. This is a classic con of not having a clear cut offensive weapon to run through when things get tough. 

Gaze, who drew a significant amount of attention from the defence, was sensational in finding the best player on the court for the best possible shot and while the Wildcats figured things out towards the end, it was just too late. The Melbourne Tigers won their first NBL championship, beating the Wildcats, 104-102 in a thriller. 

Gaze and his legacy was now set, as he finished the game with 22 points, while also assisting on many of Lenard Copeland’s 35 points. The two will forever go down as Tiger legends for their role in their premiership glory. 

Classic Contest: 1986 NBL Grand Final, Game 3

EVERYONE knows of the 1986 National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final, but in case you are one of the few who do not, here is some context. The Adelaide 36ers dominated all season with 24 wins and two losses while the Brisbane Bullets finished with a 17 and nine win-loss ratio. When the two sides faced off in the highly anticipated Grand Final of the eighth season of the NBL, the 36ers won a crazy game by three points in overtime. Game 2 however was a completely different story with the Bullets coming out on top by 21 points, in front of a very animated 36ers crowd. It all led up to this, Game 3, in front of another sold-out 36ers crowd, with the winner of this game bringing home the first championship to their franchise. 

This was a time when athleticism was the best predictor of whether you had a roster spot or not. The very first play of the game was an alley-oop and wven in the very first few minutes, fans could tell this was not going to be a repeat of Game 2. The Bullets were now facing a different team – a more focused team. One reason being that the 36ers were not allowing league MVP and Bullets superstar Leroy Loggins, any wriggle room. But Loggins earned every one of his eight points as his team trailed 25 to 35. 

Loggins switched things up after the first by playing more in the low post, utilising his height advantage over defensive specialist and previous rookie of the year, Mike McKay. But Loggins would cost his team early by picking up his third foul very early into the second – a common theme from Game 1 where he was fouled out. But even with Loggins staying in the game, the Bullets looked unhinged and ended up trailing by 16. But with the pace of 80s basketball, they shrunk that lead to four points within two minutes. Due to that and the continued offensive rebounds, the game was back to being neck and neck.

During this run, even with the quality of a 1986 basketball clip, you could see the veins in 36ers’ Coach Of The Year, Ken Cole pulsate. Luckily for him, Loggins ended up fouling out mid way through the third. An unequivocal turning point of the game. 36ers’ Darrly Pierce immediately shot out of the gates, always looking to shoot from deep and take the game and you could not blame him as he already had four threes before the last quarter. 

The Bullets almost instantly went down by ten. Two minutes later they were down by four. Seriously, no one could question this team’s heart. But with Bullets’ Robert Sibley fouling out, their chances were getting slimmer by the minute. But the Bullets did not have another 16-2 run, they did not take care of the ball, in fact they could not even sink a free throw such was the pressure from the 36ers. Like a real championship team, Adelaide never took their foot off the pedal until the final buzzer sounded 113-91 as the Adelaide 36ers became NBL champions, their first of four. 

Mark Davis, the season leader in rebounds, was now a Grand Final MVP, averaging 25.0 points, 19.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists over the series. Pearce also torched the scoreboard in Game 3 with 27 along with Al Green who dropped in 22. Calvin Bruton was undisputedly the best on for the losing team with 31 points.

Classic Contest: 1991 NBL Grand Final Game 2

Although there is no National Basketball League (NBL) at the moment, fans can still get their basketball fix with Draft Central’s Classic Contest series. In today’s piece, we look back at the 1991 NBL Grand Final, Game 2 to be exact, where the Eastside Melbourne Spectres fought for their season against the Perth Wildcats, as they tried to become the the third team in NBL history to win back-to-back championships. 

If you are feeling nostalgic over some real tough big men who refused to take a backwards step – look no further than the great Dean Uthoff. Right after the very first foul against his teammate, Uthoff towered over the referee, then screamed through a deep voice that the referee better not get in the way of this game. Yes, in the early nineties there were bulky centres intimidating referees and without these guys, mixed with the occasional oversized, over talented shooting guard who can score from anywhere, say Andrew Gaze, old NBL match clips would not get as many views. 

The intensity in Perth’s arena only rose when the game had to be stopped after Kendal Pinner and Kent Lockhart started a pushing contest. All instigated from pure physicality in the low post. But with no team gaining an edge all first quarter, the competitive madness only rose. The Spectres’ zone that was working so well in the first, was beginning to crumble with every deep shot that left the Wildcats’ hands. But after leading by as much nine, the Spectres fought back valiantly to bring the deficit to only four at halftime. 

Fortunately for the Spectres, the team began defending the perimeter exceptionally well. Unfortunately for the Spectres, they kept allowing their opponents to cut in front of them leading to them getting the ball at the teeth of the zone. The zone would inevitably collapse under its own weight leading to a lot of close range buckets for the Wildcats. 

But with six minutes remaining in the third with the Wildcats leading 57-52, the Spectres began to attack the rim and were almost always either getting buckets or two shots at the charity stripe. This happened again and again until finally, the Spectres were almost exclusively driving to the rim to kick it out for the next person – just for them to try and drive head first into the basket. A simple play that was taking off in a big way. To the shock of the fans, Spectres took the lead and then some. The Wildcats looked helpless and frustrated leading to more communication problems leading to more Spectre buckets. They were now heading into a decisive last quarter up 69-62. 

This streaky run was almost nullified instantly when the Spectres came out with four consecutive costly turnovers. The rest of the quarter saw both teams exchanging buckets, with no victor in sight until the last minute. The Wildcats had the lead but botched the play leading to a transition and one on the other end. Scott Ninnis missed the free throw but Lockhart was fouled going for the rebound. With the Wildcats in the bonus, he now had two free throw attempts to make this either a one or two possession game. Makes one, misses the next and… the Wildcats turn it over…again. Game over. Final score; Spectres 86, Wildcats 81.

The Wildcats would go on to win Game 3 and the championship trophy that follows, but this game was more than just a speed bump to greatness.

Hardcore fans begin to notice after a few Grand Finals, that the game itself completely changes. There are no half-hearted fastbreaks, no uncontested layups and no room for developmental players. Just a lot of controlled panic and loud fans. This game, with all of its heated moments and back and forth scoring, embodies what a Grand Final should be. A stellar game for all fans.

Classic Contests: Most threes in an NBL playoff game ever

ELIMINATION series are incredibly thrilling. With no time for mistakes and no time for learning, all you have are the two or three home-and-away season head-to-heads to go off and one match to decide if your season is finished or just beginning. With no Australian basketball to look forward to for the time being, Draft Central has taken a look back at a huge classic content, the 2008/9 National Basketball League (NBL) Elimination Final, a game that fans ought to watch again.

With everything already on the line, Crocodiles forward Russell Hinder had made headlines that week for complaining about the security and behaviour of fans at RAC arena. Safe to say, every time Hinder touched it, the Perth fans made their voices heard.

But with such immense pressure to start right, the Crocodiles were lucky to have someone like John Rillie, who came out with back to back triples to put his team on the board. Soon after, more Crocodiles were throwing it from deep, as they clearly were given the green light from the perimeter. This run and gun strategy was juxtaposed by the slow and methodical pace of the Wildcats, who always tried to see if there were any easy post buckets first, before letting it fly with jumpers.

It appeared both strategies worked pretty well because the first quarter ended with the Wildcats leading 29-27. The Wildcats were not able to find an answer for Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams who was able to slash in the paint with ease and dish it for an assist, or go over the tall defenders for the sweet lay in. This really speaks to Williams’ talent because Perth came in as one of the best interior defending teams in the league. Between his and Rillie’s hot shooting, Perth were struggling to weather the storm, showing no signs of a smart offence when it was their turn. The half would mercifully end as a sea of red looked stunned, as the Crocodiles led 54-43.

Brad Williamson came out with a heat check brick that was definitely out of his range, after going three for three from deep in the first half. This was the positive sign the Wildcats needed to flip momentum. But after Williams was bumped subtly after a missed lay up, Rossell Ellis came in flying for the next possession contesting with Ben Knight, as they tried to establish post position until it just turned to the two players pushing each other. With Perth only down by seven and the entire crowd getting involved in the commotion, the Wildcats were not going to get a better sign to start picking things up – and that is exactly what they did.

They turned things around completely, taking better shots on offence and put more pressure on their shooters to drive or pass. However Rillie was having one of the hottest nights of his career shooting nine from 14, in order to preserve the lead of just six points heading into the fourth. No player in NBL history had ever mad ten threes in a playoff game, so Rillie had one last quarter to make history. 

Wildcat defenders played that last quarter cross-eyed, with one eye on the ball and one on Rillie. But it was no good as he got his 10th with less than eight minutes to go. While the record of 13 – in regular season or post season – was tempting to think about, this was still a one-point game where the team that lost would pack their bags.

Adam Caporn was able to take the lead for the Wildcats with just over five to go. Perth had only come from behind in the fourth quarter to win a match once all season, so you can imagine how loud the home crowd was in these closing minutes. But Corey Williams fed off this energy, hitting three straight jumpers and vocally egging his team on. 

With less than a minute remaining, Williams would not be silenced, dragging the Crocodiles up by four. But after a drawn out play that resulted in a bucket, Peter Crawford was called with a controversial reach while his team was in the bonus. Of course, none other than Williamson went to the line to sink both for a final score of 103-96 – game over. Townsville had won their second away game in the playoffs in 17 years, with 11 attempts, and only their first time beating Perth all year.

Townsville would go on to lose to the South Dragons in the semi finals, but no one should forget what they had to do to get there. 

Classic Contest: 1992 Grand Final extravaganza

IF you have a friend telling you there is no difference between the early nineties and now in how games were officiated, this is the game for you. If you are missing the nostalgia of elbow jumpers and the empowerment of bigs or just want to watch a top notch last game of a Grand Final, where neither team leads by double digits for the entire game this is the right Classic Contest for you. 

It was obvious these two teams were way past the having to ‘feel each other out’ stage. They were even past the ‘we need to play every possession like it is our last’ stage, instead they came out with plenty of niggle and a real fire in the belly. This was characterised by constant bumps on screens, over the top trash talking and the occasional hard hit on a driving defender and coming from a fan, that is where the most entertaining basketball is played. Not even three minutes into the game, John Dorge and David Simmons got into a pushing contest as Dorge bear hugged Simmons mid air and even held on to him for an extra second or two. No technicals, no ejections. Play was resumed in 15 seconds. 

But it did not take a genius to realise Dorge was not as happy to move on mentally from that early scuffle like the rest of the players on the floor. He quickly nabbed two more cheap fouls, putting his team and himself in jeopardy very early into a Grand Final. That meant the Magic had to sit their 6’10 starting center on the bench. His lack of presence was not the be all end all for the team as they left the first quarter down only one point. However what did look like a pivotal moment for the Tigers, was when Simmons acquired his fourth foul in the first play of the second quarter. As every fan in the stadium would predict, the Tigers almost instantly went down a level with their energy and with Tigers’ superstar Andrew Gaze, still in a shooting slump, no team was able to establish a steady lead. This only added to the already intense, already overly competitive, dynamic of the game.  

Lanard Copeland, who was already on the other side of a couple hard hits, was now carrying the Tigers offensively in the second half. A commendable achievement considering he only finished with 14 in the Game 2 loss. Copeland stood out more than any other player on that end, as both teams only finished with 69 a piece, heading into what was the last quarter of the season. But just like in the second, Simmons started the quarter with another foul, making the total five, with only one away from having to watch from the side lines. His energy all game was infectious and uniquely valuable, but for his team to win, he had to play more passive on defence. The pressure was on. 

It is worth noting that the Magic’s shot selection had been relatively poor the entire first half, and did not get much better throughout the game. When you have your centers shooting 17-footers, a shot that cannot be in the playbook, in the nineties, something is wrong. Magics’ Robert Rose was deserving of some type of reward, because without him, there is no chance the Magic were in the position they were in. With four minutes remaining in the last quarter it was a one point ball game. Gaze only just made his first contribution to the scoreboard as the minutes ticked down, meaning anything could happen now. The Tigers still went for Gaze to take them to the promise land, but the icon was ice cold. Luckily for the Magic, they were able to hit their late game free throws in front of the home crowd, and were able to come out on top because of it, finishing the game, 95-88.

Rose was instrumental dropping a quiet 26 points. Bruce Bolden was excellent all game defensively, while also plowing in 21. The shock of the game was that Gaze, who was regarded as one of, if not the best player in the NBL, only had 18 and was unfortunately unable to bring the Tigers their first NBL championship.

Classic Contest: Perth win fourth title in come-from-behind effort

EVERYONE is missing the National Basketball League (NBL). You are not alone. Fortunately, Draft Central is providing content with or without live games. In today’s classic contest, we look at the 2000s Perth Wildcats side for the second time in seven days. Why? Because they made history to start the millennium by becoming the first team in NBL history to win four NBL titles. So it is only right we look at the last night of their monumental championship season. 

The Victoria Titans had lost a thrilling Game 1 by just six points, so with their backs against the wall, they found themselves trying to tie the series in enemy territory. There was a great sense of weight and urgency all the way from when the clock started counting. Actually, even during the pre-game warm ups, when the teams were trying to calm themselves down in the lay up line, a mob of Perth fans seemingly heckled the Titan players. No doubt there was a Grand Final atmosphere that night that was unable to be matched by any other game held that season.  

With all of this clear in both teams’ minds, it made it tougher for Victoria when they came out with a crowd silencing dunk to start the ball game. The Wildcats took a little longer to put a dent on the scoreboard, and while they were dominating the Titans on the glass early, they failed to put the ball through the net. This was unsurprising with all the chips in their lap – higher on the ladder, a lead in the series, home court advantage – and clearly the expectation was for the Titans to win the game. Any added pressure put on top of just participating in a Grand Final, whether positive or not, can make be very nerve wracking, leading to easy misses and silly turnovers. 

That’s exactly how the Wildcats played for the first period, not even able to reach double digits as they trailed 9-15, but leading the game in rebounds. With only two veterans scoring for the Wildcats, this was their lowest scoring quarter of the season. 

The Wildcats came out in the second with a clear game plan: attack the rim and get to the line. A pretty smart way of slowing down momentum for an escalating team while also allowing the shooters to get in their rhythm. In Game 1 they shot 10 from 13 and looked to implement the same game plan this quarter to try and wrestle back some momentum. 

But there was one problem. The Wildcats failed to score even at the charity stripe and went zero for two in their first attempts all game. As you can imagine, the Wildcats ran back into transition feeling very cold. The Titans capitalised, scoring seven straight points to push the lead 18-9. Finally, Marcus Timmons would break the drought for Perth with a corner three. This was just the spark they needed, and like the Titans in the first, Perth went on a run that saw them score eight straight points before the Titans could find the net once more. 

With a little less than three minutes left in the half, the Wildcats led by a point. But by the end of the half, they led by eight. This is why Perth were a championship team, able to produce a remarkable turnaround in such a short amount of time. Even when the shots were not working, they never took their foot off the pedal, and in large thanks to Timmons’ 16 points, they now had the momentum in a closing game. 

Not long before, it had looked like Perth were doomed to play in an elimination Game 3. Now the Titans, who had seven less rebounds and five less assists, were unable to gain an edge in the third and now trailing by ten. 

The truth is, when watching this game back, the Titans never had a chance. The Wildcats carried off the momentum of the crowd and Timmons’ historic shooting from the bench – 7 of 12 from the three. They looked confident, united and unfazed, all characteristics of a championship team. That is exactly what they became that night, winning the game 83-76 and becoming the 1999-2000 NBL Champions.

The Wildcats of this era should be remembered as one of the best teams of their time. Led by players like Anthony Stewart who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, or of course Paul Rogers, who hit some big time shots to go with his nine points and eight rebounds. The Wildcats would never have been able to function like they did without a player like Ricky Grace, who dropped an impressive 13 points while dishing eight assists and clobbering seven rebounds.

Classic Contest: Game winner in 4OT NBL

AWAITING the return of the National Basketball League (NBL) Draft Central might just have the perfect substitute, as we cast an eye over some Classic Contests. In today’s piece, we look at one of the most heart-racing games in basketball history.  The 1994 Round 9 clash between the Brisbane Bullets and rivals Perth Wildcats was a thriller that went right down to the wire. It was a hot contest, where missing even a beat of action, could mean missing the entire outcome of the game as the match went into a staggering four overtime periods, testing players endurance, tactics and resilience out on court. 

The Bullets came out of the gates with a level of energy that was unmatched by the opposing team. This was mostly due to the fact that the Wildcats had run over the Townsville Crocodiles by 40 points less than 24 hours prior to the game, and were unaware just how many minutes this game would eventually tally. They would leave the first period down 34-22, but were already showing signs of physical exhaustion. But sometimes, all a team needs is a quarter for their stars to find that competitive spirit that was burning so bright, only the night before.

The Wildcats – the third seed – played the rest of the game like they had something to prove to the Bullets, who were sitting second on the ladder. Taking charges, diving for loose balls and hitting the glass, the Wildcats exerted maximum effort to every single play, as they gradually cut the lead until they were only down one point at the half. The Bullets, in large thanks to Shane Heal’s six three-pointers were able to wake up and remain in front by just three points. The rest of the fourth would remain in a state of back and forth nature until they found themselves tied at 92 apiece with 19 seconds left. 

The Wildcats were gearing up to pass it in from the sidelines while every fan in the Brisbane Entertainment Centre stood up. But the play was botched, meaning the game entered the first overtime period of the 1994 NBL season. No team was able to find an edge until there was only 15 seconds left on the clock, with scores tied once again. This time with Brisbane having the opportunity to seal a victory. Heal, who had already knocked back 33 points, found himself at the top of the perimeter, dribbling the ball for the last shot. But the pressure got to him forcing a costly turnover. 

Another five-minute overtime period was on its way. Both teams fought heroically but were flooding the court and benches in sweat. Even the fans looked tired, but the longer this game continued, the greater the importance of staying composed. The fans would eventually be cheering defence for what was now, the Wildcats’ turn to execute on a game-clinching play, with 20 seconds on the clock, of course, scores tied.

Scott Fisher, of the Wildcats, took the midrange jumper to win the game, but like with players fatiguing the shot fell short to sit at 110 points apiece, now in a third overtime. With thirty seconds left in the third period, Heal was able to tie the scores up with a miraculous corner three. There was a reason they called him Shane ‘The Hammer’ Heal. Eric Watterson orchestrated the period ending play but threw a fatigued turnover. One where the decision was right but the pass was so slow it was picked off. This game had entered its fourth period of overtime.

Due to a missed free throw, the differential was only one point and with the 20 seconds remaining, the Wildcats up by one, the Bullets had to make a play if they were to run away with a victory. Of course, Heal stood up to the plate, ran through the defence and chucked a fade away from the side of the key. Swish. With 3.7 seconds left on the clock, the Wildcats were unable to make a sensible play and the game was over. Heal left the game with 43 points in 53 minutes in what was a stellar and gruelling performance. 

NBL Free Agency Update: Kings, Phoenix and Wildcats

TO wrap up Draft Central’s National Basketball League (NBL) Free Agency updates to this point, we delve into the moves made by the reigning premiers, the Perth Wildcats, and last season’s runners-up Sydney Kings. We also look deeper into how the NBL’s newest team, South East Melbourne Phoenix, is shaping up for their second season in the country’s top basketball competition.

SYDNEY KINGS

Even though the Kings have made minimal changes to their line-up for NBL21, last season’s minor premiers have still made some noteworthy signings for the upcoming campaign. Firstly, for Sydney, it was their decision to re-sign Craig Moller on the NBL’s newly introduced club option rule. Moller’s re-signing got the Kings going in regard to outlining what their squad would start to look like, currently holding Brad Newley and Jordan Hunter under contract. To help bolster their side with young and exciting faces, the Kings re-acquired one of the biggest surprises of last season, Shaun Bruce, as well as fully recovered Xavier Cooks to the fold.

With the retirement of potential Hall of Famer, Kevin Lisch, and the future of Andrew Bogut unknown, the allowance of new signings for the Kings has also increased. The poaching of another sought after NCAA graduate from the United States took place, as former Miami Hurricane, Dejan Vasiljevic, made his way down-under to continue his successful basketball career. The three-year-deal between the Kings and Vasiljevic embodies the next few years of transition that the purple and gold will undertake, as they start to bring in new talent. Furthermore, 21-year-old Angus Glover will make the hour and a half drive northbound to Sydney, after putting pen to paper on another three-year contact under Will Weaver. Having served as a key part of Matt Flinn’s rotation last season with the Hawks, Glover would average a modest 5.2 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

Contracted:

Brad Newley
Jordan Hunter

Re-signed:

Shaun Bruce
Xavier Cooks
Craig Moller (Club Option)

Signed:

Angus Glover (The Hawks)
Dejan Vasiljevic (Miami Hurricanes)

 

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX

Following the retirement announcements of two of their most senior players and leaders in Tai Wesley and Ben Madgen, head coach Simon Mitchell now has his hands full to try and re-shuffle his squad for the NBL21 season. The additional losses of star shooter John Roberson to Spanish side Estudiantes and Dan Trist to the New Zealand Breakers, as well as promising young prospect Yanni Wetzell due to his European opt-out clause, does not make life easier for the Phoenix.

While the losses to this point have been sizeable, the Phoenix administration have made headway in reconciling this dilemma. The re-signings of Chicago-native Kendall Stephens and pivotal power-forward Dane Pineau, both of whom were members of the Phoenix’s inaugural season, will look to suit up in the green for at least one more fixture.

In terms of new additions, two members of the Brisbane Bullets can now look forward to some less consistent weather, as both Cam Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi announced their intentions to move South. Gliddon, an Australian Boomer, has represented his country on numerous occasions, having served the green and gold at both the 2017/2018 FIBA Asia and World Cups. Linking back up with teammate Mitchell Creek will be an added bonus to the team’s morale when the season’s preparations start to ramp up. Te Rangi, who was a late inclusion in this year’s NZNBL representing the Canterbury Rams, looks to continue his rapid development in Australia’s top-flight. Te Rangi helped the Rams to an unexpected title run, which saw the team make it all the way to the competition’s semi-finals, despite finishing the regular season with a 4-10 record and finishing at the bottom of the standings.

Contracted:

Adam Gibson
Kyle Adnam
Mitchell Creek

Re-signed:

Dane Pineau
Kendall Stephens

Signed:

Cam Gliddon (Brisbane Bullets)
Reuben Te Rangi (Brisbane Bullets)

 

PERTH WILDCATS

After what was a hectic start to their off-season movements, with both Nick Kay and Bryce Cotton opting out of their contracts and then Cotton re-signing for three-years, the defending champion Wildcats have well and truly started to rebuild their squad, as they endeavour on yet another successful NBL season.

The first of many was the Club Option taken on big-man Majok Majok, as the Wildcats look to centre their offseason on obtaining big bodies and after Majok’s contributions last season, one would not argue how valuable he is to Trevor Gleeson’s squad. Next up in the batting order, is fourth-year player Todd Blanchfield, who has transferred to the West Coast after two years with the Hawks, averaging over 13.5 points and 45 per cent shooting from the field during his time in Wollongong.

To help reinforce Perth’s backcourt, 36ers guard Kevin White will help mentor his younger peers in his fourth year of NBL action. The 33-year-old will look to step in where Damian Martin left off after his Hall of Fame career came to a fitting end after winning his sixth NBL Championship and with the re-signing of Taylor Britt and purchase of John Mooney, some fresh legs will look to insert some explosiveness into the depth of Gleeson’s gang.

Contracted:

Clint Steindl
Jesse Wagstaff
Luke Travers
Mitchell Norton
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk

Re-signed:

Bryce Cotton
Majok Majok (Club Option)
Taylor Britt

Signed:

John Mooney (University of Notre Dame)
Kevin White (Adelaide 36ers)
Todd Blanchfield (The Hawks)