Tag: Adam Gibson

South East Melbourne Phoenix Season Review

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Season Summary:

South East Melbourne Phoenix entered their second campaign in the NBL looking to improve on their eighth placed debut season, and coach Simon Mitchell got exactly what he would have asked for. The Phoenix just managed to edge out last season’s grand finalists the Sydney Kings to claim fourth spot and ensure the club’s maiden finals berth.

A rollercoaster of a season saw the Phoenix end up with a 19-17 season record, aided by a mid-season purple patch, where the team won six out of seven games between Rounds 9 and 12. Mitch Creek was a huge part of the team’s successful season, as he continues to help build the club from its foundations.

Like most clubs, the Phoenix had their fair share of interruptions this season with star import Keifer Sykes missing time with an ankle injury, veteran Adam Gibson battling with calf issues, and Creek missing two weeks without playing or training due to a police matter. In addition, the club was without big man Dane Pineau, as the rebounding defender (who was nominated for Defensive Player of the Year last season) could only manage one game, battling numerous injuries.

Despite the dramas the team rallied, and the mid-year signing of Ryan Broekhoff from the NBA, was another good move as they fell just short of reaching the grand final.

How It Unfolded:

From the start of the season the Phoenix looked a danger, averaging 91.5 points across the first 10 games, starting the year 5-5, including a couple wins over reigning champions Perth.

The biggest problem for coach Mitchell was trying to get his guys to perform consistently, as they were quite up and down during the season, apart from their mid-year seven-win, two-loss run. A few late defeats to the Taipans (once) and the Bullets (twice) opened the door for the Sydney Kings to hunt down fourth spot, but the Phoenix managed to hold on.

A semi-final match-up against crosstown rivals Melbourne United saw the Phoenix lose the first game, before winning the second match up in the best of three series, but it was eventual champions United who got the upper hand to move on to the big dance.

What Worked Well:

As the saying goes ‘one man’s loss is another man’s gain’, unfortunately for Pineau injury disrupted his season, but it allowed teammates Ben Moore and Yannick Wetzell to step up, with both players in the team’s top three for rebounds, as well as top two for blocks.

Offensively, there was a lot to like for Phoenix fans, with the team leading the league for points scored (3217) averaging 89.4 per game. They led field goals made (32.8 per game), shooting at 46.3 per cent (ranked second), and they were equal third for three pointers made (9.4 per game), with a shooting percentage of 36.1 per cent (ranked second).

The recruitment of Sykes was a success, as the guard went on to average 14 points and five assists per game, playing second fiddle to Creek, who led the team in scoring (18 per game, 51 per cent field goals made, 41 per cent three pointers made). Kyle Adnam also had a solid year playing 36 games and averaging 12.6 points and 3.6 assists and finishing in third place for the leagues Sixth Man of the Year award. Cameron Gliddon was also an offensive weapon averaging 11.5 points (2.7 threes per game on 40 per cent shooting).

What Went Wrong:

Although Wetzell and Moore had great seasons, the Phoenix did miss the presence of big man Pineau, as they ranked second last for rebounds and blocks, which Pineau had averaged 8.6 and 1.1 respectively in the 2019/20 season. They also conceded the most points by any of the finals teams, conceding 86.8 points per game, over four points more than Melbourne United (82.1 points conceded per game).

The Phoenix had their chance to face off against Perth in the last week of finals, but they blew a 15-point lead to United in the decisive game three, going on to lose 74-84, putting an end to their season.

MVP Conversation:

Last year’s winner Mitch Creek will again be the firm favourite to take out the club’s top honour in its second season. Creek was named in the NBL All Second Team, after averaging 18 points across 31.49 minutes this season. Creek played 34 games and had a huge impact in the team’s success. He was second in rebounds (6.4 per game), and third for assists (3.6 per game) in what was a great output despite his interruptions earlier on in the season.

Sykes may have given him a run for his money had he not suffered his ankle injury which kept him out for over a month. Sykes was second in scoring and led the team’s assist numbers this year.

Creek should take out the top honour again, making it two from two.

Roster News:

Some important moves have already been made by the Phoenix, with Creek electing to trigger his player option, meaning he will be at the club next season. Broekhoff has re-signed for two years, after playing 16 games this season, since returning from a stint in the USA. Adnam and Izayah Le’Afa have both agreed to two-year deals, with Le’Afa gaining a contract after being signed as a development player in his first season.

Pineau, Gliddon and Reuben Te Rangi all remain contracted for next season, while Wetzell is on the move to his home country, with the New Zealand Breakers securing the big man on a three-year deal.

Looking Towards Next Season:

It was a very positive outcome from the Phoenix this season, climbing four places on the ladder from last season. With key players like Creek and Broekhoff signed on for next season, the team looks in good shape to challenge the best again. With a good off-season, coach Mitchell will be hoping  Pineau, can make a healthy return to help sure up his side’s defence after they looked shaky in that aspect this season.

You get the feeling the Phoenix will be a must watch next season.

Photo credit: South East Melbourne Facebook

Phoenix snap slump to steamroll over Taipans

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix’s three game losing streak is over, following a clinical 86-66 win over the Cairns Taipans on Sunday. The Phoenix travelled to Cairns Pop-Up Arena out of form and needing a win to keep themselves away from the fifth placed Hawks, and in Adam Gibson’s 450th they put on a show.

The Phoenix were initially scheduled to face off against the Bullets in Brisbane, but the shock lockdown enforced in Western Australia saw the Bullets trapped in Perth, unable to make the clash. The NBL quickly shuffled the board and the Phoenix shortly after found themselves on their way up to Cairns to take on the last placed Taipans.

The drama before the game mattered not as the visitors took a 20-point lead early into the first term, led by an exceptional performance from their starters, consistently finding avenues to score. The Taipans fought back to bring the deficit down to 13 at the first term and carried this momentum into the second term. The Taipans outplayed their opponents in the second term to bring the game to within eight points at half time as the game’s momentum looked to be heading one way only.

This wouldn’t last long as the Phoenix showed their class in the third term as they broke away from the home side. They were clearly motivated by Gibson’s milestone, extending their lead to 18 points at the final term, led by the exceptional shooting of former Cairns captain Cameron Gliddon. The final quarter saw the Phoenix put the game into cruise control as they ended the match with a 20-point victory to regain some desperately needed form.

With the NBL season edging closer to the postseason, the Phoenix were eager to put themselves back on the winners list, especially with injuries to Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau and Kendall Stephens, all key contributors when healthy. The victory appeared no easy feat, as the Taipans had won two of their last three matches to find a slight spark towards the end of the season. These circumstances clearly mattered not to the Phoenix who celebrated Gibson’s special night in style. The veteran guard is the only current player to reach the 450 game mark, and the 29th in NBL history. Gibson only scored four points, but the occasion overshadowed the performance.

For the victors, Gliddon was the star of the show, finishing with 22 points and seven rebounds against his former side, where he also showcased his range, finishing with four three pointers for the night too. He was well assisted by teammates Reuben Te Rangi (13 points), Kyle Adnam (12 points) and Mitch Creek (11 points and eight rebounds). For the Taipans, Venky Jois tried hard all night, trying to provide some spark off the bench with 12 points in 23 minutes of action. Import Scott Machado was restricted to 6 points on 2-11 shooting and couldn’t get free to contribute to his side’s scoring.

The Phoenix will be finally facing off against the Bullets on Thursday night if all goes to plan with the lockdown in Western Australia, and the Taipans have a shot at redemption on Sunday as these two sides face off again.

Kings get one back against Phoenix with seven point victory

SYDNEY Kings hit back last night, exacting their revenge on the South East Melbourne Phoenix to secure a seven-point victory (97-90). After suffering a 14-point loss last week at the hands of the Phoenix the Kings seemed to have all the answers in this clash to ward off their opponents. Heading into the clash, the Kings were hit with the devastating news that Dejan Vasiljevic will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing his Achilles, but that only spurred on the side which withstood a fourth quarter comeback.

The intention from the Kings was clear from the opening minutes of play piling on the first four points of the game and dictating the terms of the game. their ability to control the ball and the play was second to none, pushing the Phoenix onto the backfoot as they opened up a handy five-point lead at the break thanks to Didi Louzada’s ability to find the basket.

The second quarter was more of the same as the Kings managed to continue on their merry way as the Phoenix endeavoured to drag themselves back into the contest. Tightening things up in defence, South East Melbourne reduced the freedom in which their opponents were scoring but were unable to eat into the deficit with both sides producing 22 points to head into half time staring down the barrel of a five-point margin.

It was a completely different tale in the third as the Kings exploded out of the blocks, wowing the Phoenix and forcing them into panic stations as the game slipped through their fingers. The old firm rung true as both Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert got busy to pile on the scoreboard pressure and create plenty of attacking forays. They were not alone as Louzada continued to make his mark on the game, continuously attacking the rim and sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition after somewhat of a quiet season by his standards so far. Sydney simply could not be denied as they added an impressive 28 points to their total while completely halting the Phoenix in their tracks. South East Melbourne failed to generate any real fluidity in attack, only adding a mere 12 points to their scoreline as the deficit grew to a whopping 21 at the final change.

With it all to play for in the final term it was an unsung hero in developing New Zealander Izayah Le’Afa that led the troops for the Melbourne-based side. He upped the ante in the fourth quarter, sparking an inspired comeback from the Phoenix as Le’Afa proved to have the ball on the strong and the rest of the team drawing off his energy. The cogs really started to tick along for South East Melbourne with the likes of Mitch Creek and Ben Moore finding their touch as the side piled on 33 points to the Kings’ 19. Le’Afa slotted the last six points of the game but unfortunately his fourth quarter heroics were not quite enough to get the Phoenix over the line.

With no Vasiljevic and also missing the services of Jarrell Martin the Kings proved that they have a wealth of depth that are able to step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Casper Ware was well and truly down on his lofty standards recording a mere two points but did get busy with four rebounds and six assists. The real star of the show was Next Star, Louzada who led all comers with 28 points at 72 per cent from the field to accompany his eight rebounds and block. Kickert was a reliable source throughout the match sinking 17 points and six rebounds with Newley also delivering the goods for 17 points of his own at 70 per cent from the field. Jordan Hunter was the sole other player to notch up double-digits with 11 and six rebounds.

For the Phoenix it was Le’Afa who had a game to remember, dropping a game-high 29 points at 62 per cent. It did not stop there as he also recorded two rebounds and three steals in an all-round solid effort. Moore plied his trade with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists while Creek was influential with 17 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Adam Gibson chimed in with a handy seven points and five rebounds as Kiefer Sykes struggled to find his mojo but still produced four points and five assists.

Phoenix break New Zealand hearts with fast finish

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have stormed to a memorable seven-point win over New Zealand Breakers at John Cain Arena last night, maintaining their good form in the National Basketball League (NBL)21 competition. Despite the best efforts of a record-breaking Colton Iverson (26 points, 22 rebounds), the Phoenix had the answers when it counted. Trailing by two points at the final break, the home team scored 25 points to 16 in the last term to secure the 92-85 victory.

It was the Phoenix who looked to have the ball on a string early in the contest, shooting 29-17 in the opening term to open up a whopping 12-point lead after a quarter played. The visiting team began to turn it around through the middle of the match, scoring 23-17 and then 29-21 in the second and third terms respectively to hit the front by two points at the final break. The Breakers first hit the front with just under five minutes left in the third quarter, and then managed to hold that advantage – by just two points – after going up by as much as four late in the quarter.

An Adam Gibson triple a couple of minutes into the final quarter put the Phoenix up in the match, and then five consecutive points to Mitch Creek extended the lead out to six by the midway mark of the term. The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes, with another Creek layup with 80 seconds on the clock handing the Phoenix a comfortable seven-point lead. Iverson had other ideas through, with back-to-back free throws, a block, defensive rebound and then driving layup to cut the deficit to just three points with 26 seconds on the clock.

A deliberate foul on Creek saw the ex-NBA player make no mistake from the charity stripe, but Iverson was there again with the layup and the deficit was a single basket once again. Another deliberate foul, this time on Cam Gliddon extended it back out to five points with his successful free throws, whilst a bad pass from Finn Delany saw Creek steal it and when Ben Moore duly delivered off the foul with half a dozen seconds left, the game was over, and the 92-85 win handed to the Phoenix.

The home team was more efficient from the field, shooting at 51 per cent to the Breakers’ 46 per cent, as well as an 84 per cent strike rate from the charity stripe compared to New Zealand’s 63 per cent. The rebounds were fairly even, and both teams had low turnovers (8-9 in favour of Phoenix), whilst the home team capitalised through assists (21-15), won the points in the paint count (42-38) and punished the Breakers off turnovers (18-6). New Zealand had more second chance points thanks to Iverson (13-7), but only had the eight points off the bench as Creek dominated off the pine for the opposition.

Yannick Wetzell won Player of the Match honours for 18 points – at 61 per cent from the field – and 10 rebounds, whilst Gliddon also nailed 18 points, shooting four of five from long-range for a high efficiency. Creek had a team-high 24 points off the bench, also recording eight rebounds and two assists in the match. Kyle Adnam (11 points, seven assists) was inaccurate from the field with just three of 13 made, whilst Moore was busy with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Ryan Broekhoff had a quieter game after a huge one last time out, picking up six points, six rebounds and two assists.

For the Breakers, Iverson’s 22 rebounds was the most in a 40-minute era and most in 24 years, while Tai Webster and Delany both hit three of seven from long-range as Webster finished with 16 points, seven assists and two rebounds, while Delany had 15 points and two rebounds, Corey Webster was the other double-digit scorer with 11 points and four assists.

The Phoenix next play Illawarra Warra Hawks on Friday at WIN Entertainment Centre, while the Breakers will have until Saturday to prepare for Melbourne United, another game at John Cain Arena.

Picture credit: Getty Images

Phoenix set franchise-record fourth straight win over stagnant Sixers

AFTER trailing for quite literally the entire game last night at John Cain Arena, the South East Melbourne Phoenix have earned a remarkable come from behind 96-89 win over the Adelaide 36ers, winning the contest with a superb overtime period and earning a four-game winning streak in the process – the longest ever in the franchise’s short history.

The undermanned Phoenix (Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau were back in the line-up) kept up with the 36ers throughout the first chunk of 10 minutes, trailing Adelaide by a mere five points with Yanni Wetzell putting together 12 first-quarter points. But a wide spread of scorers for Conner Henry’s 36ers side saw six individuals find the bottom of the net, the reason responsible for their lead in the second (25-20).

It was the visitors that came out of the first break hot though, with Adelaide putting seven-straight points on the board over the initial three minutes. However, the Phoenix’s firepower from the field was able to undo the initial damage that the 36ers had inflicted on the home side tying the quarter at 22 points each.

As Adelaide still maintained a five-point advantage at the end of the opening half, they could credit it to their ridiculous 58 per cent field goal efficiency, while South East Melbourne was sitting at around 40 per cent on their end (shooting 11 points from the free throw line on 11 attempts). Furthermore, Adelaide moved the ball extraordinarily well with 11 assists compared to the Phoenix’s five, but the hosts led in categories like second chance points and points scored from turnovers.

Again, the Phoenix were sluggish to start a period, this time the third, giving up an 11-2 run in favour of their opponents, which saw Adelaide’s margin balloon quickly out to double digits once again as Josh Giddey and Daniel Johnson continued to run amuck in the paint.

Some key plays created by Pineau late in the third marked the end of another comeback run by South East Melbourne, pulling the deficit back to three points (59-62) after 30 minutes of play, with Ben Moore starting to become a nuisance for the 36ers with 13 points and six rebounds at three quarter time.

The fourth was more level in terms of scoring production from both teams, and the game would hang in the balance heading into the final minutes. South East Melbourne completed their comeback efforts following a triple off of Kyle Adnam and a layup by Wetzell with less than 20 seconds on the clock.

New revealed Adelaide import Brandon Paul missed a chance to win the game in the final second after settling for a contested three, and the result would mean a session of overtime for the two sides.

A 12-2 run to start overtime for the Phoenix was more than ideal and to make matters worse for the 36ers, a rolled ankle from Giddey saw the youngster miss out the last two minutes of the game.

Thanks to their late run, South East Melbourne were able to attain a much-needed victory off the back of what has been an eventful last few weeks – and without team leading scorer Mitchell Creek.

All signs pointed to Adelaide being the superior of the two sides leading the way in statistics such as shooting (52 to 44 per cent), assists (16-15), bench points (30-21) and fast break points (7-2). But the Phoenix hung around to earn a plus-seven in rebounding, turnovers and free throws, therefore willing themselves back into the game.

Key players for the Phoenix included Moore, who accounted for 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as well as Wetzell having 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Adnam and Cameron Gliddon each accounted for double digits, whereas Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was a standout with 10 points in 26 minutes of court time, including some valuable defensive plays late in the game.

For Adelaide, Paul was their major scorer with 20 points and three assists, while the one-two punch of Giddey and Johnson was kept to relatively harmless numbers. Giddey had himself a full game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists before his premature exit, whereas Johnson also had 15 points, but a small contribution on the glass with three rebounds.

Moving on from their win last night the Phoenix have no further outings in Round 10 but will have their form tested a week from now when they face off with Melbourne United. Adelaide will try to recuperate and head back to the drawing board as they will need to try and steal an away win from the Cairns Taipans, however, many answers await following the potential injury of Giddey and if there will be a period of rest associated with the outcome.

Phoenix season to reach crossroads over next few weeks; will Broekhoff break out?

OVER at the South East Melbourne Phoenix camp, it has certainly been an eventful last couple of weeks to say the least, with the upcoming months set to be just as interesting because of the consequential effect it will have on their NBL21 campaign.

To rattle off the list of recent events, the Phoenix have acquired an ex-NBA sharpshooter, won their last three games, secured a top-four seed as a result for now, and lost Mitch Creek for an indefinite amount of time after being charged by Victoria Police with alleged assault. All of these moments have led to now and South East Melbourne’s upcoming fixtures. This will be an opportunity for the Melbourne based side to show just how deep they can bat and if they can prevail in adversary.

After news hit that former Dallas Mavericks member Ryan Broekhoff would be signing with the newest side in the National Basketball League (NBL) back in mid-February, many have been eager to see how the Victorian would have an impact on the rest of the competition.

Broekhoff did not make his first NBL appearance until March 12, but that was to follow after the Phoenix began their recent run of form just days earlier, when they shocked both their cross-town rival and league leaders, Melbourne United.

In their Round 9 matchup against United, South East Melbourne had just nine active players ready to suit up as Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens and Broekhoff were out of action for a litany of reasons.

Nevertheless, for Creek, he ran away with 31 points and 10 rebounds next to Kyle Adnam who also had a productive evening with 18 points and eight rebounds. The performances by these two carried a reduced Phoenix squad over the line into overtime, where Reuben Te Rangi shone, assisting the team to a 97-92 victory and a Melbourne Throwdown win to remember.

Creek’s season-high scoring performance on the night was indicative of the forward’s presence on the floor so far this season, which points to how much of a loss his absence will be going forward. The loss will primarily come from behind the arch where he causes so much damage off the dribble and the occasional three when he is in rhythm, not including his diligence on the glass and ability to make his teammates more involved on the floor.

Moving on from their big win against Melbourne, the Phoenix had a lowlier opponent waiting in the distance for their next clash. But this time, the Phoenix had the opportunity to show off their new signing in Broekhoff.

Despite playing just a minor role off the bench in South East Melbourne’s 85-81 win over Cairns, Broekhoff was a wonderful addition on the night. Playing over 13 minutes against the Taipans, he shot the ball just six times but converted on three attempts. Knocking down these three field goals including a trademark triple, Broekhoff finished with a minor contribution of seven points, but it was enough to put the NBL on notice with the Phoenix adding another weapon to their arsenal.

Broekhoff once again exhibited relatively low production numbers in the Phoenix’s next outing against New Zealand to conclude the NBL Cup, finishing with only three points in nine minutes of play. Coach Mitchell limited his new signing’s minutes to help him settle in, meaning the one-two punch of Creek and Adnam was called upon once again, as the pair combined for 42 points with each finding the mark for 21 points apiece and helping South East Melbourne to their third straight win leading up to today, toppling the Breakers comfortably 103-89.

Defeating United, Cairns and then New Zealand in Round 9, the Phoenix did not only place second in the NBL Cup standings meaning a reward of $100,000 for the club, but also helped improve their regular season record to nine wins and seven losses. Due to this, South East Melbourne now sit tentatively in fourth position on the NBL ladder.

With a top-four position to defend from this point on and an abundance of games still yet to be played, the Phoenix need to recognise that they now have a target on their back which they will find out in their upcoming contests.

First up on the docket is the Adelaide 36ers at home, who are currently seeking some good form coming out of the NBL Cup with the second worst record over the three rounds (two wins and six losses). But with the Phoenix to set foot on the court without their leader in Creek, perhaps now is the time to release the long-range damage of Broekhoff, as they now have 21.2 points, 3.7 assists and 7.3 rebounds to replace – a big amount of statistics to fill before facing Melbourne again in Round 11.

Adding to this, Adnam will also need to step up in the backcourt, more so than ever with his captain out of action. The 27-year-old guard has averaged 17 points and six assists during his last three games. Cameron Gliddon (11.2 points per game this season) will also need to be a big producer on the hardwood as too will Yannick Wetzell down low.

Big weeks lie ahead for South East Melbourne, and it is safe to say that it will be the true test of will for this side in NBL21, because firstly, they are severely undermanned at this time and furthermore, the Phoenix have a tough stretch of games heading into postseason action.

Franchise record efficiency earns Phoenix NBL Cup runners up honours

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix have won three in a row for the first time since the start of the season and have secured second place on the NBL Cup ladder after their 14-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers (103-89). Setting a franchise record of 63 per cent shooting from the field, they won all four quarters on the back of five players scoring double figures. An ominous sign for the competition with players like Keifer Sykes, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens, and Dane Pineau still to come back in.

Injuries have also affected the Breakers with Corey Webster, Rob Loe, and Lamar Patterson missing, while new signings in Jeremy Kendle and William McDowell-White are not yet available. Despite these absences on either side, both outfits have been playing some of their best basketball this season.

The first matchup between these sides in 13 months kicked off in an efficiently high-octane fashion with the Phoenix leading 29-23 at the first break.

The anticipated matchup of Finn Delany and Mitch Creek was ignited early with plays at both ends providing some quality basketball, but the work of Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was what stood out in early proceedings. He drew two charges and dropped a pair of threes and has quickly become one of the biggest improvers during the NBL Cup.

The Phoenix did not take care of the ball as much as they would have liked, but 5-8 from deep which included a missed three-quarter court buzzer-beater was what gave them the edge. With each quarter giving South East Melbourne something to play for, they were reluctant to drop a point and managed to hold out the Breakers in the second to lead 53-46 at half time.

Delany was leading the charge for New Zealand as he made his way to 13 first-half points, but 13 from Ben Moore and 12 from Creek on perfect field shooting was pivotal to their edge in the game. Offensive efficiency was key in their lead, but they were still giving up the ball too much as coach Simon Mitchell pleaded with his troops to restrict their scoring from turnovers.

With the game still in the balance, the Breakers had to reverse their second-half history as they had only won one of their last nine.

Tai Webster was set on being the man to step up and knocked down two triples to start the third. On his next attacking foray, he committed an offensive foul and had to sit down with four fouls. From there, the Phoenix extended their lead with their attack on the paint. They would make shots inside or draw the foul or draw the defence and kick it to their shooters on the outside.

They led 78-65 at the final break but despite their lead, coach Mitchell was not happy and implored his team to think beyond just winning quarters but playing basketball that would take them deep into the season.

Mostly sloppy back and forth basketball in the final quarter did not see any significant change in the margin as South East Melbourne won the final quarter to give them the maximum seven points to put them outright second on the NBL Cup ladder. It was just the second time that a side won all four quarters and the game, with the other being New Zealand.

Creek had 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists, while Kyle Adnam had 21 points and seven assists and were the key contributors to go with Yannick Wetzell (15 points) and Cam Gliddon (10 points, four rebounds, four assists).

The Phoenix scored 48 points in the paint and tried to expose the undermanned Breakers line up inside. Thanks to 17 points from Moore, their bench outscored New Zealand’s by 19 points as they opted to go with a six-player rotation with just two other players playing six minutes or less.

Being notably undermanned themselves, Creek said his side did a fantastic job to finish second in the NBL Cup having had their “backs against the wall”.

“Guys out injured, guys stepping up, replacement players, Ryan [Broekhoff] coming in with 14 days of sitting on a couch essentially, so proud of the guys and what they’ve been able to achieve,” he said. “We’ve all gone through a lot of adversity to be here, it’s nice to get a bit of prize money that’s fantastic, the beers will taste good tonight, but we’ve got to get back into it”.

Delany (24 points, six rebounds, three assists, 40 minutes) and Tom Abercrombie (23 points) both shot at 60 per cent and kept the Breakers competitive, while Webster managed 16 points and five assists, but eight turnovers.

The Phoenix look ahead to the 36ers on Saturday having pushed their way into outright fourth, while the Breakers will face the Bullets on the same night.

Creek inspired Phoenix win in an overtime thriller

MISSING a number of crucial cogs, South East Melbourne Phoenix starred in overtime, taking down top of the table Melbourne United last night stealing a five-point win (97-92). The Melbourne Throwdown lived up to the hype, with the two sides leaving no stone unturned, fighting tooth and nail to edge each other out of the contest. But in the end it was the grit and determination of the Phoenix that secured them the win, while handing Melbourne United their second straight loss.

Undermanned with only six rostered players available, given Keifer Sykes, Dane Pineau, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens and new signing Ryan Broekhoff were unavailable, the Phoenix dug deep to lead for majority of the game and withstand everything United threw at them. Both sides came out with a point to prove and that was evident in the opening term of play as they put up a number of shots to keep the scoreboard ticking over. However it was the Phoenix that made United pay, posting 29 points to 24 taking a handy five point lead into the first change. Keeping that momentum flowing in the second term, South East Melbourne added to their tally with Mitch Creek impressing in all facets of the game to shoulder the load and establish a handy eight-point lead.

With a lot to play for in the third quarter, Melbourne started to kick into gear with some of their familiar names such as Jock Landale finding their rhythm while star import Yudai Baba got going. But it was not enough to worry the opposition who relied on the likes of Creek to steer the ship and provide that calming and composed element to the squad. Although United won the quarter 21 to 20 thanks to their increased offensive efforts they still faced a six point deficit heading into the final change.

Playing with more momentum and conviction across the court, United started to take advantage of the Phoenix’s tired legs. Mounting a comeback, United could smell blood, pressuring the Phoenix at every turn both physically and on the scoreboard to eventually take the lead at the three minute mark. Melbourne steadily added to their lead pushing out to as much as four points ahead before the Phoenix fought back through the hands of Creek who was having a game to remember. As the clock ticked down the momentum shifted between the two sides as they wrestled for any form of ascendancy once again drawing level with just over a minute to play before scoring dried up and they were stuck at 84 points apiece.

Cue overtime. Landale landed the first blow but from then on it turned into one way traffic as the Phoenix shifted up a gear determined not to let the win slip through their fingers. Their overall attack and intensity increased with Reuben Te Rangi stepping up to the plate to well and truly deliver while Melbourne simply could not compete falling victim to a Phoenix masterclass. It was an enthralling battle between the two sides, with plenty of heart in your mouth moments and exciting passages of play to keep fans, coaches and players alike guessing which way this match could turn. But in the end it was the Phoenix who walked away with the ‘W’.

Creek dominated in the outing with a season-high 31 points. He also managed 10 rebounds, with eight of them defensive plus three blocks in an all-round stellar performance. Kyle Adnam continued to impress boasting 18 points, two rebounds and eight assists while Te Rangi proved his worth with 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists. New Zealander Izayah Mauriohooho-Le Afa plied his trade in the win posting nine points as Ben Moore also had an influence on the game through his 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

The usual suspects in Landale and Chris Goulding impressed for Melbourne United with the pair registering 22 points apiece. Landale managed seven rebounds, three steals and five blocks to accompany his 22 points while Goulding collected two steals and a rebound. Mitch McCarron provided a handy option producing 12 points, seven rebounds all of which were defensive and five assists. Jo Lual-Acuil just fell short of a double-double with nine rebounds and 10 points to his name as Baba and Shea Ili posted seven points apiece.

No Sykes, no problem as Phoenix hold firm around top of the table

A SUNDAY double-header to end round seven action kicked off with the South East Melbourne Phoenix meeting and beating the Illawarra Hawks for the second time this season, 93-76. Two of the three teams in the league that average more than 90 points per game were both coming off tough losses and were looking to bounce back to solidify their place around the top of the table.

With stringent and physical defence from the Phoenix handing the Hawks their first season loss in their first matchup, the key difference this time was the absence of star import Keifer Sykes who is carrying an ankle injury. He joined the already sidelined Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau, as well as the recently signed Ryan Broekhoff who is still in quarantine. Kyle Adnam stepped up in his absence as the Phoenix again restricted the Hawks to their lowest score the season and served them their biggest loss.

The Phoenix picked up where they left off from their last matchup and were intense on both ends of the floor from the outset. Adnam and Cam Gliddon led the charge early with tidy distribution and shot making being key areas that gave the Phoenix an early lead which they did not squander.

While their intensity was clearly superior early, South East Melbourne was also able to take the Hawks off the dribble and either straight to the rim to score or find passes inside to big men like Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore.

With Sykes’ injury forcing the Phoenix to make rotation changes, star of the New Zealand National Basketball League Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was given extra minutes having played just four minutes this season. He made an immediate impact with his known defensive abilities, forcing an eight-second backcourt violation in his first possession on the court.

The offensive stalwarts for the Hawks in Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey struggled for much of the game, with air balls for each of them highlighting their struggles. The pair also struggled in their last matchup, as coach Simon Mitchell made a point of reminding his players to always know where they are and force them right.

The quarter-time score read 25-13 for the Phoenix as they shot the ball 19 per cent better and had six more assists, areas they would continue to dominate for the rest of the game.

Brian Goorjian pleaded for more physicality from his outfit, and despite a couple of easy baskets and poorly missed shots, an and-one from Andrew Ogilvy, and triples from Deng Deng, Deng Adel, and Harvey combined with some intensity on the defensive end saw them back within six points.

Losing the offensive fluidity they enjoyed to this point, the Phoenix sought to get to the free throw line to halt the Hawks’ momentum and did so to great effect. They had 17 attempts to Illawarra’s five.

The Hawks, however, continued to shoot well from deep and if it were not for some Mitch Creek magic down the stretch, the Hawks would not have been trailing 45-37 at the main break.

Although the margin was only eight points, South East Melbourne still felt in control and they proved it with a big 28-18 third quarter to give them an 18-point lead heading into the final quarter. An up and down start to the term would eventually be dominated through the Phoenix’s sharp ball movement, and offensive glass prowess headed by Moore.

The margin was extended to 20 points after an Adnam floater was followed by his tenth assist on the night.

The final quarter comeback would have needed to have been the biggest of the season, but it was not to be as the rest of the game ebbed and flowed. Two Cameron Bairstow triples gave the Hawks life, but the Phoenix pushed through and kept the Hawks to their lowest score of the season again winning 93-76.

The Phoenix enjoyed another huge NBL Cup outing from Creek who had 25 points, six rebounds, and four assists on 58 per cent shooting. Gliddon put up 19 points, to go with five rebounds and three assists, while Adnam fell just short of a double-double with nine points, 11 assists, and four steals. Moore also enjoyed one of his best games this season with 22 points and five rebounds off the bench, which included 12 of 12 from the free throw line.

South East Melbourne has 23 more free throw attempts in the game and managed to force Illawarra into 16 turnovers. This disciplined defenced managed to hold the Hawks’ key players in Jessup (seven points) and Harvey (14 points) quieter than usual. Justin Simon (13 points, six rebounds) was the only other Illawarra player to score more than 10 points.

The Phoenix will look to carry this momentum into their Wednesday matchup with Perth, while the Hawks will look to bounce back on Thursday against the 36ers.

Triple-double by Sykes helps Phoenix burn Bullets

WITH both the Brisbane Bullets and the South East Melbourne Phoenix coming off their biggest victories of the season, the two teams battled in yesterday’s opener for three out of four quarters, before the Phoenix ran away 99-83 winners after a 31-point fourth quarter – placing their record above .500 with their fifth win of the season.

The Bullets came into Melbourne on Sunday ready to play, landing the first punch and startling the Phoenix throughout the first 10 minutes, as Brisbane led 27 to 16 after an impressive 15-point run headlined the opening term.

Reinvigorated by team leaders Mitchell Creek and Adam Gibson during the first break, South East Melbourne opened the second with a 15-6 start, all but clearing the margin mid-way through the period.

Some impressive work by Matthew Hodgson and Nathan Sobey was enough to stave off a resilient Phoenix fightback. But after two, Simon Mitchell and his guys had tied things up already. While both teams were locked up at 44 points apiece, Creek was phenomenal through 20 minutes, harbouring 20 points and four rebounds already, while Sobey, Hodgson and Anthony Drmic had combined for 33 points in the same amount of time.

Seven consecutive points by the Phoenix to commence the second half dumbfounded the visitors, instilling the entire Green Team to step up their game in what appeared to be a pivotal moment of the contest. In another twist, Brisbane produced a nine-point run of their own shortly before the five-minute mark of the third, making for an entertaining final 15 minutes.

Keeping their noses in front 68-66 with a term to play, Keifer Sykes and the Phoenix had another great start with a 10-0 effort to put the side up by 12, placing South East Melbourne firmly in the driver’s seat.

The Bullets continued to fight in the dying stages of the meeting cutting the deficit to as little as nine points. However, a three from Cam Gliddon with seven seconds on the clock iced the game, while Sykes earned his triple-double at the start of that same possession just before the Phoenix closed out the win.

An impressive shooting night best described the Phoenix’s overall game, converting on 39 out of 76 shots (51 per cent) from the field last night, while doling out 23 assists in the process. For Brisbane, their biggest detriment was their inability to slow down South East Melbourne from deep, allowing 13 triples and only producing six of their own.

Finishing with 29 points, nine rebounds and an assist, Creek emerged supreme as the game’s leading scorer, but man of the match honours was unequivocally awarded to Sykes after he secured a 14-point, 11-assist and 10-rebound triple-double. Gliddon ruled from beyond the arc with 19 points off of five threes in 36 minutes of play, whereas Kyle Adnam had another strong outing with 15 points and six assists.

Hodgson showed up with an elite level of focus making nine out of 10 shots on his way to a team-high 20 points and nine rebounds. Sobey who leads the NBL in scoring was held to a modest 16 points, six rebounds and four assists as Coach Mitchell had a great game plan in place to neutralise the star. Lastly, Drmic was large off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds as well posing as the only other double-digit contributor – Vic Law finished with a lowly nine-point performance.

The Phoenix will look for the two-win week when they challenge the Adelaide 36ers on Tuesday night to conclude Round Six, whereas the Bullets will take aim at the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night.