Tag: ben moore

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

Melbourne United assert dominance over cross-town rivals in Game 1

IT was a one-sided affair as Melbourne United defeated cross-town rival South East Melbourne Phoenix by 18 points (96-78) on Friday. United showcased why they were top of the table in Game 1 of their semi-finals series with a convincing performance from the opening buzzer to lead from go-to-woe.

The Phoenix made all the running in the first few minutes of the opening quarter, piling on seven points straight to steal the lead and create a handy five-point buffer against Melbourne United. But the tables started to slowly turn as Sam McDaniel found his groove, hitting a much needed triple to get United back in the game. That was the exact spark Melbourne needed as the duo of Mason Peatling and Jock Landale asserted themselves on the contest to score with great ease and keep the scoreboard ticking over for United, while the contribution of Scotty Hopson off the bench did plenty of favours for the ladder leaders, producing seven points in the first term alone.

Holding a nice six-point lead at the break, United kicked it up a gear in the second with their defensive and offensive game on point. Forcing five turnovers in the first term alone, the Phoenix were struggling to work the ball down court and have any real potency and unfortunately it did not get any easier as Melbourne went on a scoring rampage, piling on 32 points to 18. Landale set the tone nice and early with his five points to start the quarter before veteran, Chris Goulding showed his wares with three triples to create some real scoreboard separation. Hopson continued on his merry way, finding his stroke from down town as Landale proved to be a thorn in the Phoenix’s side, posting 16 points before half time.

The 20-point half time buffer was always going to be hard to come back from for the Phoenix and while Ryan Broekhoff got the party underway, it was short lived. Their inability to treasure possession was coming back to bite them time and time again while United pounced on their opportunities. the full court defensive pressure stemming from United was palpable as they clamped down on South East Melbourne to stop them scoring for over three minutes, all while pouring on the points with 16 straight to establish a commanding 31-point lead at the final change, 85-54.

With respect on the line the Phoenix came out with a point to prove in the final term and that they did, playing with some real conviction and purpose. They increased their output on the scoreboard, sinking 24 points while limiting United’s chances to capitalise, but it mattered very little as the damage was already done.

Landale had a night to remember, producing 26 points at an impressive 71 per cent from the field. Next best for United was Hopson with 22 points in his 20 minutes on court with his accuracy from the field also crucial, going at 81 per cent. Hopson also picked up three assists. Goulding did his best work in the second term, only finishing with nine points to his name but four rebounds and an assist as Peatling reeled in six rebounds while Jo Lual-Acuil plied his trade with nine points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal. For the Phoenix it was Ben Moore that led the charge with 17 points coming off the bench along with three rebounds, as star Mitch Creek also made his presence felt with 15 points at 60 per cent from the field. Creek also managed four rebounds, six assists and two steals in an attempt to get his side over the line. Keifer Sykes worked hard for his 12 points as Broekhoff managed eight and Kyle Adnam sunk nine points but at a lowly 42 per cent.

One thing the Phoenix will take out of the game was the fact they know they can work themselves back into a match given their last quarter efforts. However if United secure the next win on Sunday – back at Qudos Bank Arena given the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria – then it will be curtains for the Phoenix and a chance for United to lift the premiership.

Photo credit: Jason McCawley

2021 NBL Semi-finals preview: Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix

FRIDAY night will play host to the second lot of National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals action with Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix set to lock horns.

The two sides have a rich history despite the Phoenix only entering the competition last year, with a healthy rivalry between the cross-town rivals brewing with each and every game. This series will be no different with the growing tussle between the two sides sure to make for great viewing. With Victoria out of action due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns in place the match between United and the Phoenix will be played at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.

United have been top of the ladder for majority of the season racking up 28 wins and only dropping eight games while for the Phoenix they registered 19 wins and 17 losses. The Phoenix had a rough finish to the season with Brisbane Bullets finishing on 19 wins too but South East Melbourne’s percentage fractionally better gifting them their first shot at playoffs. United have only lost one of their past five games while it is a different story for the Phoenix who just snuck into the top four. South East Melbourne have struggled to put their best foot forward in their past five outings dropping three out of five games but finals are a completely different ball game and one United have always struggled with in the past. Often known as the bridesmaids when it comes to NBL history, Melbourne United will be hoping to open their account with a strong win and edge one step closer to that all-elusive premiership.

There is no denying that Jock Landale has been revelation since joining Melbourne United with the star showing what he is capable on the big stage. Landale averages 16.4 points a game along with 7.89 rebounds and 2.37 assists. There is no going past Chris Goulding with the veteran a steady and calm head for the side with his ability to control the tempo and step up to the plate when necessary. Goulding averages 15.67 points a game plus 2.6 rebounds and 2.27 assists. Jo Lual-Acuil is having a season to remember with the bigman imposing himself off the bench with his 9.69 points and 5.66 rebounds while Mitch McCarron has been a pillar of consistency and will need to deliver to give United an edge. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Yudai Baba and United have a plethora of scoring options.

When looking at the Phoenix there is no shortage of superstars with Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff all impressive candidates. Creek has been a lynchpin in the side able to rally the troops or carry the side on his back to victory averaging 18 points, 6.41 rebounds and 3.62 assists a game. Sykes is another force to be reckoned with registering 14.04 points and 5.29 assists while Broekhoff is yet to reach the peak of his powers putting up numbers of 7.56 points and 3.5 rebounds. Kyle Adnam has upped the ante in season 2021 producing impressive numbers thanks to his average of 12.61 points and 3.64 assists. The Phoenix will need the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore to find their groove if they are to get over the line.

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Friday, June 11 @7:30pm

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Melbourne United
Sunday, June 13 @3:00pm

Photo credit: Graham Denholm

Phoenix effectively secure finals spot with road win over Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have all but secured their spot in the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) finals with a hard-fought five-point win on the road against New Zealand Breakers. The Phoenix desperately needed the victory with the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets closing in, and the win handed them that spot, with an 80-point loss to Brisbane on Monday the only thing that could knock the Phoenix out of the top four.

In the match against the Breakers, neither side gained too much ascendancy early, both putting 26 points on the board. It was the second term where the Phoenix broke away, once again scoring 26 points, but restricting the Breakers to just 16, in order to secure a 10-point half-time lead. The teams were once again all square in the third term with 15 points apiece, and whilst the home team did put up a fight in the final stanza with a 21-16 quarter, it would not be enough as the Phoenix reigned supreme, 83-78.

Leading for the majority of the match aside from some brief passages of play in the first term, the Phoenix unsurprisingly lead the majority of the statistics. Shooting at a higher field goal percentage (45 to 40 per cent), the Phoenix also had more rebounds (44-34), assists (15-12) and blocks. They got in the paint more (40-30), and capitalised on second chance points (15-7). With rotations becoming a premium, the Phoenix also had 10 more points from the bench (21-11). New Zealand had three less turnovers (7-10), and they were able to marginally get more points from turnovers (8-6). The Breakers also had more steals (7-3) and had one less personal foul (17-18).

South East Melbourne Phoenix were lead by Keifer Sykes who put up a match-high 29 points, as well as seven rebounds and five assists in a standout performance. The points were otherwise shared around with Ben Moore making the most of his 19 minutes off the bench with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Reuben Te Rangi had 10 points and four rebounds as the other player to reach double-figure points.

Of the other Phoenix players who added solid contributions despite being down on their season averages, Ryan Broekhoff (eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks), Yannick Wetzell (eight points, six rebounds and three assists), Mitch Creek (seven points, four rebounds and three assists) and Kyle Adnam (seven points) all shared the rock around.

For the Breakers, Tai Webster lead the way with 26 points – including three of eight from long-range – four rebounds and three steals. Finn Delany (18 points, seven rebounds and four assists) and Colton Iverson (10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) also shone across the board, while William McDowell-White (eight points, three rebounds and three assists) and Rasmus Bach (Seven points) had a fair outing.

New Zealand Breakers’ season comes to close with the loss in what has been an undoubtedly challenging campaign after so many road games before being allowed to return home. For the Phoenix, they have an all-bar-certain finals campaign to look forward to, but first have Brisbane Breakers, and barring an 80-plus point loss, they will play in the post-season series. Win, and the Phoenix will jump to third and take on Perth Wildcats in the semi-finals series.

Picture credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 21 preview: Top four battles headline the final round of home and away season

THE final round of the National Basketball League gets underway tonight in a top of the table clash between Illawarra Hawks and Perth Wildcats. That will not be the only top four clash as United and Perth go head to head in what is set to be a ladder-defining clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats
Tuesday, June 1 @ 7:30pm

It is set to be a cracking game as the third placed Hawks take on the second placed Wildcats who are on the same wins as United and are looking for their way to come out on top. They will be eager to topple Illawarra and if they can manage to string together a dominant four quarter performance will take top spot -albeit momentarily until United take the court.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will have to be at its damaging best when Illawarra take on Perth. Both Jessup and Harvey are renowned for their ability to keep the scoreboard taking over but will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling, Cameron Bairstow and Justin Simon. Harvey averages 20.24 points a game while Jessup is also a handy feature with 13.39 points a game. Looking at the Wildcats and it is hard to go past Bryce Cotton who has been in scintillating form. The guard can simply do no wrong with his ability to sink the match winner time and time again. He averages 23.47 points while teammate John Mooney is a real livewire putting up impressive numbers both on the scoreboard and on the rebounding front thanks to his 17.74 points and 11.47 rebounds. It would be remiss not to mention the likes of Todd Blanchfield and Mitch Norton with the duo able to have an influence in defence and offence

New Zealand Breakers vs. Cairns Taipans
Wednesday, June 2 @5:30pm

The bottom of the table battle will be a hot one as the Breakers have found some form at home with the home crowd really spurring them on to grind out games. New Zealand are on the hunt for their 12th win of the season, while the Taipans have shown strong glimpses but faded in times of need. It is not possible for Cairns to work their way off the bottom of the ladder but will be eager to take some positives out of the end of their season.

Scott Machado is the main facilitator for the Taipans and will need to be at his damaging best if his side are any chance of causing an upset. Machado boasts an average of 15.61 points and 6.97 assists a game bringing the likes of Mirko Djeric and Jordan Ngatai into the game. Djeric might only average 8.47 points and 2.25 rebounds but his presence out on court is key.  The Breakers have no shortage of excitement machines with Levi Randolph a key addition to the side since joining. He averages 15.85 points and 3.77 rebounds a game playing a strong role alongside the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany. Webster tops the table with 16.63 points a game while Delany is not far behind credit to his average of 16.35 points and 6.62 rebounds. Another key addition to the side has been William McDowell-White who has not skipped a beat and will be eager to keep putting his best foot forward in this performance against the last placed Taipans.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, June 2 @7:30pm

To put it plain and simple, South East Melbourne Phoenix need to win if they want to hold onto fourth spot. Currently just holding on by a thread, the Phoenix will be hoping that their big three in Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff are able to stand up to the challenge and make their dreams a reality. On the other hand the Bullets are not far off the pace sitting outside the top four by two games and will have three opportunities including this match to edge inside and make a play for finals. however they will need a host of results to go their way including a win here.

Creek is a real playmaker for the Phoenix with his ability to hit the scoreboard and lend a hand in defence as shown through his 18.06 points and 6.45 rebounds. Sykes is another piece of the puzzle that will have to be on his a-game given he averages 13.67 points and 5.33 assists each time he steps out on court. Kyle Adnam has quickly become a fan favourite, making the step up this season and asserting himself credit to his 12.61 points and will want to ply his trade in this match-up against the Bullets. Throw in support from the likes of Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix are in good shape. But Brisbane are not backwards in coming forwards with Nathan Sobey an integral member in the side. The captain is never out of the contest averaging 21.34 points a game plus 4.47 rebounds and 4.56 assists often leading his troops to success. Lamar Patterson has landed on his feet since re-joining the Bullets with the bigman posting numbers of 13.62 points and 4.54 rebounds while Matthew Hodgson and Anthony Drmic are other players the Phoenix will need to keep an eye on throughout the clash.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, June 3 @7:30pm

This game will bring plenty of excitement and nerves for players and fans alike as the Hawks take on the Kings at home. The Sydney Kings are renowned for their class and ability to do the unthinkable and will need to recapture that form this match. outside of the top four by one game, expect the Kings to leave no stone unturned and apply some real heat on the teams around them.

The Hawks will be backing up from their earlier performance with Jessup and Harvey hoping to keep the good times rolling. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them given the Kings boast the services of dynamo Casper Ware. Throw in the likes of Jarell Martin and the Kings have a dominant two-pronged attack with Ware averaging 18 points and Martin with 17.35. Xavier Cooks has been lively since returning to the fold and will be hoping to continue on that trajectory while Jordan Hunter and Craig Moller are other viable options to attack the rim or reel in the boards.

Melbourne United vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, June 6 @3:00pm

Melbourne will take to the court for the second time this round and with pole position still up for grabs will need to put out a consistent four quarter performance to topple the 36ers. But Adelaide will be hoping to end their season on a high and still have an influence on how the finals go down by causing a major upset.

Adelaide have had an inconsistent season to say the least and have been plagued by injury but have a number of players able to step up and take charge. Daniel Johnson has been a mainstay for the 36ers producing impressive numbers credit to his 19.51 points and 6.97 rebounds while Brandon Paul has been a commanding force thanks to his 13.68 points. Isaac Humphries is steadily returning to form after his time on the sidelines with injury while Tony Crocker will have to be on top of his game to worry United.

Other games:

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Friday, June 4 @9:30pm

One of just many mouth-watering clashes this round, the match-up between Melbourne United and Perth Wildcats is sure to go down to the wire. Melbourne will be praying that fatigue becomes a factor as Perth enter their second top four clash in as many days, while the home side will be fresh and raring to go. Expect both sides to throw everything they have at their opponents and contest every second of the game in what is set to be an absolute show stopper and potential grand final preview.

New Zealand Breakers vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, June 5 @5:30pm

Both sides will be competing in their second game for the round and all eyes will turn to the Phoenix and what they can do? Whether they can front up after a game earlier in the week against the Bullets. Although the Breakers are significantly lower on the ladder they have shown they have the class and skill to compete with the best in the business meaning the Phoenix will need to be on their a-game.

Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets
Saturday, June 5 @8:00pm

It is a must win game for the Kings. In fact it all hinges on whether or not they secure the “w” because if they do not then their finals aspirations are well and truly done. The Bullets also need a win and while their chances may be a long shot it will not deter them from hustling hard. It will be a heart in your mouth style of game with both teams eager to make a last minute dash and prove themselves on the competition. The Bullets will have to front up to another game only days later and will be hoping that a win will spur them on to clinch that fourth spot.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Tuesday, June 8 @7:30pm

The final game of the home and away season pits Brisbane Bullets against South East Phoenix. It will be the Phoenix’s third game of the round and while fatigue may be somewhat of an issue you can guarantee that their main focus will be winning and holding onto their top four position.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett

2021 NBL Round 20 preview: Race for finals heats up

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season slowly coming to a close, Round 20 is set to bring some enticing clashes as the top sides vie for prime position on the ladder. The race for fourth spot will heat up as the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets sit just outside eager to poke their way through to finals contention.

Cairns Taipans vs. Brisbane Bullets
Wednesday, May 26 @7:30pm

The Brisbane Bullets will be looking to bounce back and get a potential win over Cairns Taipans tonight to keep their slim hopes alive. It has been a trying couple of weeks for the Bullets who have been close but fallen short in consecutive weeks to Melbourne-based sides but could be in with a chance against the lowly Taipans.

Lamar Patterson has well and truly found his groove and will be hoping to be at his damaging best against Cairns to notch up another win for his side. he averages 13.75 points and 4.58 rebounds making him a dominant force for the Bullets alongside Nathan Sobey who tops the side with 21.35 points. Matthew Hodgson is the other to keep an eye out for in this clash while Harry Froling and Jason Cadee are capable of stepping up to the plate averaging 7.45 and 9.58 points respectively with the former also strong off the boards thanks to his average of five rebounds. When looking at the Cairns line-up and it is hard to go past Scott Machado who was back to his damaging best last game producing 17 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Majok Deng is also handy on the scoreboard boasting an average of 11.38 points and 4.88 rebounds while Mirko Djeric is quite capable of applying the heat both in offence and defence. Veteran Nate Jawai will need to step up to the plate as will Mojave King who has shown glimpses of magic but is yet to find consistency.

Perth Wildcats vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 27 @9:30pm

It is set to be a blockbuster game as the second placed Wildcats host the fifth placed Sydney Kings who are looking for their way into the top four. They have a rich history having competed in the grand final last year and Perth will be hoping to once again reign supreme and build some strong momentum heading into the upcoming finals.

It will be a battle of the two guards as Bryce Cotton and Casper Ware go into bat for their respective sides. Cotton is unstoppable when given time and space to impact the play credit to his average of 23.47 points and 5.69 assists while Ware is equally as important for the Kings often acting as the barometer for his side thanks to his 18.59 points and 4.44 rebounds. John Mooney has been a reliable source of both points and rebounds for the Wildcats throughout season 2021 draining 17.7 points and accumulating 11.52 rebounds and will need to be at that high level of production if they are to knock off the Kings. Another handy option is Todd Blanchfield alongside Mitchell Norton with the former averaging 14.69 points each time he steps out on court. Jarell Martin continues to be a key cog for the Kings averaging 17.46 points and 6.92 rebounds while the likes of Xavier Cooks and Jordan Hunter will have to up the ante in order to compete with the second placed Wildcats.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 28 @5:30pm

Ever since they returned home to New Zealand, the Breakers have been a new and improved side playing with confidence and although they have only notched up one win in their past five outings they are capable of ruffling some feathers. The Hawks on the other hand have the reverse with one loss in their past five outings, showcasing the stark difference in form between the two sides.

The combination of Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup will be the one the Breakers look to crack straight away given their ability to score quickly and freely. Harvey leads the side with 19.84 points while Jessup boasts an average of 13.94 points and a marginally higher rebound average of  3.84. Cameron Bairstow is not to be underestimated, able to get in and ply his trade while Sam Froling, Justin Simon and Andrew Ogilvy a couple of handy figures when it comes to mounting scoreboard pressure. For the Breakers the likes of Tai Webster and Finn Delany will have to be on their A-game if they are any chance of worrying the Hawks. Webster is capable of making great things happen as shown by his average of 17.29 points, 4.92 rebounds and 5.38 assists while Delany is also a pocket rocket credit to his 6.74 rebounds. Since joining the side, Levi Randolph has not skipped a beat producing an average of 14.6 points each time he steps out on court.

Other games:

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Saturday, May 29 @5:30pm

South East Melbourne play their first game of the round against Cairns Taipans who are set to play their second in as many days. Travelling down to Melbourne, expect fatigue to be somewhat of a factor when the Taipans take on the Phoenix who will be raring to go and eager to solidify their standings on the ladder.

Taking a look at the Phoenix side and it is fair to say they are littered with talent but are searching for that level of consistency. Boasting the likes of Mitch Creek, Ryan Broekhoff, Keifer Sykes and the new and improved Kyle Adnam there is no shortage of shooting options. But it just comes down to what level of output each player is having given, Creek can star both in and attack as shown by his 18.23 points and 6.5 rebounds. Throw in the likes of Cameron Gliddon, Yannick Wetzell and Ben Moore and the Phoenix have a pretty complete list that should be able to get over the top of the Taipans.

Sydney Kings vs. Melbourne United
Saturday, May 29 @8:00pm

Melbourne United will be hoping to keep the good times rolling and register another win when they take on Sydney. It will be the Kings second game in three days, meaning that United will be looking to capitalise on their tired opponents and exploit them with their level of depth. Sitting on top of the ladder Melbourne will stop at nothing to secure a win and lock down the prime position.

Melbourne United will be hoping that Chris Goulding picks up where he left off, with his hot hand from down town last match doing a world of damage. Goulding has been in scintillating form of late, spurring his side on but will need support from the likes of Jock Landale who is no slouch himself (16.1 points, 7.84 rebounds) and Scotty Hopson (11.58 points and 3.79 rebounds) if they are to get over the line. United have a wealth of depth as Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil have stepped up to the plate with their drive to the rim. In recent weeks, Shea Ili and Yudai Baba have chimed in for some handy points and will need to be at that level once again here against the highly competitive Kings.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 30 @3:00pm

Adelaide will enjoy an extended break before taking the court for the first time on Sunday. But they will have their work cut out for them up against the Illawarra Hawks who are fighting to keep their spot inside the top four. Although the Hawks will be gearing up for their second game of the round and the 36ers first expect a tough battle with neither side wanting to drop a game so close to finals.

Daniel Johnson has been the main man in focus for Adelaide given his capacity to find the scoreboard averaging 19.88 points and 6.94 rebounds. The return of Isaac Humphries has been beneficial for Adelaide given his proficiency on the scoreboard with an average of 13.32 points and 7.11 rebounds. Tony Crocker has been a real livewire for the 36ers while Sunday Dech has played a strong support role and will need to once again be that figure against the Hawks.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Brisbane Bullets
Sunday, May 30 @ 5:00pm

The battle between the Breakers and Bullets is set to be an enthralling one given New Zealand are quite capable of causing an upset. Although the Bullets are ahead on the ladder they have to make the trek across the trans-Tasman to play their second game of the round meaning fatigue could become a factor. The Breakers will be hoping to give their home crowd something to cheer about with a win over the Bullets, while Brisbane will be wanting to keep that glimmer of finals hopes alive.

Melbourne United vs. Cairns Taipans
Monday, May 31 @7:30pm

Cairns will front up for their third game of the round and the challenge is monumental as they take on the current ladder leaders, Melbourne United who have been in scintillating form for much of 2021. United will be hoping to use their bench depth to expose the Taipans who are somewhat undermanned and lacking in terms of form given they are planted firmly to the bottom of the ladder.

Photo credit: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Phoenix fly high to dominant four-quarter win over Taipans

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have produced a dominant four-quarter effort to help themselves to back-to-back wins in Round 18 of the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) season. The Phoenix won every quarter to get up 29 points, as the middle two quarters did the bulk of the damage in front of more than 1700 fans at John Cain Arena last night.

The Phoenix held the narrowest of margins at quarter time to lead 21-20, before blowing the game wide open in the second and third terms. They piled on 36 points to 25 in a high-scoring bonanza of a second quarter, before doubling down with an even more impressive 29 points to 14 in the third. Having already sealed the win by being 27 points up at the final break, the Phoenix did not rest on their laurels, also triumphing in the final term to win it 20-18, for a memorable 106-77 victory.

The Phoenix dominated every single statistic on the night, with only the foul count (19-13) going against them. Every other facet they won, from the field goal shooting percentage (54 to 45 per cent) to the rebounding (42-28) and assist count (21-10). They also had more points in the paint (54-38), second chance points (27-7) and a massive discrepancy in points from turnovers (15-2), as well as an additional steal (6-5) and block (2-1). Aside from a brief period where the Taipans led early in the second term, the Phoenix took control from late in the second term and never looked back to get it well past a 30-point margin before ending at the 29-point final deficit.

Mitch Creek led the scoring with 20 points, three assist sand two rebounds, whilst it was the double-double effort of Yannick Wetzell (12 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two assists) that really stood out. Keifer Sykes nailed 16 points, four assists and two rebounds, with Reuben Te Rangi yet another starter to reach double-figure points thanks to 14 points, six rebounds and two assists. Off the bench, Cameron Gliddon scored 12 points, three rebounds and two steals, while Ben Moore helped himself to the 12 points and six rebounds. It was a huge effort off the bench with Ryan Broekhoff (nine points, two rebounds and two assists) and Kyle Adnam (seven points, two assists) also adding some good points off limited minutes.

For the Taipans, Mirko Djeric was the clear standout shooter off the bench, dropping 17 points in 25 minutes, including three of five from long-range, and three assists. Nathan Jawai (10 points) was the only other double-digit scorer in a dirty night for the Taipans who missed the impact of Cameron Oliver. Scott Machado (nine points, two rebounds and two steals), Majok Deng (nine points, three rebounds) and Jordan Ngatai (eight points, two rebounds) all tried hard but to no avail.

The Phoenix have built some form just in time for a massive clash with cross-town rivals Melbourne United tomorrow afternoon at John Cain Arena, whilst the Taipans will lick their wounds and head home before an equally tough challenge hosting reigning premiers Perth Wildcats at Cairns Pop Up Arena on Monday night.

Sykes leads Phoenix to victory over the gallant Breakers

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix stood up when it counted keeping New Zealand Breakers at bay to secure a much needed win (91-82). The even spread of players across the board for the Phoenix was what gifted them the winning edge despite the Breakers boasting the highest scorer on the court in Finn Delany.

It was an even start to the contest with neither side able to generate a wealth of momentum and feeling each other out. The Breakers were eager to make a name for themselves and have some type of influence on the finals given they will be unable to make it, while the Phoenix were fighting to solidify their spot inside the top four.

New Zealand import Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa opened the account for the Phoenix as he set things in motion for the home side. The Breakers were quick to answer off the hands of Colton Iverson as the two sides engaged in a blow-for-blow style of play. the Phoenix crept out to a handy seven point lead in the early stages of the quarter before the Breakers reeled them in. It turned into somewhat of a stalemate with neither side able to find the basket going scoreless for over two minutes before finally Kyle Adnam backed himself from range to sink a handy triple. South East Melbourne maintained the six-point buffer for most of the term but a fast finishing William McDowell-White had other plans as he levelled the scores at quarter time to 19 points apiece.

Holding most of the momentum in the opening quarter of play, the Phoenix once again reigned supreme in the second to outscore their opponents 28-23. Big plays from a couple of their key cogs kept them afloat despite the hot hand of Finn Delany who simply could not be denied. The Breakers star was in just about everything and had a whopping 17 points to his name before half-time with Tai Webster also inserting himself in the thick of things to round out the quarter with a timely layup.

It was a low scoring third term from both sides as they were unable to capitalise on their opportunities as the ball swung up and down the court. However it still favoured the fourth placed Phoenix as they extended their lead to eight points thanks to the likes of Ben Moore who really came to life in that term.

But with it all to play for in the final quarter, the Breakers left no stone unturned and threw everything they had at the Phoenix. The clock steadily ticked down and it seemed as if the Phoenix had it in the bag but some magic from Rob Loe who hit a timely triple and the quick hands of Delany saw the visitors get back within one. It was heart in your mouth stuff with only three minutes left to play and the Breakers on the verge of doing the unthinkable after being down for majority of the match. With the intensity rising and the game on the line it was the Phoenix that wrestled back control as Reuben Te Rangi found himself in the right spot at the right time and with the right attributes. His strong offensive rebound and smarts to dish off to Keifer Sykes from down town was exactly what the doctor ordered as South East Melbourne pushed back out to a six-point lead. the intensity did not falter in the dying minute as Loe did his best to keep his side in touch but Mitch Creek proved his strength equalling whatever Loe did. In the end the Phoenix were simply too strong as they ran home narrow winners in a thrilling battle.

Sykes led the way for the Phoenix with 21 points, and two rebounds as Adnam was hot on his heels producing 14 points and five assists. Yannick Wetzell was a quiet achiever out on court for the Phoenix sinking 12 points at an impressive 83 per cent from the field. Both Mauriohooho Le-Afa and Creek nailed 10 points apiece with the latter also managing five rebounds and four assists. Delany had a game to remember with his game-high 32 points at 65 per cent from the field. Loe was also impressive in the loss managing 19 points and seven rebounds as McDowell-White was the sole other player to reach double digits thanks to his 14 points, three rebounds and five assists.

Photo credit: AAP

United bounces back from snapped streak loss to post 11-point win over Phoenix

MELBOURNE United has come from a quarter time deficit, and then a late charge from the South East Melbourne Phoenix to post an 11-point win over their cross-state rivals at John Cain Arena yesterday. With five players hitting double-figure points – three off the bench – and led by Jock Landale picking up a massive double-double, United proved too strong off he boards and shot at a higher clip from the field in the 107-96 victory.

The Phoenix burst out of the blocks with a strong opening term, scoring 31-24 to lead by seven at quarter time. United hit back in the second quarter with a dominant 28-16 quarter to take all the momentum away from the home side and hold a five-point lead at half-time. That momentum continued into the second half, with United having an even more dominant third term to win that quarter by 15, 27-12 and open up an unassailable 20-point advantage at the final chance. The Phoenix did spur on a late comeback, but it was always going to be difficult from there, scoring 23-14 in the final term to get within 11 points, but go down 93-82.

Once United hit the front midway through the second term – after not holding the lead at any stage prior – they did not lose it again, running out the far stronger side. From midway through the third term, the lead did not go into single digits showing the level of control the top of the table had. They dominated most areas with a higher field goal accuracy (47 to 41 per cent), and more rebounds (44-34), blocks (6-0) and second chance points (18-9). The teams both had 13 turnovers, with Phoenix scoring 23 points to nine from turnovers, and the losing side also had more steals (7-6).

Landale finished his night with 27 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks to lead the way, while the experienced Chris Goulding had 11 points, two rebounds and two steals to complement him from the starters. Jo Lual-Acuil aided Landale off the boards with seven rebounds and two blocks to go with his 12 points, while Scotty Hopson (15 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Shea Ili (10 points, two rebounds) also knocked down double-figure points. On return to the NBL as a replacement player for Jack White, veteran David Andersen did not score any points, but had an assist in his three minutes on court.

In defeat, Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa led the point-scoring with 19 points, two assists, two rebounds and three steals, teaming up with fellow New Zealander, Reuben Te Rangi (17 points) in the Phoenix’s loss. Mitch Creek had a dirty night of zero points, and only the four rebounds and three assists, taking just six shots from the field in just 29 minutes and not hitting any. Yannick Wetzell had nine points, nine rebounds and three assists to be solid across the board, while Kyle Adnam (14 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Ben Moore (11 points, eight rebounds) were both busy coming off the bench.

Melbourne United will eye off another clash with Perth Wildcats in a top of the table epic event, hoping to reverse the result from last round when they face off on Thursday night before a rematch with the Phoenix next Sunday. Before then, the Phoenix have two prior games – the New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday and the Cairns Taipans on Friday – both at home.

Picture credit: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images