Tag: cairns taipans

Cairns Taipans 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 first team under the microscope is the last placed Cairns Taipans.

Season Summary:  

Season 2020/21 will be one to forget for Mike Kelly and the Cairns Taipans. Following a strong campaign last season that saw the Taipans eliminated by eventual champions Perth, in the first week of finals, the team struggled to regain the same form, seeing them slide down to last position on the ladder.

The departure of reigning Defensive Player of the Year DJ Newbill to Japan, key injuries to Majok Deng and Kouat Noi during the season, and the early departure of Cameron Oliver meant the Taipans could only manage eight wins for the season. A disaster season ended with the board electing to part ways with Kelly, just one season after he was announced the leagues coach of the year award.

How It unfolded:

The Taipans started the year with a one-point victory against last season’s grand finalists, the Sydney Kings, before it all went downhill. A couple of straight wins against the Breakers and the Hawks was a relief for fans after six straight losses followed the Round 1 victory, but the next month did not get any better with Deng suffering a partial tear to his MCL in Round 6 and Noi going down with a season ending PCL injury in Round 10.

From this point, the team limped to just four more wins for the season, as Oliver was also finished for the year having made a return home to the United States for family reasons, after Round 14. A 28 loss season resulted in Cairns’ last place finish- the worse result for the club since the 2008/09 season.

What Worked Well:

There were a few highlights in what was a tough season for the Taipans. Oliver averaged (17.3 points, 10 rebounds, 1.42 blocks) and Scott Machado (15.6 points, 7 assists, 1.0 steal) had good individual seasons ranking 10th and 15th respectively for points per game in the league. While Machado was ranked second in assists, Oliver ranked second in rebounds, while also making the top five for blocks per game.

On the offensive end, the team performed quite well from beyond the arc, with a three-point shooting percentage of 34.8 per cent (ranked fourth) for an average of 10.2 threes a game, second only to champions Melbourne United.

Oliver and Venky Jois both averaged above two offensive boards a game contributing to the team’s 10 per game (fourth in the league), allowing shooters the second chance at points. Defensively, the Taipans were average in steals and blocks, with Oliver, Deng and Nathan Jawai doing most of the shot stopping, while Machado led with 1.03 steals per game.

What Went Wrong: 

Quite frankly there was a lot that went wrong for the Taipans this season. The team averaged 81.7 points per game, only more than the Breakers and the Hawks. They were also third last for field goals made (30.2) and their field goal percentage (43.7 per cent). The Hawks struggled to get to the free throw line as well, averaging only 11.1 free throws made.

On the defensive end, it was evident the Taipans missed the defensive presence of Newbill, as they leaked the second most points in the league (89.1 per game) and were last in rebounds with 33.7 per game, despite Oliver averaging 10 himself.

While they did well in offensive rebounds themselves, it was second chance points that often hurt them on the defensive end, allowing opposition big men to take advantage.

MVP Conversation:

The Taipans MVP race looks like a clear one-on-one battle between Oliver and Machado. Oliver statistically looks like the front runner, leading the team in key categories like points, rebounds, and blocks. He was a threat at both ends of the court, with his ability to finish off plays and keep them alive with his offensive rebounding, and defensively he was strong and showed off his great shot blocking ability.

The experienced Machado had another solid season after being crowned last seasons MVP. The Brazilian once again showed off his talents with good dribbling and passing skills and providing a scoring threat  by driving to the basket as well as shooting well from range.

This one could go either way.

Roster News:

Cairns will enter the 2021 Free Agency period with seven players contracted for next season, including star players Oliver and Machado who will both enter the second year of their two-year contracts. Mirko Djeric and Noi have both signed new contract agreements.

Looking Towards Next Season:

With the departure of head coach Mike Kelly, the Taipans will enter next season under the guidance of Adam Forde. Forde has been coaching in the NBL since 2011, with assistant roles at both Perth and Sydney. He is a respected member in Australian basketball, and he will be hoping to return the team to more of their form shown last season. Forde has some positives to work with, as mentioned Oliver and Machado are contracted for another season, while there is still room for improvement in young players like Deng, Djeric and Noi. If Forde can get these guys to work together, and hopefully stay fit, then expect the Taipans to be back on the rise again next season.

Photo credit: NBL

Breakers collect tight home win to end Taipans’ season

NEW Zealand Breakers have started off their final round of the National Basketball League (NBL) 2021 season in style, claiming a six-point win over wooden spooners Cairns Taipans. In the Taipans’ final game of the year, the Breakers were made to earn the victory, trailing at half-time and the final break before finishing with a head of steam thanks to a dominant fourth quarter to win 84-78.

The home team started strongly in the match, piling on 25 point to 16 to open up a nine-point advantage. In what proved to be the complete counter-contrast of the opening quarter, Cairns dominated the second term with a 26-16 quarter and raced into pole position with a narrow one-point advantage. They Taipans added to their lead by three more with a 17-14 term, but then the Breakers peaked at the right time. Just as the Taipans looked to run away with it early in the fourth, the Breakers fought their way back to build an almost unassailable lead of their own. Cairns brought it back to within a couple of points with 25 seconds on the clock, but a Colton Iverson layup and set of Corey Webster free-throws locked up the 84-78 victory.

The Taipans actually shot more efficiently, with a 54 to 51 per cent efficiency from inside the arc, helping lead to a 47 to 45 per cent overall field goal efficiency. They also won the points in the paint (34-28), and marginally won the steals (7-6) and bench points (19-18), as well as the points from turnover (16-10), made all the more impressive from equal turnovers (10-apiece). New Zealand won many of the key statistics with a dominance in the rebound count (41-30) and second chance points (15-2), as well as winning the assists (17-15) and blocks (5-3) in an overall impressive effort.

Tai Webster put up 23 points, five rebounds and three assists to lead the Breakers from a points perspective, as brother Corey hit up 16 points, four assists and two rebounds to share the load. The dominant player on the night was Iverson, who knocked down six of seven from two-point range on his way to 15 points and 12 rebounds, collecting a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks. Finn Delany (10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists) also had a double-double, while Levi Randolph (11 points, two rebounds) recorded double-figure points.

For the Taipans, Scott Machado did all her could with 21 points – including three of seven from long-range – 10 assists and five rebounds. Nate Jawai (14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) continued his resurgence in the league, while Majok Deng (11 points) also had double-figure points. Mirko Djeric (seven points, three rebounds) was next best, with New Zealand talents Jordan Hunt (seven points), Jordan Ngatai (six) and Jarrod Kenny (six) also solid.

New Zealand Breakers host South East Melbourne Phoenix on Saturday evening at The Trusts Arena to close out their season, whilst Cairns Taipans head off into the off-season and will have a new coach next year, with the club parting ways with Mike Kelly after their disappointing season.

Picture credit: Mead Norton/Getty Images

United take home big win against Taipans ahead of top-of-the-table clash

MELBOURNE United have done what they needed to do, and claim the victory over last placed Cairns Taipans to put themselves in the best position for the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) minor premiership. United go head-to-head with the only other team that can challenge them for the spot in Perth Wildcats, in what sets up a tantalising final round of action.

In a top-against-bottom encounter, not too many fans would have expected Cairns to walk away with the points, though both sets of fans would have had to travel with the United home game moved from John Cain Arena to Qudos Bank Arena due to the Victorian lockdown, meeting the Taipans all the way in Sydney. The first quarter went as many might have expected given the relative standings of the two sides, as United raced out to a 16-point quarter time advantage.

Cairns Taipans managed to win the second term in a high-scoring encounter, putting up 29 points to 26 to cut the deficit to 13 points. From there though, United took control once again, winning the third term 22-13 and opening up a 22-point lead at the final break, before finishing off the game well with a 24-21 last quarter to win, 101-76. The 25-point final margin was a result of the two dominant quarters in the first and third terms, and United never conceded the lead.

It was equally no surprise to see the “home” team win across nearly every statistic, with only the turnovers (15-10) and personal fouls (19-12) going more favourably towards the Taipans who also scored more points from turnovers (18-14). United were more efficient from the field wiht a 53 per cent efficiency across both their two and three-point shooting ranges, dropping 16 of 30 triple attempts in a massive long-range shooting display. They also won the rebounds (44-30), assists (23-10), blocks (8-3), points in the paint (38-26) and second chance points (13-10), whilst dominating thanks to their bench, collating 53 points off it to the Taipans’ 24.

Six players reached double-digits for United, with the bench providing some great performances. Scotty Hopson (21 points, five assists and two rebounds) and David Barlow (16 points, four rebounds and two blocks) both provided great support off the pine, while Jock Landale stood up with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Mason Peatling (12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) picked up a double-double, while Mitch McCarron (10 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two assists) were also prominent.

Mirko Djeric lead the way for the Taipans, picking up a team-high 16 points, as well as three assists, while Nathan Jawai was busy off the boards with six rebounds and 10 points. Majok Deng (13 points, two rebounds and two blocks), Scott Machado (10 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Tad Dufelmeier (13 points, five rebounds) were the other Snakes to hit double-digit points in the loss.

United travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats on Friday, with a win against Perth, or a win against the out-of-sorts Adelaide 36ers on Sunday, able to lock up the minor premiership. Cairns finishes off its season with an away trip to New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday in a fairly quick turnaround for the Taipans.

Picture credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Brisbane Bullets steal the show against Cairns

BULLETS snuck home against Cairns Taipans to clinch a narrow five-point victory (101-96) victory to keep their slim finals hopes alive. Although it was far from a convincing win – a win is a win – and the Bullets needed it to make a late challenge. It was clear that fatigue started to become a real factor as Brisbane fronted up for their sixth game in 13 days which is no mean feat.

It was an even start to the game as both Brisbane and Cairns took their time to warm into the game and feel each other out. Lamar Patterson picked up where he left off landing the first points of the game, a triple none the less to set the tone for the Bullets. It was not long before Scott Machado injected himself into the game helping to spur the Taipans on. The two sides traded buckets for majority of the quarter with neither team able to really pull ahead for the opening minutes of the term. Then all of a sudden, Cairns came to life with Mojave King finding his groove making a five-point play with a nice triple commencing the momentum shift. Within a blink of an eye the home side snuck out to an eight-point lead as Brisbane were left floundering. As the clock ticked down the Bullets upped the ante as both Tyrell Harrison and Harry Froling found the basket to peg the margin back to just one point at the quarter time break.

Things did not get much better for the Bullets in the second term as their lack of offensive pressure and execution gifted the home side a chance to steadily extend their lead. Nate Jawai was at his damaging best with the veteran winding the clock back credit to his strong takes off the boards and ability to sight the rim. Patterson up the other end worked gallantly to keep Brisbane in it as did Nathan Sobey but they simply lacked structure moving the ball forward. Inaccuracy plagued the Bullets while Cairns continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard ticking over and lead by eight points. Despite the Taipans rallying and piling on 11 points, the Bullets showcased their grit to go on a points scoring spree of their own sinking 11 points straight thanks to the efforts of Jason Cadee.

Bursting out of the gates in third quarter, to try and eat their way back into the deficit now that the shoe was on the other foot Jawai, King and Majok Deng stepped up to the plate and delivered for Cairns. A five-point ball game suddenly turned into level pegging as Cairns worked their way back into the contest and proved they were not about to roll over. Froling and BJ Johnson were highly influential for the Bullets throughout the third term as the duo ploughed away to keep the scoreboard ticking and although Machado was in just about everything it was not enough to give his side the edge heading into the final change.

The last quarter was played at a frantic pace as neither side could maintain ascendancy or control. The lead switched hands multiple times throughout the quarter as fans were sat on the edge of their seat. A scintillating couple of minutes from Venky Jois and Jordan Ngatai saw a spark lit in the Cairns camp as they crept back to within three points but in the end, Brisbane were the beneficiaries as the newly appointed Boomers representative – Sobey – landed the winning shot from the charity stripe to seal the deal.

King had arguably his best game for the Taipans sinking 25 points at 60 per cent from the field while Machado was also back at his best registering 23 points and 11 assists and teetered on the edge of a triple-double thanks to his six rebounds. Deng was influential with his 12 points as Jawai got busy with 12 points of his own and seven rebounds. Sobey had a hot hand for Brisbane with 21 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his eight assists. Froling was the next best thanks to his 20 points and eight rebounds as Patterson and Matthew Hodgson chimed in for 12 points apiece. The duo also combined for 13 rebounds as Harrison also plied his trade in the win with 13 points and six rebounds.

Photo credit: Jono Searle

Hawks hold onto fourth spot with much needed win

NEEDING to win to stay in the hunt for finals, Illawarra Hawks did just that toppling Cairns Taipans 93-81. But it was no easy feat, as the Hawks had to overcome a half-time deficit to race home and win in what was a dominant three-point shooting performance.

The Taipans have had a disappointing 2021 season but have shown glimpses of magic and the first quarter was no different. They competed hard and forced Illawarra onto the back foot as Mojave King and Scott Machado plied their trade from beyond the arc. They toiled away for the Taipans while Justinian Jessup worked in overdrive for the Hawks to stay within touching distance. It was a relatively even start to the game for both sides as they found the basket fairly well and converted off their chances before Illawarra really started to find their groove and impact on the scoreboard. It was not long until Deng Deng got involved in the action to cull the margin back to two points but it was the Taipans that held the ascendancy. By the end of the first quarter the two-point buffer remained in play with the visitors primed for a big second term of action.

A fast start from the Taipans in the second term allowed them to edge even further ahead as Venky Joi and Jarrod Kenny made their presence felt on the scoreboard. Within a blink of an eye the two-point game had turned into a nine-point lead and the Hawks were feeling the heat. Jessup worked tirelessly amassing an impressive 18 points but it meant little as his side was unable to compete with Cairns as they seemed to have things their own way.

With the game slipping through the fingers the higher ranked Illawarra Hawks pulled out all the stops in the third. Sam Froling injected himself into the game for the Hawks as he piled on the pain with four consecutive points to dwindle the lead to one point. It did not stop there as AJ Ogilvy landed a much needed layup as Illawarra scored the first six points of the half while keeping their opponents scoreless. After the timeout the game turned into somewhat of a stalemate with both sides struggling to transition before once again the Hawks found a spark. Momentum was building and the Hawks were the beneficiaries as Jessup continued his hot form to shoot six points straight and create some scoreboard separation. The lead ballooned out to 12 points by three quarter time credit to a resurgent Hawks outfit that not only increased their pressure in attack but so too defence to limit their opposition to a mere six points for the entire quarter.

Coming in off a stellar third term, the Hawks were eager to pick up where they left off. But the Taipans had other plans, bursting out of the blocks to get some respect back as they poured on 13 points to five as Mirko Djeric proved why he is so imperative to the Cairns line-up. All of a sudden the buffer was just four points as the tables started to turn. Despite the best efforts of Cairns, Illawarra stepped up to the plate thanks to Tyler Harvey. He commanded the ball and let his shooting do the talking as he hit a timely three with his teammates feeding off his energy as they notched up an important win.

Jessup led the charge with 24 points at 42 per cent from the field while Harvey was also influential with his 22 points and just fell short of a double-double with seven rebounds and nine assists. Deng was also key for the Hawks as he added 13 points to the tally while also recording five rebounds and three blocks. Ogilvy was the sole other player to reach double digits as he produced 11 points and a whopping 12 rebounds, nine of which were offensive. Machado was back to his damaging best sinking 17 points at 55 per cent from the field while also accumulating nine assists. Majok Deng proved to be a handy option for Cairns with 16 points as King featured with 12 points.

Photo credit: Brett Hemmings/Getty images

Perth secures win against last placed Taipans

PERTH remains in the hunt for top spot on the ladder, credit to a strong win against bottom-placed Cairns Taipans (100-79). It was not all easy going though, as the Wildcats were forced to work their way back into the game after the Taipans came out with some real venom in the first term.

Back in front of a home crowd, after making the trek to Brisbane last round, Perth took a while to get going. Instead it was the Taipans that were eager to get proceedings underway and cause a potential upset. Todd Blanchfield had a strong opening term of basketball, looking refreshed after his game off as he sunk two threes with teammate John Mooney also inserting himself in the thick of things. Perth raced out to a handy seven point lead midway through the term, before the visitors clawed their way back into the contest. Some big plays from veteran Nate Jawai and Mirko Djeric inspired the Taipans as they took a narrow two point lead into the quarter time break.

With the lead favouring Cairns, it was time for the Wildcats to strike and who better than Bryce Cotton. The guard flexed his muscles with a couple of much needed triples to steal the lead back for his side and reclaim the ascendancy. Tom Jervis started to work his way into the game for Perth as they looked to extend their lead against the lowly ranked Taipans and while Nawai and Jordan Ngatai were trying to will their side on it was to no avail. By half time the lead had switched hands with the home side boasting a five point buffer and pushing Cairns onto the backfoot.

But the best was yet to come from Perth as they put on the afterburners in the third quarter. After going toe-to-toe in the early stages of the quarter the Wildcats flicked a switch and despite Majok Deng working in overdrive for Cairns it was not enough to keep his side within touching distance. In fact his triple midway through the term provided a spark for the Wildcats as they went on a points scoring tear. They simply could not be denied at the basket with Cotton, Mooney and the like all inflicting some serious scoreboard pain as they piled on 23 of the next 27 points in what turned out to be a one-sided affair. Clint Steindl also chimed in throughout the term to impose himself and apply some real heat for Perth as they established a commanding 21-point lead.

Disappointed with their third quarter effort, the Taipans toiled hard in the final term going on a handy 12 points to three run to eat into the glaring deficit. Scott Machado found his way onto the scoreboard with a much needed triple while once again Djeric imposed himself. Once again the Wildcats hit back to extend the lead and while the Taipans gave themselves a fighting chance with eight points straight Corey Shervill came to spoil the party and push the margin back out to 21 points.

Cotton and Blanchfield were at their damaging best amassing 19 points apiece with the former starring from down town to nail five triples. Mooney was not far off the pace with 16 points and also managed eight rebounds and two assists in the win. Steindl found his groove finishing with 11 points and while Will Magnay did not have the same scoreboard presence as his previous outing still reeled in eight rebounds all of which were defensive. Djeric led the way for Cairns sinking a team-high 15 points despite coming off the bench as Machado piled on 11 points and four assists. Jawai had a strong outing thanks to his 10 points and four rebounds. Mojave King plied his trade with nine points and four rebounds as Tad Dufelmeier got busy in his 23 minutes out on court recording eight points in six rebounds in the loss.

Photo credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Hawks fly high to grab box seat for playoffs

ILLAWARRA Hawks are in the box seat to secure one of the two remaining finals spots after downing Adelaide 36ers on the road last night. The Hawks have strung together some form of late, winning four of their past five games – whilst fifth placed Sydney Kings have lost four of their past five – to sit with a 16-15 record heading into the final stages of the season. In last night’s battle with the 36ers, the Hawks all but spoiled the party for the home side who had to farewell young gun Josh Giddey to prepare for the NBA Draft, and went down by eight points to an impressive Illawarra outfit, 81-73.

The Hawks jumped out of the blocks early and took complete control of the contest in the opening half to set up what looked to be an unassailable lead. In almost identical fashion, the Hawks won the first term 24-14, then triumphed in the second term with a controlling 26-14 to lead 50-28 at the half. An even third term saw the 36ers peg one point back, and then they stood up in the last with 27-14, but the damage was done and by then, it was too little, too late and the home fans went home disappointed.

Both teams shot at a 45 per cent clip, but Illawarra had an additional 11 chances, also winning the assists (24-14) and steals (12-5), whilst the 36ers marginally lead in the rebounds (40-38). Aside from less personal fouls (10-17), the home team was well-beaten across the board, with the Hawks having four less turnovers (9-13), dominating the points from turnovers (17-4) and winning the points in the paint (40-30) in a strong all-round effort.

Sam Froling finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals in the win, teaming up well with Tyler Harvey who had the 18 points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals. Also stepping up from the starting lineup with Justin Simon (10 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists), whilst off the bench, Isaac White (16 points, four rebounds) and Deng Deng (10 points, seven rebounds) both contributed well to the cause. Emmett Naar might not have scored a point, but he had the seven assists and four rebounds in 16 minutes, while AJ Ogilvy finished with six rebounds and six assists – but only four points – in 21 minutes on court.

For the 36ers, Daniel Dillon was the top scorer with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, followed shortly by Daniel Johnson (13 points, two rebounds and two assists) who did not have his usual dominant impact from 31 minutes on court. Brendan Teys stepped up coming off the bench for 10 points and four rebounds, whilst Brandon Paul (seven points, five rebounds and three assists) and Keanu Pinder (seven points, six rebounds and two steals) were others who could hold their head high in the loss.

Illawarra Hawks will head home to host the Cairns Taipans at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Sunday at 5pm, whilst the Adelaide 36ers will play two hours earlier, remaining at home to take on the reigning premiers Perth Wildcats, before trekking down to New Zealand on Tuesday to lock horns with New Zealand Breakers.

Picture credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Season reaches climax, Hawks aiming to soar into top four

JUST over a handful of contests remain on the Illawarra Hawks’ agenda to conclude the NBL21 season and it is safe to say that the Wollongong-based side is starting to feel the heat of the moment.

With an even record of 15 wins and 15 losses this late in the campaign, it has certainly made for an entertaining finals race for five of the competition’s nine teams. Illawarra’s balanced win-loss line is also the result of a litany of hot streaks that opponents have been displaying consistently from the opening round.

While the Hawks’ 4-0 start to the season had many basketball fans shocked to begin with, slowly and steadily Illawarra have slid deep into the belly of the standings, but still remain heavy favourites to complete their bounce-back season after finishing with the wooden spoon last year.

A main proponent for Illawarra’s success-filled results so far is their ability to hold down the fort at home. At WIN Entertainment Centre, the Hawks have maintained an eight-win and six-loss record at home. The problem, however, is emerging from away games with positive results. Relinquishing nine contests to date while winning seven others on the road, Illawarra will need to pull off some more wins in enemy territory during the final run home.

Speaking of which, following Illawarra’s loss to Melbourne United back on Tuesday night, the Hawks have five different sides still to face in six games before the semi-finals kick off. The first of which are the Adelaide 36ers in South Australia, as the Birds currently stand an unlikely chance of closing the distance between themselves and Illawarra.

Illawarra can hopefully continue to march forward when they end Round 19 against the lowly Cairns Taipans, before facing the New Zealand Breakers the following Friday and the 36ers once again two days later the Sunday of that week.

The 21st and final round will see the Hawks make their final stand at home and given the way that the standings are shaping up, it could mean a pivotal last weekend of basketball for the entire NBL as the side face the Perth Wildcats and the Kings.

Beating many of these sides will be a tough ask for Coach Brian Goorjian’s men, but it has been well-documented that when the team works together collectively, they are formidable to say the least.

Leading the way statistically so far this season remains import guard Tyler Harvey and his 19.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, as he has shown he is the real deal at Australia’s topflight. Despite a less than substantial 10-point effort in his last time out against Melbourne, Harvey frequents scoring amounts north of 20 paired with a lethal floater game to accompany his skillset. These numbers will come in handy if he can replicate this form over the next few weeks.

By Harvey’s side are fellow backcourt members Justinian Jessup and Justin Simon. Being one of the NBL’s biggest standouts amongst the rookie class, Jessup’s exemplary shooting remains the 22-year-old’s major weapon on the floor. He currently averages a solid 14 points per game alongside 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Simon’s contributions also tell a similar story with the second of the two imports making his presence felt around the league, just around the corner from the finals, stringing together averages of 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists.

One of the big questions surrounding the mid-season arrival of Cameron Bairstow was his ability to make a significant impact down low in the post. Having played 14 games since his debut this season, Bairstow has been more than potent during his minutes on the floor. Having put up over 11 points and six rebounds per game, it is unfortunate that the former Chicago Bull will be sidelined for the rest of the campaign with a hip issue.

Recently retired Tim Coenraad made his return to the NBL after the end of last season, to replace Bairstow. The 311-game legend has averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game over his storied career and had been training with the side on and off preceding the announcement. He will look to add another chapter to his book in the league. Next to him is Sam Froling, who has been reliable on the boards and on the scoreboard as he leads the team in rebounds (7.2) and ranks fourth (10.6) in points.

Illawarra also took the bold move of releasing young prospect Deng Adel from the roster due to a combination of his numerous injuries this season and shaky performances. Given that the forward managed meek averages of 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and two assists over the course of 23 games, Adel had been visibly frustrated leading up to the announcement that he would be leaving the coveted Hawks franchise.

Again, next up for Illawarra will be the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide as both sides have a lot of writing on their meeting tonight. Either the Sixers will manage to keep a faint heartbeat on their late season charge, or Illawarra will take a huge first step to holding onto their current fourth seed. Their future is well and truly in their hands.

Picture credit: Anna Warr

Wildcats secure finals place, sentence Snakes to fifth consecutive loss

PERTH Wildcats are through to a remarkable 35th consecutive National Basketball League (NBL) finals series after downing cellar dwellers Cairns Taipans on the road by 11 points. In a battle that was perhaps closer than many anticipated, the Taipans refused to go away at Cairns Pop Up Arena, and it was not until the final term when the visitors finally shook them off to win, 89-78. The win ensured they would head to the post-season series, joining Melbourne United as the other team to qualify thus far.

Perth hit the lead in an entertaining high-scoring first term which saw the Wildcats pile on 28 points to 26. The Taipans clawed back to cut the half-time deficit to just one point, and then levelled the scores by the final break after winning those respective quarters 18-17 and 21-20. With the game on a knife’s edge, the Wildcats showed their class and experience to come away with it in the final term, pouring on 24-13 and winning 89-78 in front of more than 1800 fans.

The Wildcats shot more efficiently from the field – but only just – with 46 per cent to 45 per cent, though the three-point record of 44 to 39 per cent was a little more noticeable. The teams were even across the board, though the Snakes – still missing Cameron Oliver for the rest of the season – dominated the rebounds with 42-31, and also the blocks (7-3). Therefore it was no surprise to see the home team take control in both the points in the paint (42-32) and second chance points (13-6). For the Wildcats, they won the assist count (21-16), as well as the steals (8-3), and had far fewer turnovers (6-14) therefore making the Taipans pay from turnovers with 19 points to nine.

Bryce Cotton was unsurprisingly deadly, scoring 24 points in 29 minutes, of which he shot four of five from long-range. Cotton also managed the five assists, three steals and two rebounds in the win, whilst John Mooney stepped up with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds, to go with two assists and two steals. Todd Blanchfield (11 points, three rebounds) and Mitch Norton (10 points, three assists) also contributed, whilst Will Magnay was managed through 20 minutes for seven points, two rebounds and two assists. Off the bench, Luke Travers was the standout with nine points and three rebounds.

For the Taipans, Nathan Jawai continues to fill the massive shoes left by Oliver with the veteran shooting 20 points in 23 minutes, whilst also racking up nine rebounds and three blocks in the process. His defensive work married up well with Scott Machado‘s offensive transitional ability of 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Fabijan Krslovic came off the bench for 11 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes, whilst Tad Dufelmeier took his chances with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. Majok Deng (six points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks) also worked hard across the court.

Perth Wildcats host Sydney Kings on Thursday night at RAC Arena in a huge encounters, whilst the Cairns Taipans hope to snap their five-game losing streak back at home again taking on Brisbane Bullets before back-to-back games in Melbourne.

Picture credit: Albert Perez/Getty Images

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.