Tag: shaun bruce

Marlins stun Thunder, set up Meteoric grand final

CAIRNS Marlins have defied the odds to reach the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL)1 North Men’s Division Grand Final, knocking off minor premiers Logan Thunder in the semi-finals. The fifth placed Marlins first overcame Gold Coast Rollers in the elimination final, and have now taken down the Thunder – who previously only had one loss to their name – in order to reach the decider. The Marlins now take on second placed Mackay Meteors who finished just one win behind the Thunder, and knocked off USC Rip City in the other semi-final.

Logan Thunder (67) defeated by Cairns Marlins (96)

Cairns Marlins have taken down the raging premiership favourites Logan Thunder with stunning and and third terms to blow them away by 29 points in an eye-catching display. The Marlins lead by a point at quarter time, and then piled on 30-15 in the second term to extend it out to 16 points at the main break. The Thunder cut the deficit back to 15 by the final break, but any hope of a comeback was soon snuffed out by the Marlins, who scored 29-15 in the final term to run out 96-67 winners.

The Marlins were incredibly accurate, shooting at 50 per cent from the field compared to the Thunder’s 35.5 per cent. They dropped 12 of 22 from long-range compared to the Thunder’s seven of 30, and also picked up 17 more rebounds (53-36). Both teams were otherwise even, but the Marlins made more of their opportunities throughout the contest.

Alex Loughton (25 points, five rebounds) and Deba George (24 points, five rebounds and two steals) combined for more than half of the team’s points in the win. James Mitchell (11 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists and two steals) came close to an eye-opening triple-double, while Curt Ahwang (18 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Anthony Fisher (14 points, nine rebounds) were also outstanding.

Mitch Young (21 points, eight rebounds and two assists) was the topscorer for the Thunder in the loss, while Jeremy Kendle (18 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals) and Shaun Bruce (15 points, four assists, three rebounds and three blocks) were also productive. Unfortunately they scored 54 of the team’s 67 points with not enough contribution from the bench.

Mackay Meteors (106) defeated USC Rip City (91)

A fast-finishing Mackay Meteors outfit has ensured one of the top two sides reached the 2021 NBL1 North decider, coming from behind to blow away USC Rip City in a high-scoring final term. The Meteors were on the back foot from the beginning, trailing by nine points at quarter time. They managed to cut the deficit back to six at the main break, and two by the last change, but still needed a big effort to overcome the visitors. That occurred, as the home side piled on a mind-boggling 39 points in the last quarter to run away with the 15-point win, 106-91, and book a home grand final series.

The Meteors were more efficient from the field with a 49.2 per cent record compared to Rip City’s 43.4 per cent. They also had more rebounds (42-37), though USC finished with more assists (16-15), less turnovers (12-16) and equal steals (six-apiece) and blocks (four-apiece) for the accuracy to b the key in the match.

Emmanuel Malou was best-on thanks to his 34 points, putting in a James Harden-esque performance with 38 points – including 18 of 18 from the free throw line – and 10 rebounds, as well as three assists and two blocks. Christopher Cedar was the long-range threat with six of 14 from beyond the arc for a total of 27 points, five rebounds and three assists. Jerron Jamerson (22 points, eight rebounds and four assists) was also influential in the victory.

USC had a dual threat of Tanner Krebs and Isaih Tueta who contributed a massive 62 points on the night to try and drag Rip City over the line. Krebs finished with 32 points – four of 10 from long-range – four rebounds, three steals and two assists while Tueta had 30 points, four assists and three rebounds. Josh Tueta (12 points, eight rebounds) was also busy, as Kyle Zunic had nine rebounds and seven assists in the loss.

Mackay Meteors now host Cairns Marlins in the best-of-three Grand Final series, with matches on Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon to determine the NBL1 North champion.

Picture credit: Kieron Place

2021 NBL1 North men’s finals preview: Week 2

THE semi-finals are set to be action packed with the winner from the two matches progressing to the National Basketball League (NBL1) North men’s grand final. Top of the table Logan Thunder will be eager to assert themselves against their lower ranked opposition Cairns Marlins, while the Mackay Meteors will be hoping to inflict a similar pain to the fifth placed USC Rip City.

Logan Thunder vs. Cairns Marlins

The contest between Logan Thunder and Cairns Marlins is set to be an enthralling one as the two do battle on Saturday night. It will be the first time these two sides have met this season given the condensed season due to the COVID-19 enforced lockdown adding another layer to the battle.  The Thunder are on a hot streak having not lost a game in their past five outings, while the Marlins have somewhat of a chequered history but will be riding high after a dominant win against Townsville heat in the qualifying finals.

The Thunder will be looking to Jeremy Kendle to lead the way and impose himself on the contest often acting as the side’s strike shooter. Kendle averages an impressive 21.46 points a game and also leads the way with 9.23 assists making him an imposing figure. Mitch Young is another dominant force for Logan Thunder with the center producing 17.07 points a game while also reeling in 9.15 rebounds and a team-high 1.53 blocks. Michael Cedar is coming off a strong performance in the qualifying finals slotting 13 points and averages 6.15 rebounds and 2.61 assists while Shaun Bruce has proven time and time again that he has what it takes to be an imposing figure registering 17 points last time he stepped out on court. Boston Mazlin was up and about last week and will be hoping to continue that form in this contest to get the Thunder over the line.

It has not been all smooth sailing for the Marlins however one player that has stood the test of time is Majok Deng with the forward dominating each time he steps out on court. Deng averages an impressive 26.83 points, 9.66 rebounds and 1.66 blocks making him an unstoppable force. Teammate Nate Jawai oozes a wealth of experience and class with the bigman sitting second for average points scored thanks to his 15 along with a handy eight rebounds, 3.50 assists and one block. Alex Loughton is a solid performer for the Marlins with his 14.55 points while Mirko Djeric is another one to keep an eye on throughout the contest given his ability to dish off dimes and set up attacking forays and is not afraid to attack the rim himself averaging 13.57 points a game.

Mackay Meteors vs. USC Rip City

Mackay Meteors are coming off the closest result in the qualifying finals running out 10-point victors and will be hoping to really stamp their authority against USC Rip City who impressed in their outing. Rip City have showcased their capacity to score with great ease averaging an impressive 94 points, while the Meteors manage 86 points making for a highly anticipated scoring frenzy.

The Meteors are blessed with a couple of big time scorers and Emmanuel Malou is one of them. the forward is prolific averaging 18.92 points a game and is just as useful off the boards thanks to his 7.42 rebounds and 1.50 blocks making him quite a handful for opposition teams. The other key cog in Mackay’s unit is Jerron Jamerson. He is a tough competitor and is more than capable of carrying the team on his back averaging 18.85 points a game along with 4.85 rebounds, three assists and 0.85 blocks. Harry Froling is a real livewire for the Meteors with his capacity to star up both ends of the court. Froling averages an impressive double-double consisting of 18.60 points and 13.80 rebounds and is also crafty with ball in hand managing 4.40 dimes a game. keep an eye on Christopher Cedar with the guard coming off a mammoth performance last week draining 37 points and will be wanting to exact that same pain against Rip City in order to progress through to the grand final.

Rip City have a couple of aces up their sleeve with Tanner Krebs a key piece to their puzzle. Krebs leads the way with points draining 25.40 when he steps out on court and is also dominant off the boards credit to his seven rebounds along with 2.90 assists. Isaih Tueta is a handy option for USC with his 18.46 points and features in the top four for rebounds and assists with 5.07 and 5.53 respectively. Eric McAlister can turn it on when need be and will be more than willing to activate that level of game play in the semi-finals with his capacity to attack the rim thanks to his 15.23 point average and is strong off the boards with 6.92 rebounds. Josh Tueta and Louis Ilton are other scoring prospects for Rip City and will be hoping they can fire to steal the win.

Photo credit: Kieron Place

2021 NBL1 North men’s finals wrap: Week 1

THE qualifying finals played host to a mixed bag of results in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 North Men’s with only one game decided by 10 points or less. The winners from the four games moved through to the next stage with the semi-finals to be held this weekend.

Gold Coast Rollers (72) defeated by USC Rip City (94)

USC Rip City bundled Gold Coast Rollers out of the race for the premiership with a convincing 22-point win. But it was not all smooth sailing with the Rollers holding the upper hand at quarter time before Rip City turned on the afterburners in the second with a 27-12 term. Gold Coast reduced the deficit in the third before Rip City put the nail in the coffin the fourth stanza to seal the deal and claim victory.

Jason Cadee was in fine form for Gold Coast securing a triple double with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Callum Dalton worked hard to have an impact posting 13 points and seven rebounds, all of which were defensive, as Anthony Petrie chimed in with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists in the loss. Jaryd Eustace was a handy option producing eight points and three rebounds.

For Rip City the combination of Tanner Krebs and Eric McAlister was front and centre as the two imposed themselves on the scoreboard. Krebs slotted 26 points at 36 per cent from the field while he also picked up 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. McAlister slotted 20 points at 50 per cent from the field along with eight rebounds. Isaih Tueta made an impact on the scoreboard with his 17 points as both Josh Tueta and Louis Ilton featured highly with 11 and 10 points respectively.

Logan Thunder (103) defeated Southern Districts Spartans (88)

Logan Thunder continued their winning ways disposing of Southern Districts Spartans by 15 points on Saturday night. The Thunder had one thing in mind and that was evident from the moment they stepped out on the court opening up an 11-point differential. They steadily increased the margin at half time and further asserted themselves throughout the third quarter. Although the Spartans rallied in the final quarter the damage had been done with the Thunder walking away winners.

Jeremy Kendle had a point to prove throughout the qualifying final draining a whopping 29 points including two triples. He also used his imposing figure to have an influence off the boards racking up nine rebounds and five assists. Shaun Bruce got busy with his 16 points in 35 minutes while Mitch Young was hot on his heels with 16 points and an impressive 10 rebounds to notch up a double-double. Michael Cedar and Boston Mazlin were the other notable figures as the pair combined for 23 points in the win.

Lamar Patterson showcased his star power for the Spartans with a team-high 29 points along with seven rebounds, six assists and a steal. Patterson was ably assisted by Noah Thomas who managed 21 points at 44 per cent from the field while CJ Massingale was also a strong attacking option with his 13 points.

Mackay Meteors (93) defeated Brisbane Capitals (83)

The contest between Mackay Meteors and Brisbane Capitals was the closest of the qualifying finals with only 10 points separating the two sides. In the end it was the Meteors that had the last laugh mainly thanks to a blistering first term of basketball. Mackay created some handy separation, boasting an eight point lead and steadily added to that at half time to make the margin nine. Things started to tighten up as the game went on with Brisbane upping the ante in defence but unable to apply a wealth of scoreboard pressure with the Meteors coming away with the win.

There was simply no stopping Christopher Cedar as he piled on a staggering 37 points at 55 per cent from the field. He was damaging from down town sinking seven of 11 triples while he just fell short of a double-double racking up nine rebounds and four steals. Jerron Jamerson had a hot hand thanks to his 19 points and five rebounds as both Emmanuel Malou and Viliami Foketi slotted 10 points apiece in the hard-fought win.

The Brisbane Capitals opted for a more shared effort with Nicholas Stoaddart the highest scorer thanks to his 23 points, three assists, two blocks and six rebounds – all of which were defensive. Ben Volkman was the next closest producing 15 points shooting at 58 per cent from the field. He also got busy off the boards with seven rebounds while teammate Ben Wilson chimed in with a handy 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in his 31 minutes of action. Jacob Wilson was the only other player to reach double-digits with 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Townsville Heat (69) defeated by Cairns Marlins (85)

The final game of the qualifying finals saw Cairns Marlins progress through to the next stage after claiming a 16-point win. Townsville Heat had the upper hand for the first half outscoring the Marlins both in the opening and second term to establish a small two point buffer. But that momentum was quickly overturned as the Marlins came out with a point to prove in the third sinking 25 points to 16 and continued that trajectory in the final to assert themselves on the game and get the win.

Josh Spiers was the go-to man for the Heat producing a team-high 23 points in his 34 minutes of game time. Spiers also managed to pull in five rebounds, two assists and two steals in the loss. Teammate Ethan Betts was up and about with his 16 points, four rebounds and six assists as Matthew Rees added a handy 12 points to the total. Keegan Tudehope secured a double-double with his 11 points and 12 rebounds in an all-round solid performance.

For the winners, it was a five-pronged attack with Deba George leading the pack. He finished with an impressive 24 points including four triples while he also accumulated five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Anthony Fisher also imposed himself with his 17 points and whopping 13 rebounds – 12 of which were defensive. James Mitchell and Curt Ahwang found their groove slotting 16 and 15 points respectively in the win with the former also proving to be a menace off the boards with his 12 rebounds. The final other player to have an impact was Alex Loughton who slotted 13 points, three rebounds and two assists in the win for the Marlins.


Photo credit: Kieron Place

Sydney Kings 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 2020 grand finalists Sydney Kings.

Season Summary:

Similar to the Bullets, it was a season of “what if?”s for the Sydney Kings who left their run just a little too late, ultimately missing out on finals. After making the grand final last season the Kings were unable to replicate that same level of form with a number of key injuries plaguing their side and pushing them onto the back foot.

The finals race went right down to the wire as the Kings kept the door ever so slightly ajar with fans and players alike hoping that there was a chance they could make it. A slow start to the season put them on the back foot while a couple of big injuries also stopped them in their tracks. Throw in their inability to rely on their dominant scorers and it was an up and down season for the Kings.

How It Unfolded:

It was only percentage that separated the Kings from finals and fifth spot but unfortunately for them they were unable to get over the line and missed their chance to fight it out for the coveted title. The Kings finished with a 19-17 record, the same as South East Melbourne Phoenix, showcasing just how close they were to competing but simply could not finish it off.

Sydney were faced with the Taipans in their opening match and while they did not get off to the start they would have hoped for, they redeemed themselves the following round to even the ledger. Little did fans know that this start was going to indicate the pattern for the rest of the season as the Kings struggled to find consistency or notch up consecutive wins. Every time Sydney started to generate any form of winning momentum they would be brought to a halt whether it be with injury or a surprise loss which kept them teetering on the edge of the top four rather than deep inside.

What Worked Well:

Although they did not make finals there are still plenty of positives to take out of the season for the Kings as the Sydney side bled up a number of young players given the number of injuries the side sustained. One main player that took his game to a whole new level was Dejan Vasiljevic who was tipped to take out the Rookie of the Year prior to his season-ending injury. Vasiljevic averaged an impressive 16.1 points, 1.9 assists and 3.75 rebounds a game highlighting his ability to have an impact at both ends of the court.

The Kings as a whole averaged 87 points per game, the fourth most of any side in the competition, even beating the likes of Illawarra who finished in third spot proving scoring was no issue. With Casper Ware at their disposal and both Jarell Martin and Vasiljevic when fully fit, the Kings had no shortage of options. The combination of Ware (17.67 points, 4.44 assists and 3.25 rebounds) and Martin (17.93 points, seven rebounds and 1.11 assist) was almost impossible to stop when the two got up and running.

What Went Wrong:

There was a very dark injury cloud hanging over the Sydney Kings for the best part of the season. they simply could not retain a fit roster with a number of important players being struck down by lengthy injuries. Xavier Cooks only managed the eight games for the season as he recovered from a foot injury while the experienced head in Daniel Kickert also succumbed to injury. Angus Glover was another one that fell to injury, doing his fourth anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). But arguably the biggest blow to the Kings campaign was that of Didi Louzada and Vasiljevic who ruptured his Achilles, ending his season on the spot.

While personnel was an undeniable issue for the Kings who had been riddled with injuries another concern for the side was the number of points they conceded. Sydney allowed their opponents to average 86 points a game the fifth most of anyone in the competition.

MVP Conversation:

Ware was always going to be a front-runner for the Sydney Kings MVP and rightfully was awarded the side’s top honour after another consistent season. With players falling all around him, Ware was the one that stood up to the plate time and time again and even recorded a career-high 40 points against the Taipans.

Roster News:

A number of key cogs have already signed on for next season with Australian Boomers representative Cooks signing on to stay with the purple and gold for another year. Cooks had limited court time throughout the season due to injury, only playing eight games, but his experience, class and star power will be handy to have as the side looks to rekindle its dominant form.

New Zealander Tom Vodanovich has recommitted to the club. Joining the side as a replacement player in January, Vodanovich was a quiet achiever for the side, able to come on and have an impact and will be eager to continue his development further next season. He joins the likes of Martin who had a breakout season in 2021 along with Jordan Hunter, Shaun Bruce, Vasiljevic, Glover and Bilwali Bayles.

Looking Towards Next Season:

There are changes aplenty in terms of coaches for the Sydney Kings as they look to unlock a new realm of basketball. Chase Buford has been appointed as the new head coach for the club and has a deep family history of NBA success which he will be hoping to bring over to the Kings.

With a strong core of players already committed for next season the Kings will be hoping to up the ante and make finals. However they will be without the services of James Duncan with the former lead assistant coach trading sides to become the new head coach for the Bullets. With a host of players on the mend from injury it will be exciting to see if they are able to go to the next level with Cooks averaging 10.25 points, 5.13 rebounds and a block per game despite not being able to complete a full pre-season.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe

Sydney Kings survive last quarter fightback from Bullets

THE race to finals continues to heat up and the Sydney Kings have managed to keep their slim chances alive with a thrilling win over Brisbane Bullets, to end the latters’ hopes of making it into the top four (83-82). The Bullets had their opportunities to seal the deal but the Kings found a way to dig deep and ride out the game thanks to Shaun Bruce.

It was a fast paced opening term as both sides proved they had a lot to play for. Daniel Kickert found his range nice and early for the Kings, showcasing his skill from downtown but Nathan Sobey and his Bullets were not about to lie down. Sobey was involved in just about everything to start the game, as was BJ Johnson as they controlled proceedings on the scoreboard. The Bullets established a handy lead piling on 24 points while keeping the kings to 17.

Brisbane maintained that level of composure and intensity for the opening minutes of the second term as Johnson and Lamar Patterson poured on the scoreboard pressure. They simply could not be denied and appeared to have the game well and truly on their terms with the lead extending to as much as 11 points as Tyrell Harrison also found himself in the action. But the Kings were not about to let the game slip away from them. a couple of substitutions from the Bullets gifted the Kings with a chance to pounce and they did as Xavier Cooks landed a handy jump shot then showcased his defensive traits with a strong rebound.

The wheels started to really turn as Jarell Martin made important back-to-back triples and all of a sudden the margin was back to three points. But it did not stop there as the Kings really started to rally and put a halt to the Bullets’ scoring and got down to business themselves with Casper Ware levelling the scores. Brad Newley impressed with his composure and execution to steal the lead and set the wheels in motion for Sydney.

Holding a five point lead at half time the Kings continued their merry way to keep the scoreboard pressure on extending to an eight point lead. Sobey was called for an un-sportsmanlike foul  against Ware and things went from bad to worse as the Bullets looked down and out. Kickert was proving to be a real thorn in the Bullets’ side as was Newley with the two experienced heads leading the charge as the home side got out to a solid 12 point lead at the final break.

With it all to play for in the final quarter the Bullets came out with a renewed sense of fight and desperation. Piling on nine points straight to open the quarter Brisbane proved they were here for the long-haul and were not about to let Sydney have it all their own way. They continued to push with Johnson making his presence felt with a huge dunk with less than 90 seconds left on the clock. His shot stole the lead for the Bullets but the Kings answered the call as Bruce converted his free throws to wrestle back the lead with 14 seconds left on the clock. It was a heart in your mouth finish as the ball changed hands time and time again as Jason Cadee let the ball trickle over the sideline and Ware gave off a foul but Johnson was unable to ice the cake as Sydney snuck home with a win.

Martin was a force to be reckoned with piling on 28 points at 61 per cent from the field and six rebounds. Ware was strong with his 14 points, three rebounds and three assists as Cooks also impacted the game with his nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Kickert also chimed in with a handy 10 points and three assists. For the Bullets, Sobey was the topscorer thanks to his 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists as Johnson got busy with his 17 points. Patterson also contributed a handy 15 points and five rebounds in the loss.

The win sees the Kings finish on the same points as South East Melbourne Phoenix and while they have all but secured the fourth spot there is still hope given the Phoenix will have to take on the Bullets. If Brisbane are able to win comprehensively against the Phoenix and their percentage suffers then the Kings could overtake their Melbourne counterparts and sneak into the top four, making for a couple of stressful days for Sydney while they await their fortunes.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

NBL: Kings perform late to keep finals chances alive

WITH slim finals hopes on the line, the Sydney Kings were able to sneak past the undermanned Illawarra Hawks, emerging from WIN Entertainment Centre with a six-point triumph on Thursday night. With their finals position locked in, the Hawks opted to rest star Tyler Harvey, giving the Kings an almighty confidence boost heading into the game, but were still dished a real scare, as the home side fought tooth and nail right until the end, but fell two baskets short. Leading by five points early in the final term, the Hawks looked as if they were more than capable of claiming an unlikely win, but late threes to Shaun Bruce and Xavier Cooks locked the game shut, as the Kings claimed an all-important victory.

The game opened in pretty dominant fashion for the Kings, starting the match on an 8-0 scoring run, thanks to Jarrell Martin finding an open lane to the hoop and finishing inside. The Hawks would soon after open their scoring, but the margin remained considerable, with a pair of Jarrad Weeks three-pointers opening the lead to double digits. The Hawks were able to chip away at this deficit, but still entered the first break trailing by six points with plenty of emphasis on the absence of leading-scorer Harvey. They were able to not only tie up proceedings early in the second quarter, but they even took the lead courtesy of a pair of long bombs from Hawk Lachlan Dent, who made the most of his extended minutes during the match. The Kings responded almost immediately, as Martin and guard Casper Ware came alive to close out the quarter in strong fashion, taking a seven-point advantage into half time. While the Hawks trailed, their belief in their ability to claim an unlikely win remained rock-solid.

The Kings opened the third term on another scoring tear, thanks to the range of Ware, who was really beginning to find his rhythm in the contest at this stage. An and-one to Jordan Hunter saw the lead again creep out to 11 points, and it looked as if Sydney were on the cusp of blowing the game wide open. The Hawks had other ideas though, taking over the game with a scoring blitz and bursting out to a three-point lead, before it was trimmed to just one point heading into the final term. The fourth quarter began with the Hawks jumping out of the gates to an early five-point advantage, thanks to a couple of tough finishes in the paint from Sam Froling. The Hawks had many hopes of a victory at this stage, but the Kings were able to grit their teeth and make the match-winning plays.

For the Kings, Martin was huge for his side, pouring in 23 points and 10 rebounds to deliver a significant impact on the result of the game. He was well aided by teammates Cooks (19 points) and Hunter (15 points). For the Hawks, Froling, Isaac White and Emmett Naar all contributed 12 points, and stood up in the absence of Harvey.

Closing in on the South East Melbourne Phoenix, the Kings have one more match to play as they look to sneak into the finals. They will face off against a fellow finals hopeful in the Brisbane Bullets, who are also looking to claw their way into the finals with a win. Be sure to tune in to Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday night in what should be an explosive contest, as both sides play for their seasons.

Picture credit: Matt King

Kings rule over United in double-overtime thriller

SYDNEY Kings have toppled Melbourne United in one of the games of the year to keep their playoff hopes alive, downing the ladder leaders by two points in an epic double-overtime National Basketball League (NBL) bout. In a must-win contest for the Kings to remain in contention, the home team secured the victory to move to a 17-17 record and just one win outside the top four, albeit having played an extra game than the South East Melbourne Phoenix (third) and Illawarra Hawks (fourth).

It was a 14-0 third term streak by the Kings that really made the difference in the end, after Melbourne had grabbed a four-point quarter time lead, and were up by five at the main break. The dominant run in the third quarter saw Sydney race out to as much as a 13-point advantage before United reeled them in, but the visitors still trailed by four points at the final break. The Kings lead in the final 30 seconds of regular time, before a Mitch McCarron layup levelled the scores, and a Craig Moller long-range miss with two seconds on the clock meant the teams were headed for overtime.

McCarron again saved the day in the first overtime period, making a levelling basket with 57 seconds on the clock for the sides to again head into the break with a 90-90 scoreline, and a second overtime period needed to determine a winner. With 1:12 on the clock, Shea Ili hit the turnaround jump shot to level the scores at 97-apiece, before Moller responded with a layup of his own. Jock Landale got to the line after being fouled off a three-point attempt but could only nail one of them, which proved costly in the end. Jordan Hunter finished off with a successful free throw for a two-point win, 100-98 as Chris Goulding‘s last second long-range jumper went begging.

The Kings were beaten across a number of key areas, but toppled United in the assists (21-20) and steals (11-2), as well as recording marginally more points in the paint (54-48) and second chance points (24-18), whilst their points from turnovers (23-9) was the key difference. Melbourne was the more accurate shooting side with 45 per cent from the field to the Kings’ 37 per cent, as well as 31 to 23 per cent from long-range. They won the rebounds (56-51) and the blocks (8-5), as well as had a couple more points off the bench (34-32).

Shaun Bruce lead the way with 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds for the Kings, knocking down five of 14 from long-range. Casper Ware (16 points, five assists) was not as accurate from beyond the arc, dropping just one of eight in his 47:27 on court. That herculean endurance effort was the most of anyone out there, as teammates Tom Vodanovich (13 points, two rebounds), Jarrell Martin (12 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Xavier Cooks (10 points, two assists) hit double-figure points. Hunter (nine points, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals), Moller (eight points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Brad Newley (eight points, eight rebounds and two assists) were also instrumental in a real team effort.

Landale stood tall for the losing side with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks to put up year another double-double. McCarron was the key playmaker with nine points, assists and rebounds in what was a close shave to a triple-double. Goulding (16 points, two rebounds and two assists), Mason Peatling (11 points, six rebounds and two blocks), Ili (11 points, seven rebounds), Scotty Hopson (11 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Jo Lual-Acuil (10 points, six rebounds and four blocks) all hit double-figure points.

Melbourne United will be favoured to bounce back against Cairns Taipans on Monday at Qudos Bank Arena, whilst the Kings will travel to WIN Entertainment Centre to take on the Illawarra Hawks.


Image Credit: Jaimi Joy/Getty Images

Kings rise to occasion to pip Breakers in New Zealand

SYDNEY Kings have kept themselves in contention for a playoffs spot after coming good in the final term to overrun the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League (NBL) contest last night. Locking horns at TSB Stadium, the Kings found themselves trailing for the majority of the night, before piling on 25 points to 15 in the last term to secure the five-point victory, 81-76.

Aside from a brief moment in the third term, the Kings trailed the Breakers from early in the first term until midway through the last quarter, with the home team having all the momentum. Though the Breakers did hold the lead, it never got beyond single-digits as the Kings kept in touch and as it happened, within striking distance. The visitors did not strike until the final term, trailing by five points at the last change, then won the final term by 10 points to turn that deficit into a final winning margin.

At one stage the teams were 70-apiece, with the Kings piling on 11 of the last 16 points to end the game strongly and run out victors. They dominated the rebounds (53-39), and had less personal fouls (19-27), but more remarkably outscored the Breakers from turnovers (13-12) despite having five more turnovers themselves (13-8). They also had more points in the paint (36-28) and second chance points (18-10), while the Breakers won the assist count (17-11), steals (7-0) and blocks (4-3) in a gallant effort.

Jarrell Martin put up 29 points and nine rebounds, whilst there were plenty of supporting acts off the boards. Jordan Hunter (14 points, seven rebounds), Xavier Cooks (seven points, seven rebounds) and Shaun Bruce (five points, seven rebounds and five assists) all stood up close to the basket, as Craig Moller influenced off the bench in the same way with five points and eight rebounds in the win. Casper Ware did not hit a triple from five attempts, but managed 15 points, two rebounds and two assists.

For the Breakers, Levi Randolph had 25 points and five rebounds, whilst Corey Webster came off the bench for 13 points and four rebounds. Tai Webster managed the 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in an all-round performance, as Colton Iverson (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks) and William McDowell-White (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also reached double-figure points.

Sydney Kings coach Adam Forde said he was pleased his side remained in the hunt for playoffs, but could not stop now with some tough games against the finals-bound teams in the last two weeks.

“It is almost like boss levels,” he said. “These guys are tough, I can’t emphasise that enough. We split here, that is the first level. “The next weekend we play Perth in Perth, and then we host Melbourne 48 hours later. In the last round, we play Brisbane and Illawarra, who are in the same position that we are. The best thing is that it’s on us, we can’t blame anyone else … win or lose, it is solely on us.”

Whilst Sydney have the break before taking on those top two sides, the Breakers host another game, playing Adelaide 36ers at Christchurch Arena on Tuesday.

Picture credit: Elias Rodriguez/Getty Images

Kings keep finals hopes alive with strong win over Adelaide

PLAYING to keep their playoff dreams alive, it was the Sydney Kings that prevailed against Adelaide 36ers to secure a 10-point win, 85-75. The lead chopped and changed throughout the contest, highlighting the high-calibre battle it was, but in the end the class and connections of the Kings came to the fore as they notched up a handy win ahead of the seasons end.

It was all the Kings in the opening stanza as the home side proved to be damaging with ball in hand. They had no issues finding the basket nailing nine points straight to impose themselves early and then replicated that form in the latter stage of the term with another nine point to zip run to hold an 11-point margin. Jarrell Martin flexed his muscles in front of the home crowd draining 10 points while fan-favourite Casper Ware impressed with his ball handling skills to rack up six assists. Despite all the play, the 36ers got themselves back into the contest only staring down the barrel of a six-point difference at quarter time to keep them within striking distance, and that they did.

The second quarter was much improved from Adelaide who were playing their third game in New South Wales in as many days. The 36ers came out with a real pep in their step hoping to rectify the inaccuracy from the opening quarter. In fact they monopolised the play piling on 30 points to 19 credit to Daniel Johnson and his ability to convert as he stacked on six points to close out the quarter.

Holding the lead after a dominant second quarter, it looked as if Adelaide were going to inflict more pain on the Kings as Brandon Paul got busy and asserted himself on the contest. His three-point play extended Adelaide’s lead to eight but with the game slipping away from them Sydney rallied. They quickly snapped out of their slumber with both Xavier Cooks and Daniel Kickert having an immediate impact. Going on a 10-2 spree the Kings wrestled back the momentum and kept their foot on the throat to pepper the ring and add another 12 points while only limiting their opponents to two on their run of points. Overall the Kings upped the ante both in offence and defence as they prepared for a blockbuster final quarter.

Adelaide picked up where they left off  in the final quarter with the likes of Kickert, Martin and now Shaun Bruce showing their execution from range. It was exactly what the home side needed and while Adelaide worked gallantly to try and upset the apple cart it was too  little, too late. The Kings’ overall accuracy was higher than the 36ers going at 43 per cent compared to 36 per cent from the field and 51 per cent to 47 from long range. In terms of offensive pressure, the Kings also had the upper hand and that was on full display as they recorded 22 assists as opposed to 13.

Five players from Sydney managed to reach double-figures when it came to points scored as Martin topped the table with 20 to his name at 47 per cent from the field. He just fell short of a double-double picking up nine rebounds and three assists. He received good support from Jordan Hunter who piled on 15 points while 12 proved to be the magic number for Craig Moller and Kickert. Moller proved to not only have a hot hand thanks to his 12 points but also got busy off the boards credit to his 11 rebounds. Ware was influential finishing with a double-double thanks to his 13 points and 12 assists. Johnson was the most prolific player on court producing 23 points at 50 per cent and seven rebounds. Paul also impressed with 21 points in the loss as Jack McVeigh was the sole other player to hit double digits thanks to his 12 and five rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Metcalfe

DJ spoils Kings party with stunning overtime effort

DANIEL ‘DJ’ Johnson single-handedly ripped the game away from Sydney Kings and helped his Adelaide 36ers to a memorable overtime victory in a stunning National Basketball League (NBL) overtime thriller last night. The teams were evenly poised at 81-apiece after four quarters, and that was when Johnson came to play, nailing 13 of his side’s 16 points to leave the home side in his wake and keep his team in the hunt for finals with the 97-88 victory.

The teams were delicately matched as Sydney headed into the contest with a 14-13 record compared to Adelaide’s 13-15 ratio, and the latter was in more desperate need of a win. The 36ers were coming off back-to-back wins, whilst the Kings lost their last outing, making the visitors the more in-form side of the pairing. However it was Sydney that stormed to the early lead, scoring 19-16 in the first term, and then 28-18 in the second to open up a 13-point advantage at the main break. Sensing the importance of getting back in the contest quickly, the 36ers hit back in the third with 24-11 to draw level heading into the last quarter.

Symbolic of most of the game, the teams were evenly poised throughout the final term with multiple lead changes, and the Kings holding as much as a five-point advantage with 2:40 on the clock once Tom Vodanovich nailed a three-point jump shot. Young gun Josh Giddey quickly drove through the lane to cut the deficit to a single possession and then the multi-faceted Isaac Humphries made no mistake from beyond the arc to tie the game with 1:39 remaining. The teams had a combined five misses in the final 90 seconds, with Daniel Kickert‘s last second jump shot not able to hit the mark.

Jordan Hunter scored the first points 12 seconds into the overtime period, but it was all Johnson and his side from there, with a turnaround jumper followed by Sunday Dech making a three-pointer to hand his side the lead by that margin. With the game on the line, Johnson came to play, nailing both free throws off a foul then back-to-back three pointers and the margin had blown out to 11 points with 1:24 on the timer. Vodanovich desperately clawed back two points, but a third consecutive triple from Johnson for his side secured the win with a heavy 12-point advantage, the 36ers’ largest of the game. Vodanovich scored a consolation triple to cut the final deficit to nine points, but it would not be enough to get over the line.

The 36ers topped the field goal percentage marginally, with a higher volume of long-range successes, whilst absolutely dominating the rebounds (57-40), and winning the assists (26-24), blocks (10-5) and second chance points (33-8). The Kings were admirable with more steals (4-2), far less turnovers (5-10) and therefore had more points from turnovers (14-7).

Johnson won the Player of the Match for his clutch effort, scoring the only three triples of the night in overtime to finish with 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Across four quarters, it was hard to look past young gun Giddey who racked up his third triple-double of the season, collecting 11 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Brandon Paul (19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks), Humphries (11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks), Tony Crocker (12 points) and Keanu Pinder (11 points, four rebounds) were all double-digit scorers.

Sydney Kings had plenty of contributors too, led by Jarrell Martin (25 points, seven rebounds), with Casper Ware (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) leading the transitional offence. Also hitting big numbers were Hunter (13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and two assists), Shaun Bruce (12 points, five assists and three rebounds), and Vodanovich off the bench (13 points, five rebounds).

The 36ers take on Illawarra Hawks tomorrow night on the road in a quick turnaround, whilst the Kings travel up to Brisbane to face the Bullets at Nissan Arena on Thursday.

Picture credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images