Tag: south east melbourne phoenix

Landale guides United to victory and grand final berth

MELBOURNE United are off to the big dance once again, bypassing crosstown rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix by 10 points, 84-74. It was an inspired second half by the top of the table United who looked down and out in the opening term but turned things around to claim the win with star recruit Jock Landale imposing himself when the going got tough.

Despite just sneaking into the top four the Phoenix had a real aura of confidence and determination which was on show from the opening minutes. Although it took over a minute for a score to be registered it was Mitch Creek that landed the first blow, with the Phoenix in control of proceedings, piling on the scoreboard pressure and limiting the options United had to go to basket. Reuben Te Rangi found his rhythm nice and early before Keifer Sykes took control with the American import draining eight points alone in the first quarter. United looked in all sorts of trouble while the Phoenix were in cruise control pushing out to a handy 10-point lead thanks to a 24-14 point term.

The second quarter was not much better for United as New Zealander Izayah Le’Afa nailed consecutive threes for South East Melbourne. The game started to slip away for United as the lead ballooned out to 17 points. Needing a spark and a way to get themselves back into the contest, Landale came to life. Relatively well held in the first stanza he kicked it up a gear in the second draining a whopping 12 points alone to spur United on and single-handedly drag them back into the match. From 17 points in the early stages of the quarter, the lead was dwindled down to five to give United a fighting chance in the third.

That fighting chance was all United needed as the minor premiers rallied in the third to put the Phoenix on the back foot. The momentum steadily switched hands as fan favourite and Melbourne United stalwart, Chris Goulding imposed himself on the contest. In his 350th game, Goulding had plans that did not involve losing as he sunk a triple within the opening minutes of the quarter. Landale picked up where he left off with an additional six points while Scotty Hopson upped the ante to really apply the pressure on the Phoenix. An 18-12 term handed United the lead heading into the final term and with the grand final in sight it was all systems go.

The class and composure of United came to the fore as Mitch McCarron added to their one-point margin to push it out to three and set the wheels in motion. The increased defensive pressure from United was causing all sorts of trouble for the Phoenix who were struggling to find the basket. Goulding continued to steer the ship landing a handy triple with Yudai Baba also showing his skill from range to nail a three and seal the deal to win by 10 points.

Bursting out of the blocks in the first quarter, Sykes was well held for the rest of the match as he finished with 15 points, three rebounds and four assists to his name. Creek was his ever-reliable self, producing 19 points and nine rebounds as Te Rangi had arguably his best game to-date to topscore with 22 points at 61 per cent and register six rebounds. The load was shared relatively evenly for United but it was Landale that caught the eye with a scintillating 27 points and impressive 84 per cent accuracy from the field. He also managed eight rebounds in his 34 minutes on court. Goulding was the next best with 14 points, two assists and two steals while McCarron showed his class thanks to his 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Hopson was also handy off the bench sinking nine points and six rebounds.

United will now take on Perth Wildcats in the Grand Final series, a scenario they know all too well having played in the 2018/19 season. Melbourne will be hoping to reverse their fortunes this time round, however will have to play the first two games at RAC Arena due to current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

Phoenix send it to Game 3 with emphatic come-from-behind win

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix bit back in Game 2 of the semi-finals series downing Melbourne United by 11 points, 90-79. The win takes the total to one apiece forcing the series to a decider with the winner through to the grand final. It was a tale of two halves with the second favouring the Phoenix and allowing them to get the job done.

From the opening whistle it looked like Melbourne United were going to walk away with the chocolates once again and seal their fate early with a hard-earned grand final berth. United hit the scoreboard with ease largely due to some good shooting from Chris Goulding as they skipped out to a handy 7-2 advantage. It was clear that there was plenty of feeling out on court with Jock Landale finding himself in hot water early picking up two fouls in the first term alone before teammate David Barlow registered an unsportsmanlike foul to really trouble the top of the table side. This well and truly played into the hands of the Phoenix as their key cogs stepped up to the plate with Keifer Sykes showcasing his wares. It was tit-for-tat in the final stages of the term before United landed the final blow to hold a slim two point lead at the break.

The second term saw much of the same with the two sides competing hard and throwing everything they had at one another in hope to find a winning edge – an edge United seemed to have unlocked. Things were motoring along nicely for United who snuck out to a handy nine-point lead towards the backend of the quarter as Scotty Hopson and Jo Lual-Acuil rotated strike on the scoring front. But the Phoenix were determined to fight back and not the game slip through their fingers as Yannick Wetzell nailed back to back shots before Kyle Adnam delivered from the charity strip to reduce the margin to four points at half time.

In the driver’s seat heading into the premiership term, United looked composed and in control. But the Phoenix were not done yet, they continued to linger and pester at United who were unable to put them away scoring 20 points apiece in the third. Mitch Creek and Sykes proved to be crucial for South East Melbourne with the duo finding ways to bob up and hit the scoreboard every time United tried to create some separation. A nine-point straight run from the Phoenix gifted them the lead and the ascendancy but that was short lived as Yudai Baba struck back with a much needed triple to steal the lead back heading into the final change.

The Phoenix had been thereabouts all game and now was their time to shine. With the game on the line they left nothing to chance whipping out the big guns and upping the ante particularly in defence. They stifled United keeping them to a mere nine points while they piled on a whopping 24 to completely swing the momentum. Landale found himself in further foul trouble on and off the court while the Phoenix were finding their groove. There were limited threes all night before Creek got the party started to hand his side their highest lead of the game out to five points, and from there on out, United simply had no answers and no way to combat Sykes who was having a field day as the Phoenix reigned supreme.

Both Creek and Sykes had a day out registering 26 points apiece in a strong showing for the Phoenix. Sykes converted at 55 per cent from the field while also managing four assists, three steals and three blocks as Creek picked up four rebounds. Wetzell was also strong sinking 20 points and eight rebounds providing a helping hand in offence. It was a lot more evenly spread for United who did not necessarily have a dominant player as Hopson topped the table with 19 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Goulding was next best with 14 points but was uncharacteristically inaccurate from deep only nailing two of his eight attempts. Both Mason Peatling and Lual-Acuil finished with 11 points and seven rebounds each. Landale had a night he would rather forget only registering five points in his 13 minutes while also being fouled out.

Game 3 between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne will be played on Tuesday at Qudos Bank Arena.

Photo credit: Jason McCawley

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

Bullets keep finals dream alive with come-from-behind win over Phoenix

WITH the Brisbane Bullets finals aspirations hinging on every game in Round 21, they got their last round campaign off to a flying start as they downed South East Melbourne Phoenix by seven points (91-84). It was a tale of two halves as the Phoenix dominated the opening half of play before the Bullets struck back in the second, looking like a new and improved outfit to win the match.

Given the recent COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, there were no fans allowed at the match meaning both teams had to rely on their own chat and energy to spur them on. That worked for the Phoenix in the opening half as Mitch Creek got down to business sinking the first shot of the game to set the tone. Creek seemed to have the ball on a string as he dictated the terms of the game and inspired the likes of Ryan Broekhoff and Kyle Adnam to flex their muscles from down town. The Phoenix were making the most of their three point shooters as they skipped out to a handy lead at quarter time thanks to a 25 points to 16 term.

The Bullets started to up the ante in the second term as Tyrell Harrison injected himself into the thick of things to eat into the margin. but Creek continued to go along his merry way sinking shots from left, right and centre. The tempo slowly started to shift in favour of Brisbane with Harry Froling finding his stroke with back to back points to cull the deficit to five points. But once again the Phoenix found a way to forge ahead through Keifer Sykes with the star import impressing with his drive and scoring prowess. The Bullets continued to plug away with Jason Cadee leading the troops but in the end it was Creek that was monopolising the play out on court amassing a whopping 16 points to half-time.

It was a blockbuster third term from the Bullets as they took ownership of the game to outplay and outsmart the Phoenix. The quarter started with a bang as Lamar Patterson made his presence felt to get the Bullets back to within one point. Moments later, Harrison chimed in and within a blink of an eye the lead changed hands and the Bullets were in front for the first time in the match. The team lifted across the board as Nathan Sobey showcased his class from three-point range to extend the lead credit to a nine point run and while Creek quickly answered the quarter was played all on Brisbane’s terms. The lead ballooned to 11 points by three quarter time as the Bullets walked away with a head full of steam and confidence to boot.

The Phoenix needed a real spark in the final term with the lead escaping them and needing a win to seal the deal for finals. But that was not to be the case as the Bullets picked up where they left off thanks to a dominant performance from Froling. The big man managed a key rebound and then converted on the shot and although the Phoenix fought back with consecutive points from Adnam the game was just too far out of their reach as Patterson and BJ Johnson plied their trade on the scoreboard for the Bullets.

Creek topped the table with his 28 points at 50 per cent accuracy from the field, while also reeling in nine rebounds and six assists. Adnam also set the court alight credit to his 20 points while Broekhoff had one of his best games to date producing 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists in the loss. Sykes was strong for the Phoenix nailing eight points, eight assists and three rebounds as Yannick Wetzell also chimed in with a handy eight points and four rebounds. There were a wealth of key contributors for the Bullets Sobey topscored with 22 points in his 36 minutes on court. He also dragged down nine rebounds and racked up six assists with the next closest Cadee on 19 points and six assists. Johnson was impressive with his 13 points and three rebounds as the trio in Patterson, Froling and Harrison all walking away with 10 points each with the latter also recording eight rebounds.

The loss for the Phoenix means their top four spot is still up for grabs and must register a win when they take the court against both New Zealand and Brisbane once again in the coming days given they have a couple of teams hot on their tail.

Photo credit: Albert Perez

Phoenix rise to destroy Bullets in four-quarter effort

SOUTH East Melbourne Phoenix have accounted for Brisbane Bullets in a dominant four-quarter effort at Nissan Arena, posting a 95-66 victory in last night’s National Basketball League (NBL) contest. The Phoenix won each of the quarters throughout the night and took control from the first tip-off to win by 29 points in front of more than 2500 fans on the road.

The Phoenix dominated in the first high-scoring term with 31-24, then lead by eight points at half-time. The Bullets struggled to score after half-time, managing the same amount of points in the second half, as they did in the first quarter (24). They had just 10 in the third term, as the Phoenix piled on 26, then the visitors won the last quarter, 19-14 to run out comfortable 95-66 winners.

Aside from being level at the start, once the Phoenix lead, they never ceased control of the game, and blew the lead out to as much as 34 points late in the game, before the home team cut the final deficit back to 29 with some late baskets. Nonetheless it meant little, with Brisbane only winning the steals (11-7), and having two less personal fouls (18-20). The Phoenix dominated every area from shooting (51 to 36 per cent field goal efficiency), rebounding (50-38), assisting (19-13) and blocking (5-2). They also had two less turnovers (14-16), and scored more points in the paint (44-34) in a complete performance away from home.

Yannick Wetzell top-scored for the Phoenix in a game where they shared the points around with five players scoring between 10-18 points. Wetzell managed the 18 points and nine rebounds, whilst Kyle Adnam came off the bench for 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. Reuben Te Rangi (12 points, five rebounds) and Mitch Creek (12 points, five assists and four rebounds) also scored strongly, while Keifer Sykes had 10 points, eight assists and two rebounds in a solid outing.

For the Bullets, Anthony Drmic was the standout with 20 points, five rebounds and three steals, while Lamar Patterson had the 11 points, three assists and two rebounds. They were the only two shooters of note, with Nathan Sobey (four points, four assists) having a dirty night in terms of shooting accuracy, managing just one of seven from the field. Matt Hodgson (six points, three assists and two rebounds) and Tyrell Harrison (six points, eight rebounds) were other bigs who tried hard for the losers.

South East Melbourne Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell praised his side’s resilience in challenging times throughout the 2021 NBL season to regain momentum heading into finals.

“I’m really proud of the guys. We’ve had a rough year but we just keep putting our head down and busting through everything thrown at us,” Mitchell said.

“Just to get this little bit of a run here these last two weeks with our guys, there’s always been belief within the group even if outside the group it’s wavered a little bit.

“We had to go through a little bit of soul searching when we were dropping games and it was more about how we were going about it. We still haven’t really put our finger on anything other than we were buggered. We’ve turned the corner on that now and we just have to keep building.”

Brisbane Bullets will have the chance to almost immediately respond with another home game, this time against top of the table Melbourne United tomorrow night, whilst the Phoenix host Cairns Taipans in the penultimate round of action at John Cain Arena next Saturday evening.

Picture credit: Bradley Kanaris/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

Phoenix deliver huge upset with win over United

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix have tightened their grip on a maiden finals appearance with a 94-83 triumph over top of the table Melbourne United. With the playoffs approaching, the Phoenix sent a message to the rest of the competition, storming past their cross-town rivals to prove that they can defeat any team in the competition. With import guard Kiefer Sykes back in the lineup and as dangerous as ever, the Phoenix were able to break the game open in the third quarter, as their offence flowed with rhythm and fluidity.

The first quarter saw a tense battle, with both sides answering the call from each other. A late Scotty Hopson dunk saw United draw the scores level heading into quarter time at 20 apiece. The second quarter saw more of the same as Sykes began to heat up, but United kept up on the scoreboard with the likes of Mitch Mccarron getting to the free throw line on multiple occasions. The game was once again tied at the main break, and the Melbourne derby was the close contest fans expected heading into the match.

The third term was where the game was won, with the Phoenix regaining the lead halfway through the quarter and breaking away from their opponents, who were left helpless with the prospect of slowing down the likes of Sykes and Mitch Creek who was beginning to find his offensive mojo. With the margin suddenly eight points at the final break, the NBL world began to believe that an upset was on the cards. Phoenix had all the momentum heading into the final quarter and with United unable to contain Sykes with the absence of defensive guard Yudai Baba, the result had all but been decided. The final term saw a brilliant four-point play from Sykes that summed up the way the game had gone and was heading. The conversion of the free throw saw the lead burst out to 14 points, and the Phoenix were able to put the game in cruise control. Even when a Chris Goulding three brought the game to within five points with two minutes to play, the Phoenix had all the answers, putting their faith in the likes of Sykes to bring the game home, and he delivered, with his side running out 11-point victors.

For the Phoenix, Sykes was an absolute star for his side, finishing the game with 26 points and six assists in a match winning performance. Whenever his side needed an offensive spark, he was there, and his four-point play to open the final quarter was crucial in keeping the opposition at bay. Teammate Creek was strong as well, pouring in 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a typically all-around performance, while Yannick Wetzell’s 12 points were handy. For United, Jock Landale led the way with 19 points (8-8 FG from inside the arc), using his offensive ability to keep his side competitive throughout the match, particularly in the first half. United star Goulding was banged up after a collision with Sykes and was limited to just 20 minutes for the match. This didn’t stop him from ending the match with 13 points, but his side would have much preferred their gun guard at 100 per cent for the entirety of the match.

This was the South-East Melbourne Phoenix’s third win in a row as their momentum builds heading into potentially their first ever playoff appearance as a club. They sit in third place with only three rounds remaining for the season and will head to Nissan Arena to take on the Brisbane Bullets on Saturday night. Despite the loss, United still sit a game clear on top of the ladder at the pointy-end of the season. They take on the Illawarra Hawks on Tuesday night at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Picture credit: Graham Denholm

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.