NBL 2013/14: Round 18 Wrap

Wollongong continued their late-season surge with two very strong wins in round 18, while three of the top four dropped games in another round of upsets as finals approach.

Breakers hold off Snakes at home to keep playoffs on radar

The defending champion New Zealand Breakers kept their playoff hopes alive with a solid 96-78 victory over the Cairns Taipans. As the two teams are locked in an intense battle on the NBL ladder sitting fifth and sixth, this was a crucial game in order to gain some traction on the Sydney Kings who sit in the final playoff spot. The Breakers were led by the trio of Gary Wilkinson (22 points, 9 rebounds), Tom Abercrombie (21 points, 4 rebounds) and Kerron Johnson (12 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) en route to a stellar performance that kept their visitors at bay for the duration of the evening. While Cairns very much under-performed, Alex Loughton showed glimpses of his early season form, notching 15 points to go along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. New Zealand was able to open their account early on and didn’t look like slowing down as they sped out to an 11-2 lead. The home side were knocking down shots a great rate throughout the first quarter, while the Taipans were feeling the sting of opposition rings, staggering their way to only 17 points in the opening ten minutes to trail by seven. Abercrombie’s first half was brilliant, scoring 15 points in an open display which allowed many other Breakers shooters to also find themselves open due to the Snakes adjusting to the hot Abercrombie. Stephen Weigh looked to be the Taipans shining light as he brought his team back into the contest to tie the game at 26, chipping in 13 points and 7 rebounds for the night. However the Cairns resurgence didn’t last long as the tied game was as close as they’d get to winning with Wilkinson showing fight right before the main break to kick start his impressive night. To finish the half, Clint Steindl provided the moment of the game with an outstanding offensive rebound that turned into a dunk which was able to peg his team back to within seven once again. After the break came the Breakers killer run, with Kerron Johnson joining the party to instigate an 11-0 run that nearly killed off any chance the visitors had of a rare victory across the ditch. Johnson scored six of the 11, plus assisted on the other two buckets including a Wilkinson triple. By the time the third had ended, the margin was at 20 and ten minutes were not enough for the Snakes to recover. Their 15 turnovers a killer, which gave the Breakers 20 points down the other end. New Zealand now travel to Wollongong for a meeting with the Hawks, while Cairns look to play for their season in a game against the Sydney Kings in a do or die clash.

Wollongong delight home fans with impressive performance over Crocs

A long season for the Hawks along with their home faithful has been rewarded with their latest win against the bottom placed Townsville Crocodiles at the WIN Entertainment Centre. Sitting seventh on the NBL ladder, the Hawks ran out easy 90-75 winners despite a dreadful final quarter. Rotnei Clarke was the man once again, who always seems to impress when he’s playing at home with a game high 26 points to go with 5 assists. Rhys Martin (16 points), Dave Gruber (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Kevin Tiggs (15 points, 7 rebounds) all chipped in with valuable appearances. The Hawks were locked in from the start, with Gruber and Martin going perfect from the field for the three quarters Wollongong decided to play (while the team went 51% from the field for the game), as they nearly capitulated in the final period despite the Crocs being too far behind. For the visitors, Josh Pace led the team with 19 points in his efforts to keep the scoreboard ticking, while Steven Markovic handed out nine assists. Peter Crawford’s outing would be one he would like to forget (along with all Townsville players) with a three point night shooting just 1/7FG, including three fouls and a turnover. As the Hawks had the early advantage jumping out to a twelve point lead after ten minutes, it didn’t slow down after the first break. Tim Coenraad knocked down two from international waters plus another Clarke bucket saw the home side lead by 21 points. As Pace tried to minimize the margin, scoring the next five points for the visitors, it was Rusty Hinder who nailed the buzzer beater to peg the deficit back to 15 by half time. Townsville provided the breakthrough early in the third which brought some life back to the contest, until Rotnei Clarke’s 13 point burst for the quarter well and truly blew the Crocs out of the water. The fourth was similar with the visitors opening up with a 14-2 run, until the rings shut up shop and no one was able to score the basketball for what looked like the entire quarter. While both teams really seem to be out of the playoff hunt, Wollongong technically still have a hope and they will need to continuing winning. Their next challenge are the Kings in Sydney, Townsville on the other hand look to play for pride as they also face the Kings however a week later.

Perth stomp Sixers, lay down challenge

The Perth Wildcats were absolutely electric during the first half in their encounter with the second placed Adelaide 36ers, in which they put their foot down and showed the rest of the competition their championship credentials with the 85-61 win. In what was meant to be an exciting game for the fans, while challenging for the top two teams, it certainly was blown out of proportion within the first five minutes, as Perth clicked on all cylinders while Adelaide were still boarding their plane from home. To open up the game James Ennis was locked in knocking down two early triples, plus an outrageous alley-oop on his way to 27 points and 11 rebounds for the game. Jesse Wagstaff (14 points, 7 rebounds) was Ennis’ partner in crime as he found himself open for deep to knock down two of his own. By the time ten minutes had expired, the ‘Cats had built a 14 point lead. Jermaine Beal (20 points) continued to keep the home fans up standing throughout the second period as their team didn’t let up, putting the nail in the coffin early and sending a message to the rest of the competition. As the half time buzzer sounded, the Sixers were dumb founded, facing a 24 point deficit with the scores 48-24. Their lowest half time score in franchise history. While Anthony Petrie (15 points) provided some sort of escape for Joey Wright’s team, it was their shooting that let them down tremendously. At 32% from the field and only 3/15 from deep, the usual suspects such as Adam Gibson (1/9FG), Daniel Johnson (2/8FG) and Gary Ervin (2/10FG) couldn’t find any rhythm for the four quarters. Rhys Carter’s return won’t be his most memorable moment, with the Sixer registering 3 points on 1/6 shooting in his 15 minute stint. Throughout the second half, the Wildcats turned on the cruise control and the margin remained unchanged from half time to end the game. At the conclusion of the game, a major tussle between multiple players and coaches occurred which has been investigated by league officials. Multiple fines and possible suspensions are to come out of this altercation post-game. Perth have now laid down the challenge to any team thinking they can take away the title from their grasp as of now, and will stay home and host Melbourne in pursuit of another victory. For Adelaide, who have now fallen into a little bit of a hole, have a difficult task of keeping Melbourne at bay as they face the Tigers at Hisense to finish off their road double.

Red-hot Clarke fires Hawks past Kings

Rotnei Clarke has put on a stellar shooting display to lead the resurgent Wollongong past Sydney on Saturday night at the Kingdome. Clarke posted an NBL season-high with 39 points on 14-23 shooting to blitz the Kings in the 102-84 victory in what was without doubt the scoring performance of the season.

Credit: Joel Armstrong |  Wollongong Hawks

Credit: Joel Armstrong |

Wollongong Hawks Fellow import Kevin Tiggs (22 points, 6 rebounds) was also brilliant while Larry Davidson (10 points, 7 rebounds) did the important things for the victors. After an even first half the Hawks broke the game open with a 27-14 third term to take a 16-point lead into the final 10 minutes, with Clarke catching fire to lead his side over the line. He didn’t stop after the third, however, with more points flowing in the final term capped by a monster bomb over Ben Madgen to put the final nail into the coffin with just under three minutes to play and the margin at 20. Madgen (20 points, 9-14 FG) was the Kings’ best player on the night, with Sam Young (26 points, 6 rebounds) bumping up his stats in junk time and AJ Ogilvy (10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) doing a little bit of everything but not enough of any. Ogilvy put up just four shots for the night as the Kings slumped to a disappointing loss and missed an opportunity to close the gap on the third-placed Tigers, dropping to 10-10 on the season and opening the door for a host of teams below them. Led by Clarke, the hot Hawks shot at 54% from the field and 48% from beyond the arc in a devastating display of offense, with Wollongong averaging 98ppg over their three-game winning streak. Sydney will look to rebound when they head north to face Cairns and Townsville on Friday and Saturday nights in round 19, while the Hawks will look to keep it going when they host New Zealand next Friday night.

Ervin, Johnson lead Sixers past stumbling Tigers

Gary Ervin started it and Daniel Johnson kept it going for Adelaide as the 36ers capped off a tumultuous weekend with an emphatic 99-82 victory over the Tigers in Melbourne on Sunday. Ervin (25 points, 8 assists, 9-12 FG) was uncontainable in the first half when he exploded for 18 points before Johnson (24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4-5 3PT) took over in the third as Melbourne threatened. The Sixers controlled much of the first quarter but only led by two at the break after Mustapha Farrakhan (19 points, 3 assists) came off the bench and sparked the sluggish Tigers into action. Farrakhan and Nate Tomlinson (5 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) put Melbourne in front for the first time early in the second as the big home crowd found its voice inside Hisense Arena. Enter Ervin, who nailed a triple before going coast-to-coast for a tough layup to regain the ascendency for the visitors, with the Sixers taking a commanding 53-41 lead into halftime. Johnson took over in the third term to help his side stay in control, with the Adelaide big man recording nine points in the first 4:31 of the second half to give his side a 66-53 lead. Chris Goulding (14 points, 4-12 FG) and Mark Worthington (13 points, 3-10 FG) temporarily found their touch as the Tigers rallied, with Worthington’s huge swat on Johnson bringing the crowd to life as the home side closed to within seven points at the final change. Despite Farrakhan’s best efforts to keep his side in touch, the lead blew back out to 15 with five minutes to play on the back of two clutch step-back jumpers from Adam Gibson (14 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) and yet another Johnson three. The Sixers’ work on the glass was far superior as they out-hustled the Tigers with a 43-30 advantage, with Johnson, Anthony Petrie (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Luke Schenscher (10 points, 4 rebounds) coming up with plenty of second chances late in the game. Melbourne never got going on offense as they shot at just 38% from both the field and three-point range while missing shots at the line as well, while their trademark defensive intensity was also left wanting as the visitors went at 51% from the floor and 45% from beyond the arc. The Tigers travel to Perth to take on the Wildcats next Friday night as they look to get back on track, while the 36ers will host New Zealand on Sunday afternoon in search of another win to consolidate second spot and a home semi-final.

Round 18 Summary

New Zealand Breakers 96 (Wilkinson 22, Abercrombie 21, Johnson 12) Cairns Taipans 78 (Loughton 15, Weigh 13, Gliddon 13) Attendance: 6,442 @ Vector Arena Wollongong Hawks 90 (Clarke 26, Martin 16, Tiggs 15) Townsville Crocodiles 75 (Pace 19, Norton 11, Blanchfield 10) Attendance: 1,711 @ WIN Entertainment Centre Perth Wildcats 85 (Ennis 27, Beal 20, Wagstaff 14) Adelaide 36ers 61 (Petrie 15, Johnson 10, Schenscher 10) Attendance: 11,473 @ Perth Arena Sydney Kings 84 (Young 26, Madgen 20, Ogilvy 10) Wollongong Hawks 102 (Clarke 39, Tiggs 22, Davidson 10) Attendance: 4,296 @ Sydney Entertainment Centre Melbourne Tigers 82 (Farrakhan 19, Morrison 15, Goulding 14) Adelaide 36ers 99 (Ervin 25, Johnson 24, Gibson 14) Attendance: 6,704 @ Hisense Arena