NBL 2013/14: Round 19 Wrap

Round 19 in the NBL saw Perth and Adelaide just about lock away a home semi final, while the Tigers and Kings both missed chances to consolidate their own spot in the top four as the chasing pack stumbled.

Wollongong march on, dispose of Breakers

The red-hot Wollongong Hawks have made ends meat of their playoff chasing counter-parts New Zealand on Friday night with a desperate display in their 88-68 victory. Wollongong served up an exhilarating third term for their home fans, led by none other than current competition superstar Rotnei Clarke who poured in a game high 28 points on 10 for 20 shooting. Although the task in front of the Hawks seemed confronting, hosting the three time defending champs without one of their most influential players in Kevin Tiggs, the home side never let up in what was a true four quarter performance. They were helped out by the physical nature of the New Zealand defence, with the referees altering Breakers starters Kerron Johnson, Thomas Abercrombie and Mika Vukona who all fouled out of the ball game. It was Johnson however who suffered most, only managing to register ten and a half minutes of game time before being disqualified. Vukona was the standout Breaker, finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds, as no other player really found themselves in the contest which was an unusual sight for the champs. New Zealand’s 11 assists were accompanied by 14 turnovers, allowing the Hawks to take an extra eight shots. However it was the Breakers’ inability to rebound the basketball that was costly, giving up 15 offensive rebounds for 25 second chance points. While many of those boards were spread across the Hawks side, key components such as Dave Gruber (10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) and Rhys Martin (7 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) were pivotal during big moments. As the game turned into a cat and mouse chase throughout the second half, New Zealand could never quite peg the deficit back to a margin where they could pounce. Wollongong had the jump to spring out of half time thanks to a three point barrage, however Corey Webster got going mid-third term and Vukona’s nifty drive had the Breakers within eight. It was around that five to eight point margin that the Breakers could come back at every time, yet it wasn’t enough to really have a crack at the home side, as Clarke, Martin and Oscar Forman all dropped bombs from deep to extend the lead to 13 mid-way through the final term. From there it was all she wrote, with Abercrombie and Vukona being fouled out of the game and the margin kept growing, Forman’s final triple nearly being the dagger to New Zealand’s playoff hopes. The Hawks, who are still alive in the playoff hunt, will host the Sixers next week, while the Breakers face Adelaide on their second game of this weekend’s double.

Defensive intensity sees Sydney fly high in Cairns

Led by a balanced attack on both ends of the floor, the Sydney Kings have dismantled the Cairns Taipans 85-63, showing the competition that they are not a team to sleep on post-season. While many NBL analysts and the like may be on the Wollongong wagon at the moment, Shane Heal and his Kings certainly will not allow their team to be the side to slip out of the top-4 for the raging Hawks. The Kings, thanks to their stifling defence, was exemplified in the second quarter allowing the Snakes to just nine points in the ten minute stanza. Shooting just 35% from the field in the opening half, Cairns could only manage 27 points on the scoreboard, a score that the Kings were one shy of at quarter time. Despite Sydney only going to the free throw line eight times, it was the efficiency that gave the Kings the big gap they needed over their opponents. With the team shooting a glamorous 55% from the floor, A.J. Ogilvy (17 points, 5 rebounds) led the charge with 7 from 8, while Sam Young showed why he is to be feared in the coming weeks, lighting up the Cairns Convention Centre with 18 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks on 9 for 13 shooting. The biggest factor for Young was that he did not attempt a three point shot throughout the night, something which teams need to force him to do.

Credit: Gordon Greaves of Gordon G Photography -  official photographer for the Skytrans Cairns Taipans and Cairns Basketball Inc

Credit: Gordon Greaves of Gordon G Photography -

official photographer for the Skytrans Cairns Taipans and Cairns Basketball Inc While the Taipans were restricted during the game, Cam Gliddon (12 points) and Alex Loughton (11 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) were able to shed their opponents shadow on multiple occasions which allowed Cairns to show some fight in the second half. However the damage had already been done, with the Snakes shooting a dreadful 7% from behind the arc (1/14). Demetri McCamey having a night to forget, with just four points on 2/7 shooting to go with four turnovers. Aaron Fearne’s comments post-game summed up the evening for a disappointing Taipans outfit: ‘[Sam] Young looked bored out there it was that easy for him’ – Aaron Fearne, Cairns Head Coach. Kevin White started for the Kings in the absence of Charles Carmouche, who, reported earlier left Sydney for the United States due to personal reasons. The Kings are unsure whether or not he will return this season. Sydney will now travel to Townsville for their second game of their ‘Sunshine Swing’ this weekend, while the Taipans will have a week to reflect on the disaster before the face New Zealand at home.

Perth shows grind in fourth behind Martin’s efficient night

Delivery from star Wildcat Damian Martin was at its finest on Friday night, as his 20 point outburst was more than enough to pace his team past the Melbourne Tigers 87-75 inside the Perth Arena. Martin added four rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block to his season high 20 points, as he and his teammates put on a clinic down the stretch to keep the Tigers at bay. Jermaine Beal was at it again, providing a key scoring option with 17 points, including three triples, while James Ennis (9 points 2/10FG, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) was left to pick up the scraps in a more backseat role. For the visitors, Mustapha Farrakhan is proving why he was a valuable pick-up for the Tigers mid-season scoring 16 points, while big man Scott Morrison registered 14 points and 9 rebounds. The ‘Cats jumped out to an early 25-17 lead to end the first, however the Tigers were never going to let the game slip away from an early standpoint with an energised second period through Farrakhan, while Morrison made life difficult for the Perth starters who once again started with a small line-up as the return of Matty Knight (7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals) was delayed as he came off the bench. As Greg Hire hit a nice jumper to extend their slender lead in his 100th NBL game, it was Martin who lit up Perth Arena to race out to 14 first half points and to keep Melbourne at bay. However there was no letting up from the Tigers in the second, who finished on a Farrakhan three pointer at the horn to take steal the lead 47-46 at the break. From there defence played a vital role in which club was pulling out a win, with only a 32 point third quarter from the teams combined, Perth managed to grind their way in front before a pivotal last quarter. For the Tigers, the return of Lucas Walker (15 points, 4 rebounds) was certainly timely, as he was able to slip past defenders and rise up to the rim to finish the alley-oops thrown from his teammates. It was not enough though, as Perth found a way to stretch themselves out and force an 11-0 run in the final quarter that put the game beyond doubt and have their home fans go home happy. The ‘Cats seemed to do a lot right on the night grabbing nine steals and turning the ball over only six times, all while shooting nearly 50% from the field. Their ability to get to the line (29 times) cancelled the Tigers rebounding advantage (34-28) as their efficiency, led by Martin was a major impact. Perth now hit up Sydney for a game against the Kings, while the Tigers will be looking to find some form again if they are to solidify third spot as they face Townsville at home.

Conklin explodes as Crocs shock Kings

American Brian Conklin has starred in his side’s 90-83 upset victory over the Sydney Kings on Saturday night in Townsville. The Crocs, who were minus import Josh Pace after a DUI resulted in a club-imposed three-game ban midweek, got off to a flyer and were never headed in the win, which keeps their faintest finals dreams alive. A huge first half from Todd Blanchfield (15 points, 10 rebounds), including eight points during a 12-0 stretch early in the second, gave the Crocs a big buffer and allowed them to take a 49-39 lead into the long break. Sydney import Sam Young (27 points, 6 assists) did his best to keep his side in it, putting his teammates on his back throughout the second and third terms as the Kings fought back to within reach of their opponents. Five straight points to start the third saw the margin cut to just five, however the Crocs responded through Blanchfield again, with the swingman throwing down two big dunks to get the crowd on its feet and restore a double digit lead. The Kings again cut it to five as the third quarter wound down, only for Conklin (27 points, 7 rebounds) to finish the term with four points to stretch the margin back out to nine as the teams headed for home. Ben Madgen (16 points, 6 rebounds) broke the shackles after a sub-par game to lift his side in the final term as the Kings again looked to reduce the deficit, however a Russell Hinder (8 points, 7 rebounds) three and some composure from Steven Markovic (11 points, 9 assists) in the dying stages saw off the challenge. Two big dunks in the open court for Conklin, including a double-clutch reverse jam in the final seconds, capped off the win for the Crocs, who have now won four of their last five and are making a late run to finish the season. Despite shooting at just 41% from the floor the Crocs found a way to win with 24 points from the foul line from 30 attempts, compared to just 12 points from 19 attempts for the Kings, who managed to shoot at 51% from the field but at just 28% from deep. The Crocs will face a tough double next week as they look to keep their season alive with trips to New Zealand and Melbourne on Thursday and Saturday, while Sydney will host Perth on Sunday in an important clash for their playoff hopes.

Johnson leads Sixers past Breakers in thriller

New Zealand’s season is hanging by a thread after a heartbreaking 96-92 away loss to the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday afternoon. Daniel Johnson (28 points, 7 rebounds) was again the star of the show for the home side as his MVP credentials firmed, with the star big man recovering from a slow start to blow his opponents off the floor. The Breakers led early on the back of Tom Abercrombie (18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks) and looked capable of causing an upset before a Gary Ervin (17 points) three gave the Sixers the lead and kick-started a 15-6 run to quarter time. Johnson began to fire in the latter stages of the first term and continued his red-hot form in the second with the first five points of the quarter for his side. However the visitors rallied through Kerron Johnson (5 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and Gary Wilkinson (13 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists) and managed to take a surprise 48-46 lead into the halftime break. Abercrombie and Wilkinson started the third term as they had finished the second as they took it up to Johnson and the Sixers, however a 7-0 spurt that came in under 60 seconds gave the home side a two-point lead at the final break. Johnson and Adam Gibson (17 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists) continued to be the constant thorns in the side of the Breakers throughout the final term and kept their noses in front despite the best efforts of Casey Frank (12 points, 6-6 FG). CJ Bruton nailed a big three with 25 seconds remaining to make it a one-point game and put the pressure on the 36ers, and Abercrombie had a chance to take the lead from deep with eight seconds left after Gibson split his trip to the foul line. The Breakers failed to get any closer as the home side held on for another win, with New Zealand’s season well and truly in the balance with just a month remaining. The three-time reigning champions will look to stay in touch with the top four when they host Townsville on Thursday before travelling to Cairns for a clash with the Taipans two nights later, while Adelaide will make the trip to Wollongong to face the red-hot Hawks.

Round 19 Summary

Wollongong Hawks 88 (Clarke 28, Forman 13, Gruber 10) New Zealand Breakers 68 (Vukona 13, Webster 11, Corletto 9) Attendance: 2,444 @ WIN Entertainment Centre Sydney Kings 85 (Young 18, Ogilvy 17, Madgen 13) Cairns Taipans 63 (Gliddon 12, Loughton 11, Weigh 11) Attendance: 3,691 @ Cairns Convention Centre Perth Wildcats 87 (Martin 20, Beal 17, Wagstaff 12) Melbourne Tigers 75 (Farrakhan 16, Walker 15, Morrison 14) Attendance: 11,696 @ Perth Arena Townsville Crocodiles 90 (Conklin 27, Blanchfield 15, Crawford 14) Sydney Kings 83 (Young 27, Garlepp 16, Madgen 16) Attendance: 3,399 @ Townsville Entertainment Centre Adelaide 36ers 96 (Johnson 28, Gibson 17, Ervin 17) New Zealand Breakers 92 (Abercrombie 18, Webster 16, Wilkinson 13) Attendance: 6,011 @ Adelaide Arena