NBL 2013/14: Round 2 Wrap

Round 2 provided a number upsets and close encounters, as well as some brilliant individual performances and spectacular highlights. Let’s take a look at how the weekend unfolded.

photo credit: MR FOOJI via photopin cc

Snakes sneak past Breakers in thriller

The Cairns Taipans have held off a late rally from New Zealand to record its second straight win to start the season at home on Saturday night.

In an up-and-down game, Taipans youngster Cameron Gliddon (24 points, 9-11 FG) was the standout in an exhilarating show of what he has to offer in the future.

The first quarter belonged to Cam Tragardh (13 points, 6-8 FG) and the Taipans as they jumped out to an early 16-8 advantage on the back of nine early points to go with six rebounds for the star big man, who played just 12 minutes due to an ongoing foot complaint.

The Breakers hit back, largely through star import point guard Kerron Johnson (18 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) and some hot shooting from veteran CJ Bruton (15 points) to stay within touching distance at the first break.

The second quarter was up and down, with the two sides trading baskets and shares of the lead before the scores were all tied up at 43 going into the main break.

Bruton, who missed the previous night’s loss to Townsville through illness, was on song from beyond the arc in the first while Alex Pledger (6 points, 8 rebounds) also got busy in the second term despite a quiet night by the star big man’s lofty standards. Demetri McCamey (17 points, 5 rebounds) was potent for the home side, particularly in the first quarter after Tragardh’s hot start.

Gliddon then stole the show in the third, pouring in 13 points as the Taipans gave their home fans plenty of reasons to get excited. The quarter ended with the second year young gun nailing a three before getting to the ring for a three-point play to take his side into the final term with a six point advantage.

The Breakers then sprung into action, pulling within a point within the first two minutes of the last quarter on the back of baskets from Corey Webster and Tom Abercrombie (11 points), with both players having quiet nights for the first 30 minutes of the game.

Cairns answered with five straight McCamey points and held a five point advantage with three minutes to play when the star import nailed his third long bomb.

However, Abercrombie split a pair of foul shots and Mika Vukona (16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) made both of his to keep the game alive, before an unsportsmanlike foul on Jamar Wilson (5 points, 6 turnovers), who had a dirty night following his stellar performance last week, allowed Bruton to get his side within a point with under a minute to play.

On the ensuing possession, however, the NBL legend who has been clutch on so many occasions in his storied career failed to connect on a triple before getting another good look at the buzzer and misfiring again, handing the home side a hard fought and well deserved victory.

The Taipans will stay at home to face Adelaide next Saturday night, while the Breakers host Perth in an early season grand final rematch on Thursday night.

Crocs upset defending champs

The Townsville Crocodiles have registered their first win of the season with a 94-84 home victory over the New Zealand Breakers on Friday night.

The Crocs were led by Todd Blanchfield (23 points, 9-11 FG) and Josh Pace (22 points) as they rallied the troops during all of New Zealand’s attempts to erase the deficit.

While there wasn’t a massive crowd in attendance to witness the win, Townsville never lacked heart or desire throughout the four quarter effort. The teams traded leads throughout the first half, which ended with a half court heave from Breakers point guard Kerron Johnson to give the away side the lead at the main break.

The third term was pivotal with the Crocs outscoring their opponents 21-13, with some lock-down defence pleasing the raucous home fans. Townsville forced 15 Breakers turnovers, while only committing five themselves. The Crocs can also take the 21-5 assist count as a huge positive out of the game, led by point guard Steven Markovic (6 assists).

The Breakers started off brightly thanks to a quick fire seven points to Thomas Abercrombie (14 points), before Kerron Johnson (21 points, 9-11FG) and Alex Pledger (15 points, 10 rebounds) took over the majority of offensive work. Abercrombie in particular faded out in big patches of the game, which allowed the Crocs to control the tempo.

Just as the Breakers were starting to gain momentum early in the fourth quarter and fans were expecting a turn of events, the Crocs fought back thanks to Pace, who dropped 14 of his 22 points in the final term. Both he and a determined Blanchfield gave Townsville a massive boost down the stretch which ultimately led to the team’s success.

New Zealand was without veteran point guard C.J. Bruton, who was absent due to a stomach virus. Townsville will head down to Wollongong next week to try and make it two in a row against the Hawks.

Ennis stars as Perth top Kings

James Ennis once again proved that he deserves the biggest spotlight for the 2013/14 NBL season as he put on a spectacular display in Perth’s 81-69 victory over the Sydney Kings on Friday night.

The Kings were gallant in defeat and played well to keep pace with the championship favourites, battling to be level at 62 a piece with five minutes to play. That’s when it turned ugly as the home side dropped 15 straight points to seal victory.

Perth was in full flight in the final term as Ennis (27 points, 9-9 FT) and Shawn Redhage (22 points, 8 rebounds) were the one-two punch that decided the Kings’ fate. Ennis blew the roof off the stadium with four last quarter dunks and a series of athletic steals and blocks, capped by a block on Jesse Sanders which saw ended with Ennis streaking down the open floor to dunk one home plus the foul.

The Kings however, were just as brilliant through the first three quarters, where AJ Ogilvy (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks) provided a great viewing for the fans locking himself in a tense battle with Tom Jervis (7 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks). Brad Hill (16 points, 10 rebounds) was every bit as important off the bench for Kings, and his play will continue to provide a spark each time he steps on the floor.

One of the disappointing aspects for the Kings was that import Charles Carmouche once again fouled out after only playing 15 minutes. The bright side of things was that he started promisingly, however he must avoid these situations otherwise he puts head coach Shane Heal under pressure late in games.

The two teams will square off again next Sunday in Sydney, where the Kings will look to get one back on the Wildcats.

36ers run over the top of Hawks

Adelaide has run over the top of a fast-starting Wollongong on Saturday night, winning 97-91 in front of a bumper crowd. The Hawks started strong behind starting centre Larry Davidson (16 points, 8 rebounds) and new import signing Kevin Tiggs (14 points), who provided plenty off the bench in the first half and is sure to be one to watch over the season.

Star import Gary Ervin (24 points, 5 assists) signalled his intentions early for the home side nailing consecutive long bombs to open the game, and he delivered in spades in a stellar performance to lead his side to a solid victory after falling agonisingly short to Perth in round one.

The Sixers moved the ball well and attacked the rim, earning a 28-13 foul shot advantage and a 22-13 assist count. A decisive 8-0 run to end the third term gave the 36ers the lead for good and proved a killer blow to the Hawks, who rallied late behind Oscar Forman and Rotnei Clarke (12 points, 4-15 FG), despite the star import struggling with his shot for most of the game.

Mitch Creek (14 points in 14 minutes) provided a scoring spark off the bench for the home side while import Jarrid Frye (15 points, 7 rebounds) also impressed in his debut.

Adelaide will travel north to take on the high-flying Cairns Taipans next Friday night in what should be an enthralling match, while the struggling Hawks host Townsville on Saturday night in a must-win clash.

Tempers rise as Wildcats edge Tigers in fiery contest

The Perth Wildcats overcame a lively Melbourne crowd to spoil the Tigers’ 1993 championship team reunion 75-71 on Sunday.

Throughout the first quarter both teams were well and truly locked in a heated battle as the Tigers were able to get the jump on the ‘Cats thanks to the loud home support to go ahead 23-8 early. However from then on it was Perth who looked more dangerous, slowly pegging back the deficit to a manageable five point margin at the first break.

The last three quarters were defensive displays with neither team reaching anywhere near their first quarter figures. With each team unable to establish a large lead at any point in the second half it was looming as a sense of déjà vu for Perth as they tied the game at 62 apiece during the final period, which was the same score before the ‘Cats went on a 15-0 run against the Kings two nights earlier.

Shawn Redhage (25 points) was instrumental in guiding his side to victory nailing critical baskets all afternoon, while superstar James Ennis (21 points, 7 rebounds), who was given a hostile reception, provided some strong support.

It was Redhage who provided for the away side when it mattered as he stepped up to seal the game late in the shot clock with only seconds left in the game, with the Perth big man connecting on an elbow jumper which put the margin beyond reach for the gallant Tigers.

Not to be missed, Chris Goulding (18 points) was a surprise return into the Tigers line-up and certainly played his part, with the shooting guard on fire early en route to 13 first half points after a first quarter blitz. Lucas Walker (18 points, 9 rebounds) also fought hard all game against Ennis and ended up with a respectable stat line of his own, which is something that Melbourne will be looking to see more often moving forward.

Guards Jermaine Beal (0-9 FG) and Ayinde Ubaka (0-4 FG) continued to struggle finding their feet this season, with both guards failing to deliver in the opening two rounds now.

Perth heads into another double next week, this time both being on the road in New Zealand on Thursday night in a huge grand final rematch, before heading to Sydney on Sunday in what is sure to be another hostile environment. The Tigers will host the Adelaide 36ers on Sunday back at The Cage as they look for their first win of 2013/14.

Round 2 Summary

Townsville Crocodiles 94 (Blanchfield 23, Pace, 22, Conklin 18) New Zealand Breakers 84 (Johnson 21, Pledger 15, Abercrombie 14) Attendance: 2,905 @ Townsville Entertainment Centre

Perth Wildcats 81 (Ennis 27, Redhage 22, Beal 10) Sydney Kings 69 (Ogilvy 18, Hill 16, Sanders 10) Attendance: 10,573 @ Perth Arena

Adelaide 36ers 97 (Ervin 24, Frye 15, Creek 14) Wollongong Hawks 91 (Davidson 16, Tiggs 14, Coenraad 13) Attendance: 5,815 @ Adelaide Arena

Cairns Taipans 86 (Gliddon 24, McCamey 17, Tragardh 13) New Zealand Breakers 85 (Johnson 18, Vukona 16, Bruton 15) Attendance: 4,747 @ Cairns Convention Centre

Melbourne Tigers 71 (Walker 18, Goulding 18, Worthington 14) Perth Wildcats 75 (Redhage 25, Ennis 21, Wagstaff 11) Attendance: 3,552 @ State Netball & Hockey Centre