NBL 2013/14: Round 20 Wrap

The red-hot Wollongong Hawks are within a game of both Melbourne and Sydney as the top four remained far from set after another close weekend of action.

Breakers survive Crocs scare to keep playoff dreams alive

Another big game from in-form forward Thomas Abercrombie has given the New Zealand Breakers a come from behind, three point victory against the Townsville Crocodiles at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland on Thursday night. Abercrombie showed his determination from the start in a 29 point performance, in which he scored 10 opening quarter points, while finishing it all off with a tough fade away jumper from the low block to give his team the lead with under a minute remaining in the game. After New Zealand trailed by as much as 11 in the third period, the Breakers weren’t going to let the crowd go home disappointed, starting the fourth on a 15-3 run which brought the game to life after the Crocs had shown to have the edge on their opponents. As the two teams continued the fourth stanza going bucket for bucket at each end, import Brian Conklin knocked down a pair of freebies to tie the game once again with under a minute remaining. From there it was Abercrombie’s jumper plus a pair of clutch free throws from captain Mika Vukona (20 points, 6 rebounds) that led to the final score. Crocs point guard Steven Markovic (15 points, 6 assists) had the chance to tie the game at the horn but his three point attempt rimmed out. Gary Wilkinson (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Kerron Johnson (9 points, 7 assists) also played a hand in the tough victory, while Johnson had to exit the game with an ankle injury late, however coach Dean Vickerman had stated he should be right to travel to Cairns. For the visitors, Conklin ran wild with 26 points and 6 rebounds, while Todd Blanchfield was just as important early on with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Townsville also had their injury concerns with Mitch Norton, who replaced the suspended Josh Pace in the starting line-up went down in the final quarter and did not return. His status is up in the air regarding their second game this weekend. As both teams play doubles this weekend, the Breakers travel to Cairns to take on the Snakes in another do or die clash for New Zealand, who must win the final four games of the season to have any chance of seeing post-season action. Townsville head to Melbourne and will once again try to play heart-breakers as the Tigers look to find form heading into the playoffs.

Wollongong extend streak to five, knock off Sixers

Behind a barrage of three point bombs from both Rhys Martin and Rotnei Clarke, the Wollongong Hawks have notched their fifth straight victory with a thrilling two point win over the second placed Adelaide 36ers 91-89 at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Friday night. With the team hitting 12 three pointers for the contest, the Hawks held a 15 point lead with ten minutes to play. However, it wasn’t enough to keep the fighting Sixers at bay, who, behind Gary Ervin and Adam Gibson stormed home to take a surprising lead with only two minutes remaining. Rotnei Clarke (21 points, 4 assists), who had been well held all evening by a Gary Ervin defensive display came to life with his two biggest triples of the night, erasing the small Adelaide lead and then extending their own with only a few possessions left to play. A highly energetic Clarke lifted the home crowd as the Hawks fought hard on the glass late to secure victory. The game wasn’t without its key moments and highlight players. Rhys Martin was pivotal for the home side in the first three quarters, scoring a career high 32 points while registering 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals taking the pressure off Rotnei Clarke. Larry Davidson (10 points, 8 rebounds) scored a very important extra possession for the Hawks late in the game with a brilliant rebound that was smacked back out to a teammate at the three point line off a Clarke miss. For the visitors, Ervin was enormous in the fourth to finish with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Daniel Johnson continued his run of form with 17 points and 12 rebounds. While Mitch Creek was kept quiet for the second time in as many weeks, his hustle play that also gave Adelaide an extra possession was just as crucial which gave the Sixers a second chance to retake the lead. Anthony Petrie gave the Sixers a final hope when it all seemed lost, tipping in an Ervin free throw that looked like it was bouncing in, which gave them a bonus point to peg the deficit back to three. However it just wasn’t enough to pull off the major comeback, falling short with Wollongong hit clutch free throws to ice the game, followed by a Johnson dunk to close the game at a two point margin. With the Hawks closing the gap on Sydney, they will look to notch their sixth straight win with a victory over the Cairns Taipans next week, while the Sixers will be desperate to hit some form again as they face the Crocs at home.

Undermanned Crocs stun Tigers in overtime

The Melbourne Tigers have lost their fourth straight game and are hanging onto a playoffs spot by a thread after they went down to an import-less Townsville in overtime on Saturday night. The 109-106 win for the Crocs came without the suspended Josh Pace and after fellow American Brian Conklin left the game early in the third term with a suspected hamstring strain. Steven Markovic picked up the slack in the duo’s absence, with his 26 points coming with 6 assists in a masterful offensive display. The veteran point guard also went 11-12 from the foul line in a display of clutch foul shooting down the stretch. Todd Blanchfield (19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) rounded out an impressive weekend with another polished performance to get his team over the line. For the Tigers, Chris Goulding (32 points) and Mark Worthington (28 points, 6 rebounds, 11-16 FG) did all the damage on the scoreboard, however Goulding connected on just 9-26 field goals and 5-17 from beyond the arc to further underline the form slump he is in right now. The Crocs controlled most of the first half for little reward before breaking free after Conklin’s departure with a run in the third term, capped by a Mirko Djeric (12 points, 4-4 3PT) three pointer, which gave them a 58-45 lead. However the home side rallied on the back of some Goulding brilliance, with three bombs from beyond the arc helping to bring his side to within a single point at the final break. The teams traded the lead on triples from Mustapha Farrakhan and Russell Hinder to open the final term, and the Tigers led by two with just five minutes remaining and looked to be gaining the ascendency. However the Crocs soon regained the lead and looked like winners as the clock wound down, and leading by three with 16 seconds to go it seemed as though they would hold on. Goulding’s attempted game-tying three-pointer was off the mark with six seconds remaining but Lucas Walker (15 points, 10 rebounds) grabbed the offensive board and threw up his own attempt from deep at the buzzer, with the roof nearly coming off Hisense Arena as he connected to send the game into an extra period. After a tight first four minutes of the extra period Goulding split a pair of foul shots to give his side a one-point lead, before a costly Farrakhan foul sent Markovic to the line for three shots on the next possession, with the guard nailing all three. Goulding then again split his trip to the foul line with 18 seconds on the clock before Markovic knocked in two more foul shots, with Goulding’s attempt to tie the game missing once more as the Crocs held on. Melbourne will look to wrestle back control of their season when they embark on another tough home-away double, with a trip to New Zealand on Friday night followed by a visit from Sydney on Sunday sure to test their top four credentials even further. Townsville will head to Perth on Friday night and Adelaide on Saturday night for the toughest road double in the league as they look to keep their late-season momentum going.

Wilson, Snakes halt skid with win over Breakers

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 Jamar Wilson has put on a master class performance to guide his Taipans to a much-needed 92-87 win over New Zealand on Saturday night in Cairns. Wilson scored 33 points to go with his 8 rebounds and 6 assists as he did it all for the Snakes, who broke through for a win after going 0-4 in February. Cam Gliddon (16 points, 5 steals) and Alex Loughton (12 points) were the only other Cairns players in double digits; however it didn’t matter with Wilson on the floor doing it all. After coming off the bench nearly all season, the star guard started and played 38 minutes to great effect, kicking off the scoring and not stopping for the rest of the night. The Breakers were again led by Tom Abercrombie (- but simply had no answer for the red-hot Wilson. A run to open the second quarter saw the Breakers get out to a 33-23 lead on the back of five quick points from Kerron Johnson (-, but that was soon reeled in and the margin never went beyond five points to either side for the rest of the night. Scores were locked away with 35 seconds to go before Mitch Young came up with an offensive rebound and put back to give the home side the lead, before Gliddon’s big block on Abercrombie at the other end allowed the Snakes to extend that lead to four via the foul line as the Breakers weren’t able to close the gap. The Taipans used a 16-6 turnover count to full advantage, with nine steals to the Breakers’ one helping separate the two sides after the shooting numbers were almost even across the board. Cairns face the in-form Wollongong next Saturday night in New South Wales, while the Breakers will host the Melbourne Tigers next Friday night to kick off round 21.

‘Cats sneak past Kings in thrilling contest

Behind a flurry of exciting plays and big time players, the Perth Wildcats have again improved their championship contender label with an 85-81 victory over the Sydney Kings. Starting with the hot shooting from import Jermaine Beal, who finished with 24 points including six triples, the visitors came out of the blocks on a mission. It was then up to his teammates James Ennis (22 points, 5 blocks), Matt Knight (18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Damian Martin (9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals) who continued the charge and led the red army to another road victory. Ennis was simply outstanding in the open floor, providing fans with some dazzling high flying dunks, including an unbelievable 360 degree dunk to cap off an 8-0 Wildcat run in the third period. Martin was the brains behind the brawn, with his defensive prowess becoming the backbone of Perth’s ability to derail the Kings’ offence, forcing 19 turnovers. The Kings certainly had their chances to win the game; with Sam Young looking like he felt he was back on the floor of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana. The former NBA import erupted for 26 points and 8 rebounds, while trying to slow down an excited Ennis. Ben Madgen (21 points, 7-10FG) and A.J. Ogilvy (13 points, 6 rebounds) once again made up Sydney’s big 3, however it was the return of Jesse Sanders (5 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) that brought the pumped up crowd to their feet. As Perth led by seven with a minute to play, the game was far from over. Young made a long triple, plus Tom Garlepp (6 points, 3 blocks) made a play after a good team defensive stand. It was down to a final Kings possession to tie or win the game, but was shut down by a fantastic Knight rejection on Ogilvy that ended the home side’s chances of a memorable win. Sydney now move on looking to secure a third placed finish with Melbourne’s recent slip ups and face the Tigers in hope for that trend to continue. The league leaders will host the Townsville Crocs on Friday night in what certainly won’t be an expected victory.

Round 20 Summary

New Zealand Breakers 102 (Abercrombie 29, Vukona 20, Bruton 14) Townsville Crocodiles 98 (Conklin 26, Blanchfield 17, Markovic 15) Attendance: 3,315 @ North Shore Events Centre Wollongong Hawks 91 (Martin 32, Clarke 21, Coenraad 13) Adelaide 36ers 89 (Ervin 21, Johnson 17, Gibson 14) Attendance: 3,123 @ WIN Entertainment Centre Melbourne Tigers 106 (Goulding 32, Worthington 28. Walker 15) Townsville Crocodiles 109 (Markovic 26, Blanchfield 19, Hinder 15) Attendance: 6,001 @ Hisense Arena Cairns Taipans 92 (Wilson 33, Gliddon 16, Loughton 14) New Zealand Breakers 87 (Abercrombie 17, Bruton 16, Wilkinson 15) Attendance: 3,828 @ Cairns Convention Centre Perth Wildcats 85 (Beal 24, Ennis 22, Knight 18) Sydney Kings 81 (Young 26, Madgen 21, Ogilvy 13) Attendance: 5,435 @ Qantas Credit Union Arena