NBL 2013/14: Round 9 Wrap

Round 9 of the NBL season made it clear just how even the competition really is in 2013/14, with thrilling finishes and shock results headlining the action.

Crocs take care of Sixers at the Swamp behind Markovic’s hot hand

The Townsville Crocodiles were led by the streaky shooting of Steven Markovic on Friday night as they defeated the Adelaide 36ers 98-94.

Markovic (31 points, 4 assists, 4 steals) started like a house on fire knocking down five triples in the opening quarter, while also proving vital down the stretch hitting his eighth and final three-pointer with just under three minutes in the fourth period.

Thanks to the starring point guard, the Crocs held a ten point lead during the first quarter with help from teammate Josh Pace (18 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) who was influential himself throughout the contest.

It was from then on the visitors found themselves some rhythm and fought their way back into the game. Anthony Petrie (16 points, 8 rebounds) dropped a quick nine points to peg the deficit back to four at the first break.

Gary Ervin (22 points, 4 rebounds) and Daniel Johnson (17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) took over from there and at times it looked as if Adelaide were going to run away with it. Between Johnson and Petrie, their inside presence was troubling the home side, allowing 46 of their points in the paint.

However, the resilience of the Crocs could not be dismissed. Even as their captain Russell Hinder went down with a hamstring injury during the second quarter, their three point deficit before the final term kicked off was quickly diminished.

The fourth quarter was a game of individual runs, as Todd Blanchfield (10 points, 2 blocks) knocked down consecutive three pointers (along with Markovic’s seventh of the game), while Sixers guard Jason Cadee went for five straight points to put the visitors back on top.

Markovic’s final triple of the match was followed by two classy Pace hook shots which took the Crocs out to a lead that didn’t look like being caught.

A late Ervin three pointer put the heroic finish back on the cards, however Townsville were able to convert from the free throw line to ice the game.

Adelaide finishes their Queensland double header against Cairns Saturday night, while the Crocs are off to face both Cairns and Melbourne in their double next week.

Perth hangs on despite multiple Breakers fight-backs

In the wake of the NBL announcing the absence of the All-Star weekend this year, it felt as if Perth and New Zealand wanted to put on their own All-Star weekend inside one game.

What seemed like the dunk contest, three point shoot-out and a cracking game filled with some of the NBL’s best players all in one, last year’s finals rematch certainly didn’t disappoint.

Unbelievable performances from Perth’s import duo James Ennis (31 points, 5 rebounds) and Jermaine Beal (30 points, 8/15 3PT) was the difference between success and heart break on Friday night at the Perth Arena, as the Wildcats hung on to win 95-91 despite giving up big leads.

The home side came out with energy provided by Beal’s five opening quarter triples and an Ennis dunk of the year candidate where he threw it off the backboard to himself in the open court for what was a vintage video game slam dunk. In fact, Ennis thought so too:

“I have wanted to do that dunk since I was in Junior College and I play 2K a lot, and on fast breaks I throw it off the backboard. I saw the open court and thought I’d try it.” – James Ennis.

Perth led by as much as 18 during the second quarter and the game looked under control. This is where the Wildcats went wrong; never ease up against a back-to-back-to-back champion. The Breakers managed an 11-0 run to put them within striking distance at the main break, trailing by only five points.

From there the Wildcats settled and edged their way back out to a 16 point lead, until an 8-0 run led by Gary Wilkinson (19 points, 8 rebounds), plus two crucial offensive possessions from Mika Vukona (17 points, 6 rebounds) that ended in baskets, brought the game back to a one point margin.

With the two teams going pound for pound in the final 90 seconds, Perth led by one as well as having the ball when the game’s biggest play occurred. With the Breakers playing a great defensive possession, the ball was passed into the hands of Ennis with three seconds left on the shot clock leaving him only one option, to heave up a long distance three pointer.

The ball banked in and only six seconds remained on the game clock.

Perth’s four point margin couldn’t be reached in such little time and the ‘Cats hung on in what was a thriller of a game.

New Zealand now travels to Melbourne to take on the Tigers on Sunday which finishes off their double week, while Perth look to make it two in a row against the Breakers as they have a rematch in New Zealand next Friday.

Clarke leads Hawks past rival Kings

The Wollongong Hawks have won just their third game of the season as they pushed past the highly fancied Sydney Kings 73-69 on Saturday night.

Despite a poultry crowd of just over 2,000 in Wollongong, Rotnei Clarke (27 points) thrilled those who made the trip to the Sandpit with a superb performance to lead his side to a well-deserved victory.

In a remarkably close result, each quarter was decided by three points or less, with a 15-5 run by the home side to end the third term turning a six-point deficit into a four-point advantage entering the final term which proved decisive.

While the Hawks shot at just 38% from the field, compared to 47% for the Kings, a 12-3 offensive rebound count and 16-8 turnover count, both favouring Wollongong, meant enough extra chances were created for them to win.

Rhys Martin (13 points) and Kevin Tiggs (12 points) provided the offensive help for Clarke as the Sydney big guns struggled to get going throughout.

Sam Young (15 points, 4 rebounds, 5-13 FG, 7 turnovers) led the way but was well-held after a stellar performance in round eight, while Ben Madgen (14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 turnovers) and AJ Ogilvy (7 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks) weren’t their usual damaging selves but toiled away all night.

The result means the Kings drop to 5-5 and missed a chance to gain ground on the stumbling 36ers, while opening the door for a host of teams below them to catch up by round’s end.

The teams will meet again next Saturday night, in Sydney this time, in a rematch which will see Young play his first game at the Kingdome.

Red-hot Wilson leads Snakes past Sixers

Jamar Wilson has put on an inspired performance to lead his struggling Taipans to victory on Saturday night, with the 98-78 result over Adelaide snapping a seven-game losing streak.

Wilson (30 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 9-14 FG, 12-12 FT) was unstoppable in the second half; pouring in 24 points and leading a pivotal run either side of three-quarter time.

The final term was all about Cairns, with the home side winning the term 30-15 to run away with the result over the tiring visitors, who were coming off a game in Townsville just 24 hours earlier.

Wilson was ably supported by teammate Alex Loughton (20 points, 4-6 3PT) who continued his purple patch of form which finally led to a positive result for his club, with the fast-paced and high-scoring Cairns of old seemingly back for at least one night.

Both teams started brightly, with Loughton leading his side early while Jason Cadee (11 points) and Daniel Johnson (12 points, 5 rebounds) kept pace for the 36ers.

However, after a very tight first 20 minutes it became all about Wilson, who was fouled 11 times as he got the better of fellow American point guard Gary Ervin (6 points, 2-11 FG, 5 turnovers).

Ervin wasn’t alone in having an off night, with only Adam Gibson (20 points) able to hold his head high offensively for the visitors, who leave north Queensland with a 0-2 record for the weekend.

Photo Credit: Zimbio

The Snakes started Clint Steindl (9 points) ahead of the struggling Stephen Weigh (8 points, 8 rebounds) in a move which seemed to balance the side and had a positive impact on both players.

The Taipans will host the Reptile Rumble against the Crocs next Friday before both teams face off again in Adelaide on Sunday afternoon.

Farrakhan delights as Tigers scrape past New Zealand

Melbourne Tigers’ latest addition Mustapha Farrakhan provided fans a brilliant display in which the team knew he was capable of once settling into stride. Farrakhan (20 points, 6 assists) shot 9 for 10 from the field, which included an array of mid-range jump shots and tough lay-ups as he led the Tigers to an 84-82 victory over the New Zealand Breakers.

Energy off the bench was exactly what Melbourne needed, as they came off a three game losing streak, with offensive possessions very much a premium as of late. The Tigers were guided by Farrakhan and Mark Worthington (21 points, 2 steals) as he looked somewhat back to his best early on.

In what was an offensive exhibition throughout the first quarter, the Tigers shot a ridiculous 71% from the floor to open up a six point lead at the opening break.

Thomas Abercrombie (18 points) burst out of the gates for the visitors and was the game’s best player at half time. Unfortunately for the Breakers, he was unable to keep his performance up which meant the reigning champs needed their other stars to step up.

That they did, as Gary Wilkinson (20 points, 6 rebounds), Mika Vukona (8 points, 10 rebounds) and the 500th gamer C.J. Bruton (4 points, 4 assists, 3 steals) steadied the ship through the third period to take a three point lead at the final change.

The fourth quarter was a clear shift in tactics and suddenly points were hard to come by. Chris Goulding (14 points, 6/18 FG) couldn’t get it going while Bruton also struggled (1/8FG).

Farrakhan was then put to the test again and was quite happy to knock down his mid-range shots which are starting to look like his bread and butter. However, it was his free throw shooting that let him down, and could have possibly been the Tigers un-doing.

As the game tightened up and time ticked down, Wilkinson hit a long two pointer to tie the game with under a thirty seconds remaining. The Breakers then intentionally fouled Farrakhan who missed a pair, yet fortunately his team retained possession and clinched victory.

Melbourne head to Townsville for a meeting with the Crocs next Saturday night in the Crocs second game of the weekend, while New Zealand will look for revenge against the league leading Perth Wildcats next Friday night at home.

Round 9 Summary

Townsville Crocodiles 98 (Markovic 31, Pace 18, Norton 12) Adelaide 36ers 94 (Ervin 22, Johnson 17, Petrie 16) Attendance: 2,909 @ Townsville Entertainment Centre

Perth Wildcats 95 (Ennis 31, Beal 30, Knight 12) New Zealand Breakers 91 (Wilkinson 19, Vukona 17, Corletto 14) Attendance: 11,373 @ Perth Arena

Wollongong Hawks 73 (Clarke 27, Martin 13, Tiggs 12) Sydney Kings 69 (Young 16, Madgen 14, Carmouche 13) Attendance: 2,224 @ Wollongong Entertainment Centre

Cairns Taipans 98 (Wilson 30, Loughton 20, Steindl 9) Adelaide 36ers 78 (Gibson 20, Johnson 12, Cadee 11) Attendance: 3,750 @ Cairns Convention Centre

Melbourne Tigers 84 (Worthington 21, Farrakhan 20, Goulding 14) New Zealand Breakers 82 (Wilkinson 20, Abercrombie 18, Te Rangi 11) Attendance: 3,500 @ State Netball and Hockey Centre