NBL 2014/15 Round 17: Cairns scrape past Hawks, although it wasn't 'Pretty in Pink'
In what was one of the more unusual games of the season, the Cairns Taipans have reclaimed their title as the NBL's league leaders in a come-from-behind 63-60 victory over the Wollongong Hawks at the Cairns Convention Centre on Sunday.
Both teams were in dire need of offense throughout the contest and it was something that proved to be the case as the game moved on, with the team who managed to put the ball in the basket late, winning the game.
Cairns were the first team to struggle, with their third quarter a horror, managing only six points in the entire term.
This was followed up by the home side putting glad wrap on Wollongong's ring, as their defence was impeccable to end the game, allowing five points in the final term to set up their miracle comeback.
Taipans centre Matt Burston always had faith in his teammates down the stretch:
"Good teams find a way to win...we had that confidence and belief we could get over the line" - Matt Burston
Head Coach Aaron Fearne was relieved after the game and was proud of his team:
"The guys were fantastic down the stretch...when you can continue to defend when your offense dries up it gives you a chance" - Aaron Fearne
American import Scottie Wilbekin scored a game high 17 points, while Matt Burston pitched in with 13 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals.
While both teams shot well below average (Cairns 38.5%, Wollongong 39%), the Hawks were led by a resurgent Brad Hill who registered a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Many 'star' players struggled to find any rhythm, shooting either at or below 30% from the floor.
A very close first half had the game in the balance with many NBL fans surprised with how the game had panned out, knowing that it was potentially first vs last in the closest competition in the past few years.
However a ridiculously odd second half, which included two very strange quarters nearly eliminated each others mistakes, until Cairns' sheer determination at the death pushed them over the line.
Two massive triples from Wilbekin in the fourth, boosted both his and his team's confidence after struggling from distance over the course of the season.
Torrey Craig then put the Snakes up 61-60 with a tough bucket which was also awarded with a bonus free throw as the home side held on strongly for the victory.
Cairns Taipans 63 (Wilbekin 17, Burston 13, Loughton 7)
Wollongong Hawks 60 (Hill 14, Ervin 9, Martin 9)
@ Cairns Convention Centre