NBL 2014/15 Round 7: Cairns get back on the winners list against lowly Hawks

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Following two straight losses, Cairns was suddenly being exposed as pretenders to the throne. Last night’s tight victory against the bottom Wollongong Hawks did little to dispel the notion that Cairns is a step below the truly elite teams of the NBL.

What it did do was stop their nosedive down the ladder; the win keeps them clear of that middle pack of teams, and in touch with the Breakers and Wildcats. For the Hawks, this was a noble performance, their best in weeks, yet victory continues to elude them. They stay confined to just the sole win for the entire season thus far.

MVP-candidate Scottie Wilbekin combined with veteran Cam Tragardh to shoot their team over the line, despite a late charge from the hungry Hawks.

Wilbekin provided the highlight of the night, in the most important moment of the game. With only 28 seconds remaining, Wilbekin drove strong to the hoop yet was challenged well by the Hawks, but still managed to hit the circus shot over the defenders. That almost sealed the victory, with Wollongong having one last chance to win it; unfortunately Oscar Foreman missed the potential game winner.

An unusually quiet night from Gary Ervin (4 points, 2-8 shooting) would usually spell doom for the Hawks, however, they were able to keep in touch thanks to some plucky defense and strong play from Jahii Carson and Tim Coenraad. The former played with his trademark exuberance, scoring 17 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting. Whilst the later, provided a pleasant surprise in terms of scoring punch, almost doubling his season averages with 14 points. The Hawks also got good support from veteran Rhys Martin off the bench, managing 10 points and 4 assists.

Wilbekin struggled with his shot for a third straight week, a worrying trend, though he was fortunately able to save his best for last. He managed only 7 points and 6 assists on an ugly 3-14 shooting, missing all four of his attempts from deep. For the bulk of the game, captain Clint Gliddon and veteran Cam Tragardh were able to fill Wilbekin’s scoring absence.

Gliddon managed 17 points including 4-7 from long range, while Tragardh hit 16 points on an efficient 7-12 shooting off the bench.

Overall, the Taipans shot 34% from the field and 25% from deep, meaning they were incredibly lucky to escape with the win. Though the Hawks didn’t shoot the ball much better, they will be ruing the missed opportunity to secure their sophomore win of the season.

Cairns will still be looking for a rejuvenated Scottie Wilbekin, a necessity for this team to go back to playing efficient offensive basketball. Although Cairns was actually slightly out-rebounded on the night, it was their work on the glass that kept them afloat despite poor shooting. Cairns was able to score a healthy 15 points off second chance points, representing an 11-point differential over the Hawks.

The Hawks will have a tough time backing up their strong effort as they play again tonight against Brian Conklin and the Townsville Crocodiles. The Taipans will need a much better performance if their to win again next week, as they face the in form team of the competition, Perth away from home next Friday.

Cairns Taipans 69 (Gliddon 17, Tragardh 16, Loughton 11)

Wollongong Hawks 65 (Carson 17, Coenraad 14, Martin 10)

@ Cairns Convention Centre