The Phoenix have jumped up the ladder to fifth after scoring their third straight win over Cairns. Catch up on all Round 16 of NBL23 action.
– Lance Jenkinson
South East Melbourne Phoenix pulled off a huge fourth quarter at the State Basketball Center on Wednesday night to defeat the plucky Cairns Taipans in an 85-80 win in an NBL blockbuster.
Phoenix took full advantage as the Taipans were forced to play without MVP contender Keanu Pinder in the closing stages after he checked out of the game injured and bloodied after fending off a faulty elbow from Phoenix backup Big Dane Pineau would have.
Blood spurted from Pinder’s right eye, also from his mouth and a cut on his forehead.
After the third win in a row, the Phoenix moved up to fifth place.
DJ Hogg, probably the best player of the evening with 24 points, breathed fire for the Taipans.
He raced to 10 points in the first six minutes as part of the 14-point half.
The Taipans led 24-14, with young center Sam Waardenburg making an impression when Phoenix big player Alan Williams was benched with foul problems
. Just when it looked like the Taipans were about to take control, the Phoenix showed courage to get back into the competition.
Point guard Gary Browne was influential and took on leadership roles from the point guard position.
Browne was the Phoenix’s answer to Hogg, going all out at both ends in a huge first half.
Despite a high turnover rate, 10 in the first half, and a high number of fouls, the Phoenix dug deep to take an unlikely 44-43 lead at halftime.
Williams was still able to impress in the limited minutes of the first half with 11 points and six first-half rebounds.
With a narrow lead, the Phoenix came out of the gates in the third period with a 7-0 run and temporarily extended their lead to 10.
Taipans MVP candidate Keanu Pinder showed why he is a star of the league by helping the Taipans run 7-0 of their own and giving the visitors hope.
The Taipans surrendered in the fourth.
When Mitch Creek, who had 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists, hit a huge three, the Phoenix were on a 9-0 run and well on their way to victory.
Browne super aggressive
A big question leading up to the game was which Phoenix starter would take on the extra scoring responsibility, with Ryan Broekhoff absent with a groin injury and the point guard being the most active.
The Puerto Rican struck the right balance between relieving his teammates and trying to get a taste of the scoring action himself.
The 29-year-old was involved in everything in the first half, notably when Williams came off the field with foul problems to finish with 15 points and five assists.
Trey steps forward
With Broekhoff out, what better time for Trey Kell to step up.
His night was a slow burn, but Kell quietly built a big game.
His shooting was crucial with 17 points and six rebounds.
Williams was a game changer with a double double 17 points and 13 boards.
The Taipans made a collective decision not to wear the special Pride Round jerseys and announced their decision before the game.
However, Creek donned rainbow-colored sneakers to support the LGBTQ community and his teammates wore a rainbow-themed jersey.
“This is special for us,” he said before the game about the chance to play his part in the NBL’s Pride Round, which celebrates inclusivity and diversity in sports.
South East Melbourne Phoenix 85 (Cfreek 21 Williams 17 Kell 17) d Cairns Taipans 80 (Hogg 24 Waardenburg 14 Pinder 11)
https://www.codesports.com.au/basketball/nbl/nbl23-south-east-melbourne-phoenix-edge-out-cairns-taipans-in-last-quarter-mayhem/news-story/94a5cde40c2eabc2351cdab0febc7d1e?nk=02f53d497f388eac33a54d7a34228db7-1674667447 Australian Open: SEM Phoenix edge out Taipans in final quarter chaos