Epic fourth-quarter explosion takes Taipans home
It was one of the wildest stretches of basketball in the history of the Cairns Taipans.
A 14-point explosion in just a minute and 55 seconds during the fourth quarter has propelled the Snakes to a temporary second position on the NBL ladder after a thrilling 89-85 win over the league-leading Adelaide 36ers.
By no means were the Sixers at full strength, with coach Joey Wright leaning on the young bench brigade to close out the game up against a desperate and swarming Taipans team, but the win is just as sweet for the Orangemen, who head to Adelaide for the second leg of their home-and-away weekend looking to sew up a top-four berth.
League MVP favourite Jerome Randle (four points in 11 minutes) was on a minutes restriction to rest his knee coming into the playoffs, while right-hand men Nathan Sobey (16 points in 22 minutes) and Daniel Johnson (seven points in 19 minutes) checked out with 3:55 left in the game and with 3:20 left in the third quarter respectively.
They were paced by Aussie sharpshooter Anthony Drmic’s 17 points, while youngster Majok Deng was very effective down the stretch, in positive signs for their playoffs campaign.
The heroes were many for Cairns, with captain Cameron Gliddon (team-high 16 points) posting eight big fourth-quarter points, Travis Trice (15) chipping in seven in the fourth, and Mitch McCarron and Nnanna Egwu providing major energy plays to get them over the line.
But for all the individual efforts, the night boiled down to a two-minute period early in the fourth, which six-point deficit into an eight-point lead.
Big man and last week’s season saviour Nathan Jawai found himself in early foul trouble, but the home side lost nothing as Nnanna Egwu came in to wreak havoc for eight first-quarter points.
Randle opened the scoring with the easiest of uncontested layups but played facilitator, appearing to save his knee for the important games over the coming weeks.
It was backcourt mate Sobey who did the damage with nine first-quarter points as both sides went into the second frame locked at 18.
While the pace was to Cairns’ liking in the first, the visitors made it a track meet in the second as Sobey (three points in the term) passed the baton to fellow young Aussie stud Anthony Drmic.
The 24-year-old sniper was unconscious with 4/4 from deep in the second quarter alone, as the Snakes continually offered airspace to one of the competition’s very best shooters.
Up 49-45 at half-time, the Snakes found five players with at least a half-dozen points, while the Sixers were a two-man band with Sobey (12) and Drmic (12) lighting it up and Randle logging just eight minutes.
Cairns Taipans 89 (Gliddon 16, Trice 15, Egwu 12, McCarron 12)
Adelaide 36ers 85 (Drmic 17, Sobey 16, Hodgson 12
News Source: NBL Media