Doyle delivers final quarter daggers

FOR much of Saturday night’s NBL clash between the Tasmania JackJumpers and Melbourne United the latter looked fully in control and likely to take home the chocolates, but Milton Doyle ended up having the last laugh.

After United got off to the perfect start at John Cain Arena and held a double-digit lead across nearly three quarters thanks to some exciting, high-scoring play, the JackJumpers needed something special to conjure an unlikely victory.

Last year, that hero would have been Josh Adams, but the guard departed the team over the off-season and was replaced by Doyle, who had been solid but had not shown the ability to take over a game like his predecessor. However, that changed on Saturday, with the import not only keeping Tasmania in the contest when Melbourne brought its A-game, but also delivering the two biggest shots of the game to get Tasmania over the line in gritty fashion.

The JackJumpers managed to overcome a consistent double-digit deficit against United on the road and claim a thrilling victory against United, a much needed result given the even nature of the standings after eight rounds, as Tasmania keeps up with the top four hopefuls.

Melbourne United (90) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (94)

Milton Doyle – 23 points (9/17 FG), three rebounds, two assists

Unfortunately for Doyle and the JackJumpers, the start of the game was all one way traffic, as Chris Goulding and United got off to a red hot start, seemingly hitting everything from the field and grabbing a hefty lead on the scoreboard. However, it was Doyle that ensured things did not get out of hand for the JackJumpers, continuing on after hitting the first shot of the game, a turnaround jump shot. After United’s lead edged closer to double-digits, Doyle hit back to back triples in the final minutes of the first term to keep Tasmania’s pulse flowing, although after he headed to the bench, the deficit was extended again as United led by eight.

The JackJumpers’ woes continued, as Doyle found himself well restricted in the second term with Xavier Rathan-Mayes paying close attention to Tassie’s new import. Melbourne continued to fire from the field, and led Tasmania by six points at the main break.

Although United tried to put the finishing touches on the game in the third quarter, Doyle kept the JackJumpers in the contest with some timely buckets. He used his strength to push through contact on a lay-up and convert an impressive and-one, before coming back down the court on the following possession and nailing the pull up jump shot after coming out of a pick and roll action and bringing the margin back to single digits. His work inside was not done, registering five consecutive points in the paint, including another strong and one as he contorted his body in the air to finish through the physical defence, as Tasmania trailed by just four points at the final change.

The visitors continued to push in the final quarter, as Doyle continued to push the ball inside the paint and find the bottom of the net with a nice floater over the interior defence. With less than a minute left on the clock and Tasmania trailing by three points, Doyle delivered one of the most clutch patches of the season, and it kicked off with yet another and-one lay-up in the paint, embracing the contact yet again on the finish and tying the game up with a composed free throw. After United turned the ball over on the next play, Doyle took responsibility and drove left past his immediate defender. The guard put up a deft floater off the glass, which got a friendly roll and gave Tassie the eventual match-winning lead.

Although the victory seemed unlikely at times, Doyle’s sheer will and smarts to drive inside gave Tasmania the desired result, and his strong play could see the JackJumpers jump into contention in the coming weeks.

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