Final-quarter surge leads Sabres past Casey

THE Sandringham Sabres have stormed home against the Casey Cavaliers to finish with a five-point win in the National Basketball League (NBL)1 action at Casey Stadium on Saturday night.

The Cavaliers looked a chance of claiming an upset over the Sabres, and took a slim lead into the final term. However, the visitors did as all good sides do and managed to conjure enough production on both ends in the last 10 minutes, to overpower their opposition. In the end, Sandringham left with a 94-89 victory, which was win number seven for it in season 2022.

In a game that had a few NBL names floating about, Shea Ili was the pick of the bunch, leading the Sabres to victory with 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists, showcasing why he belongs in Australia’s premier basketball league. Fellow Sabre Tohi Smith-Milner also continued his good season with 26 points and 11 boards of his own, with the South East Melbourne Phoenix talent stepping up in the clutch.

The Cavaliers were led scoring-wise by the efforts of big man Jock Perry, who finished with a team-high 22 points (9/14 FG, 4/6 3PT), while teammate William Hickey stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, doing it all to get Casey over the line.

The game kicked off as expected, with the Sabres bursting out of the gates in the opening term to grab an early lead. Their offence simply came more naturally than Casey’s, with the home side unable to find the bottom of the net for a large chunk of the period. When quarter-time rolled around, the Sabres found themselves up by 11 points, and holding plenty of control.

The second term saw a vastly improved effort from the Cavaliers, who lifted both offensively and defensively to get themselves back in the game. While it was not always smooth sailing, Casey was able to clamp up whenever the Sabres had the ball, while some of their own shots down the other end began to fall, and they trailed by just four points at the main break.

Casey’s momentum continued in the third term, as it remained on top of the opposition to kickstart the second half. The deficit was erased in rapid fashion, and when Anthony Williams gave the Cavaliers the lead halfway through the quarter, it was shaping to be an upset. Heading into the final term, the Sabres trailed by three, and needed to get something going if they were to turn things around.

The Cavaliers stretched the lead out to as much as nine points in the opening minutes of the fourth, looking almost unstoppable. However, their dominance ended here as the Sabres began to fire on the offensive end of the court and Casey’s lead had vanished. Behind Smith-Milner and Ili, the visiting side took full control of the contest, grabbed the lead and never looked back on their way to a gritty, hard-fought victory.

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