History made: Tassie downs United and moves to decider
HOLLYWOOD couldn’t write a better script than what we have just seen. The National Basketball League (NBL) has seen some pretty remarkable stuff throughout the 2021/22 season, but nothing has been more incredible than the journey of the competition’s newest side. Monday night saw the deciding game three in the semi final series between Melbourne United and the Tasmania JackJumpers at John Cain Arena, with the tie level at one game apiece. The reigning champions were the favoured side, especially on their home deck where they took game one on Thursday, but Tasmania tied it up in the Apple Isle a couple of days later. There was plenty of hype coming into the game, given the underdog mantra the visitors have adopted throughout the season, and the game delivered big time.
It was an extremely tense affair, fans at John Cain Arena were treated to one of the most entertaining games of the year. After a blockbuster first half, the two teams could not be separated at the main break. After Chris Goulding was injured in the warmup and was withdrawn from the game, Melbourne’s offence looked a bit different than what we have seen throughout the season. While they had a slim lead in the final term, the JackJumpers displayed more of their ‘never say die’ attitude and rallied behind the incredible scoring efforts of Josh Adams to sneak home to a three-point win and complete the unthinkable task of making the grand final in just their first season.
Melbourne United (73) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (76)
The home side fired in the first term, looking to get the upper hand and halt Tasmania’s momentum early in the contest. It was a scoreless few minutes for the JackJumpers, with Melbourne jumping out to a quick five-point advantage. They were able to get back in the game in the next few minutes, but United still held a four-point lead at the first break of play, with their starters all contributing in one way or another.
Both teams struggled to get going on the scoreboard to start the second quarter, with the next bucket crucial in the context of the game. Tasmania was able to conjure the all-important basket through a long range shot from Jarrad Weeks, and teammate Adams followed suit shortly after. After a scoreless first term, the explosive guard poured in nine points in the second term and got Tasmania well and truly back in the game, with proceedings tied at the main break.
The JackJumpers burst out of the gates to open the second half, going on a quick 5-0 run in the first minute of the third and forcing Dean Vickerman to call a timeout. As the good sides do, United managed to drag themselves back into the game, thanks to the impressive efforts of Shea Ili, who was having a ripping game from an individual standpoint. Adams continued to be the man for Tasmania, pushing his side out to a nine-point lead. A couple of late buckets to Ili brought United back to within six at the final change.
With the home crowd on their side, Melbourne was able to conjure up a bit of a run and take the lead halfway through the last. Each side was able to pull down a number of offensive boards, but not convert these efforts into points. Josh Magette chimed in for a big three-pointer, but Melbourne stuck around with athletic big man Jack White providing some energy on the offensive end (including a big three-point play from an inbounds pass). With the game on the line, Adams took the ball to the corner and put up an insanely difficult fading (and contested) three, which found the bottom of the net. The shot gave Tasmania a six-point lead with a minute to play, and they were able to hold on for one of the most famous wins in NBL history and becoming the first side to ever make the big dance in its first season.
Adams was the man of the moment in the biggest game of his NBL career, overcoming a scoreless first term to finish with 30 points. He produced big bucket after big bucket, and was able to put the team on his shoulders when the momentum looked in doubt. Jack McVeigh had 16 points of his own, while Magette was able to create with nine points and seven assists, but a lot of the credit for the team’s performance must go to Coach of the Year Scott Roth. Ili was excellent for Melbourne with 18 points, 12 of which came in the first half of play, while big man Jo Lual Acuil got the team back in the game in the fourth quarter with 16 points. White was also great, delivering a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, many of which were on the offensive end.
Tasmania will now take on the Sydney Kings in the grand final series, kicking off on Friday night.