THEY are the gift that keeps on giving. Fans of the National Basketball League (NBL) were treated to an Easter Sunday double-header, with a couple of big matchups taking place around Australia. Things kicked off at John Cain Arena, with the SEM Phoenix playing host to the Tasmania JackJumpers, in one of the biggest games of the season for the away side.
The JackJumpers are still in the hunt for an unlikely finals berth, and needed to get the win over a struggling Phoenix side to remain that way. South East Melbourne has shown what it is capable of earlier in the season, so it was shaping up to be a cracking affair with plenty on the line. Fans were treated to exactly that on their Easter Sunday, with the match going down to the final seconds as the JackJumpers came back from a 15-point deficit in the second term to claim a thrilling four-point win on the road.
SEM Phoenix (80) def. by Tasmania JackJumpers (84)
It was the start that fans were expecting to see, with both sides getting going in no time at all. The JackJumpers were led by the efforts of Josh Adams, which has been the case for the last few weeks. While on the other hand, it was Xavier Munford that got his side rolling offensively. By the time the first 10 minutes concluded, the two teams could not be separated thanks to a couple of late free throws to Mitch Creek. Despite a tense opening term, the second quarter belonged to the Phoenix, as the home side began to get their offence running smoothly. It took South East Melbourne just two minutes to jump out to a seven-point lead, with Tasmania well and truly on the back foot. The Phoenix were clinical on both ends of the court, harrassing the opposition into making mistakes and then punishing them down the other end. Their lead got as large as 15 points, as they went into half time up 12 and truly in control of the contest.
The second half kicked off with Tasmania unwilling to let the game get out of hand, as the visitors clawed themselves back into the game. It was a charge sparked by the efforts of Jack McVeigh, who was the catalyst for a magnificent offensive run. Just five minutes into the third term, the margin had been wiped away, and it was suddenly game on. The two sides traded baskets to close out the quarter, and Tasmania led by two points heading into the final 10 minutes of play. It was a similar story to close out the match, as the Phoenix looked to overrun the slim margin in the dying stages. Their best bet came when Creek drove to the hoop down two points, but it was swatted away thanks to an incredibly athletic effort from Adams. From here, the JackJumpers were able to hold off their opponents and keep their hopes of a finals berth alive.
The JackJumpers’ win was set up by a career-high 26 points from McVeigh, who has been a fantastic signing for Tasmania in their first roster additions. He was able to score from both inside the paint and behind the arc, with the defence providing no answers. Adams was also at his high-scoring best, with 23 points and the match-winning block. For the Phoenix, Creek fought as hard as he could to produce a win in front of his home crowd with a game-high 27 points, but these efforts went unrewarded.
The second match of the day saw the Adelaide 36ers cause a massive upset, putting an end to the Sydney Kings‘ winning streak at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday afternoon. Sydney had won its last 12 games coming in, but the 36ers were ruthless in their hunt for the win, emerging eight-point winners.