Phoenix too classy, remove JackJumpers’ bite
ROUND 11 of the National Basketball League (NBL)’s 2021/22 season resumed on Sunday afternoon, with a double-header of entertaining clashes. Kicking things off was a big matchup between the SEM Phoenix and the Tasmania JackJumpers taking place at John Cain Arena just after midday. It was quite an anticipated game heading in, given the Phoenix have been performing strongly throughout the first half of the season, while the JackJumpers came in on a four-game winning streak (the most recent being against the reigning champs). The match opened in entertaining fashion, with Tasmania’s shooting giving them a lead in the first half. However, the experience of the Phoenix was evident in the crucial stages of the second half, as they snuck away to claim a 10-point win in front of an electric home crowd.
The match opened with both sides struggling to hit the scoreboard early, with the two teams putting an emphasis on defensive strategy. With Tasmania missing its starting center in Will Magnay, the Phoenix were sure to make sure big man Zhou Qi got plenty of touches against his inexperienced opponents, and this was evident as he scored the first bucket of the game with a nice post hook. Following this, there was nearly two minutes without a score, as neither side could find their rhythm. The JackJumpers were finally able to get involved when Matt Kenyon drained the first three of the match, which kickstarted a familiar pattern for his side. By the time the first break rolled around, the Phoenix led by just two points in an exciting affair.
Scoring picked up in a big way in the second term, with both sides coming out firing to start the period. Phoenix big man Brandon Ashley began to get involved off the bench, also taking advantage of the JackJumpers’ lack of size. Tasmania skipper Clint Steindl also began to get involved, keeping his side in the contest when the Phoenix looked to break away. Former Dallas Maverick Ryan Broekhoff managed to get his way to the free throw line with ease, as the JackJumpers started to lose some of their discipline. The two sides traded baskets throughout the minutes that followed, as the margin remained about the same. However, the end of the term belonged to the visitors, with Tasmania turning things around to take a two-point lead into half time.
Tasmania’s lead did not last long to start the second half, with the Phoenix coming out from halftime with a serious amount of determination to take the upper hand in the opening minutes. Zhou was one of the standouts for the term, punishing the JackJumpers for a lack of size, by working hard on the offensive end. Even if he didn’t end up scoring the basket, his work pulling down offensive boards and setting brutal screens truly set his side up for success. The Phoenix’s half time deficit was turned into a seven-point lead heading into the final period.
Unfortunately for the JackJumpers, the pain continued into the fourth term, with the Phoenix extending their advantage as time went on. Despite Tasmania’s best efforts to stay within striking distance, it was the ball movement of the Phoenix that brought their opponents undone, with a pair of open threes in the corner to Mitch Creek (who battled through illness to still provide an impact) that put the result out of reach for Tasmania, as the Phoenix took the win in a big clash.
CLOSING THOUGHTS …
While he did not top the scorers for his side, there is no underestimating the impact of Zhou in the win, with the big man proving the difference in the most crucial periods of the game. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds, with the JackJumpers having no answer for his size. Despite some inaccurate shooting from the field, Broekhoff’s ability to get to the free throw line saw him finish with a team-high 18 points, while Creek’s 15 points came in a time of need. High-scoring JackJumpers guard Josh Adams led all-comers for the match with 23 points as he tried to give his side a spark in the second half with their backs against the wall.