THE National Basketball League (NBL) enjoyed one of the most memorable rounds in the last few years, with plenty to take out of an action-packed weekend. Saturday night saw the Cairns Taipans host the Tasmania JackJumpers in a tense clash at Cairns Convention Centre.
The Taipans entered the competition without a win next to their name in the opening weeks of the season, while the JackJumpers were looking to repeat their opening night efforts which saw the competition’s newest expansion side start with a win. It was a back-and-forth affair for most of the concert, but it was ultimately the third term efforts of the Taipans that drove them to their maiden triumph of the season, with the final margin sitting at just seven points, which demonstrates how close proceedings ended up.
The Taipans made their intentions clear early on in the clash, jumping out to a six-point lead by the midway point of the opening term. Cairns guard Tahjere McCall appeared set for a big game from the very first possession, driving to the hoop for a lay-up to give his side the perfect start. He continued this hot form for the remainder of the first term, with 11 points for the quarter a clear indicator of his intentions for the match, with his aggressiveness in the period leading his team to a one-point lead at the first break.
The second period saw scoring dry up for both sides, but it was still clear the term belonged to the JackJumpers, who produced a fightback from an underwhelming opening term. There was only a combined 19 points scored for the term, but over half of these belonged to the JackJumpers, who were able to overcome the tough defence by both sides to claim the term as their own. On the other hand, the Taipans were unable to convert any of their offensive possessions into consistent scoring. The result of this saw their one-point lead turn into a six-point deficit with plenty for the side to do in the second half.
The third term saw a complete switch of the second term events, with the Taipans well and truly gaining control of the contest. The combination of Cairns duo McCall and Kouat Noi proved extremely damaging on the scoreboard, with the pair inflicting plenty of pain on JackJumpers defenders. The Taipans ended up outscoring their opponents 19-6 for the term, with the lead once again changing hands. By the time the final break came around, the Taipans were on the right end of a seven-point lead (which was whittled down from eight late in the term when Cairns head coach Adam Forde received a technical foul).
The fourth period saw the two sides bring out some serious offensive punch, with each team finding their mojo with ball in hand. The scoring increased significantly, but unfortunately for the visitors, their impressive offensive performance did not result in the lead once again changing. The margin was never lower than five points with the Taipans cruising home to claim their first win of the season in impressive fashion.
For the victors, it was clear to see the influence of McCall and Noi on the contest, with the pair the main offensive output for the Taipans. The pair combined for 37 of their side’s 69 points, and were the only two Cairns players who finished the game in double-digits. For the JackJumpers, Josh Magette and Clint Steindl played a lone hand on the offensive end of the court, with Magette finishing with 19 points, while Steindl finished with 13 points as the duo attempted to inject some much-needed scoring into their side, but to no avail.