Two magic moments: SEM Phoenix defeat NZ Breakers

THE first round of National Basketball League (NBL) action continued on Saturday night, with just one match being played for the entire day. In a dominant display, the South East Melbourne Phoenix defeated the New Zealand Breakers by 24 points at John Cain Arena. The Phoenix won three of four quarters in pretty convincing fashion, breaking away early in the match thanks to an explosive second term. During this quarter, the victors outscored their opponents 27-12 with the match essentially slipping out of New Zealand’s reach before half time had even rolled around.

The Breakers were able to stop the bleeding thanks to a strong recovery in the third term where they outscored the Phoenix by one point. However, by this stage, the damage had already been done and the Phoenix were able to put the foot down again in the final term and storm home to a massive victory to start their NBL22 campaign in style.

South East Melbourne Phoenix’s newest recruit Xavier Munford was the star of the show in the side’s win. The guard finished with a game-high 27 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals in an announcement performance, with the rest of the league put on notice. Star teammate Mitchell Creek was also terrific in the Phoenix’s win, pouring in 19 points of his own on pretty accurate shooting making nine of his 14 shots from the field. Despite the loss, Breakers captain Finn Delany fought tooth and nail all night and finished with a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds.

  • Team
  • SEM Phoenix
  • New Zealand Breakers

In this article, we take a look at two of the best moments (in no particular order) from the blowout victory, both belonging to the victors.

1. Zhou announces his presence in the paint and in the league

Over the offseason, the South East Melbourne Phoenix made headlines with the recruitment of Chinese big man Zhou Qi, who spent time on the Houston Rockets in the NBA. Standing well over 7ft tall, it was obvious Zhou would have some level of impact in the league, but the question remained as to how long it would take him to adjust. He quashed these concerns in just his first match of action in the NBL, delivering one of the highlight plays of the match.

It was late in the first term where the match was truly contested, with the Breakers leading by a point with just a few minutes until quarter time. The offence of the Phoenix had been inconsistent to start the match, but right on cue, Zhou was able to light a spark that ended up being the catalyst for a match-winning run. Zhou caught the ball just outside the paint, planning to take advantage of a mismatch on Breaker Kyrin Galloway, who was much shorter in stature. The Phoenix big man then spun around his opponent to give himself ideal position under the basket.

Galloway recovered well to push his opponent closer to the baseline, but it mattered not. Zhou then used his strength to bully Galloway and create space before throwing down a monster dunk through some contact. It clearly got his team up and about, receiving a standing ovation from his teammates on the bench, and also saw the Phoenix offense take things up a notch and create a margin between them and their opponents.

2. Munford gets the crowd on their feet

New recruit Munford had impressed throughout his time in the NBL Blitz pre-season competition, demonstrating that there was a strong possibility that the former Milwaukee Buck would be one of the finds of the year. The Phoenix had a void to fill at the guard position with the departure of Keifer Sykes, and Munford looked to be the man to take over the reigns.

The 29-year-old had already enjoyed an impressive start to the match, demonstrating his ability to score off the dribble and cause havoc for those attempting to defend him. He delivered so many exciting possessions, but none more so than midway through the third term. Munford caught the ball near half-court, and waited for a screen to come from Zhou (which he used as a fake).

He then produced a number of tantalising dribble moves that ended in a brutal stepback which saw his defender lose balance and stumble backwards. Munford saw the space created from this move and put up a three-point attempt which easily found the bottom of the net. To top it all off, the Breakers defender ended up fouling, making it a four-point play as the crowd in John Cain Arena jumped to their feet. The play ended up extending the Phoenix lead to 23 points in what proved a winning gap between the teams.

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