THOUGH the teams are at opposite ends of the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder, Melbourne United needed the full four quarters to get back on top of the Cairns Taipans on Sunday night. The ladder leaders stormed out of the blocks with a 23-13 first term, and extended their lead to 13 by half-time, (48-35).
In a twist, the Taipans found their bite in the third term, scoring 19 of the next 25 points to level the scores at 54-apiece at the 3:38-minute mark when Majok Deng hit both free throws. It was the first time since the start of the match that the home side had drawn level. The match was at a critical juncture, and then United stepped up.
THIRD TERM, 3:38-MINUTE MARK
Shea Ili scored three of the next four free throws, with Chris Goulding and Ariel Hukporti each making one of two from trips to the line, and Matthew Dellavedova securing a layup after picking up the defensive rebound up the other end of the court. In the space of three minutes, United was out to a seven-point advantage. A Hukporti foul on Tahjere McCall as he went for a layup allowed a three-point play, and the Snakes headed into the last change with a sniff, just four points down, 57-61.
FOURTH TERM START
Starting the fourth term it was Jack White with the And One chance, extending the lead out to seven, before Scott Machado cut it back to five points in the opening minute, and by the 7:43 mark, a Stephen Zimmerman layup had the scores at 61-64. From that point though, it was almost all Melbourne.
Dellavedova nailed a pull-up jumper from beyond the arc, and Hukporti drove to the basket and secured the layup. drawing the foul and completing the And One chance. Brad Newley capped off a handy eight-point run for United, and the lead was back out to double-digits.
FOURTH TERM 6:12-MINUTE MARK
Zimmerman was able to break the drought with both free throws from the charity strike, but an almost immediate foul from Machado on Ili saw him pass it slickly to Goulding who hit the three-point bomb. A minute later and Mason Peatling scored one of two free throws and the lead was back out to 13 points.
Though Zimmerman again made a trip to the line at the 4:22-minute mark, he missed one of two, and it proved costly. Caleb Agada and White combined to add four more points to the total, with the latter producing a big dunk to all but end the Taipans’ chances.
FOURTH TERM 3:43-MINUTE MARK
Machado (one point) and Deng (two) showed some resistance for the Taipans to cut the deficit back to 13 points, but that was as close as it got with Goulding hitting another long-range jumper, and Agada securing both free throws when Deng fouled him. Another White layup with 2:06 on the clock, and the lead had hit 20 points in just over a quarter of action since the Taipans levelled the scores.
Pinder scored a consolation bucket, then back-to-back free throws in the final two minutes, but it would prove too little, too late, with Callum Dalton (two free throws) and Deng (two points) ending the game with United winning, 89-73 in an impressive turnaround in momentum from that Snakes’ third quarter blitz.