‘XRM’ gon’ give it to ya; recruit delivers for United

ONE of Melbourne United‘s offseason addition produced a stunning debut performance, with Xavier Rathan-Mayes delivering a match-winning performance to lead his new club to a 101-97 overtime win against the New Zealand Breakers at John Cain Arena on Sunday afternoon.

It was a new-look United squad that hit the court, after the departure of Jo Lual Acuil, Matthew Dellavedova and Jack White. There were a number of fresh faces for Melbourne on Sunday, including Rathan-Mayes, who joined the team after an impressive campaign with the Hawks last season.

Rathan-Mayes slotted into Dean Vickerman‘s starting lineup smoothly, taking plenty of ball-handling responsibility, and providing a terrific balance of shot-making and creating for his teammates.

In what was a thrilling encounter, Rathan-Mayes stepped up with some big buckets in the extra allocated time, showing no hesitancy to fire off a shot when the game was on the line. He took over in the dying minutes of the contest and proved to be the difference for the victors.

Melbourne United (101) def. New Zealand Breakers (97)

Xavier Rathan-Mayes – 33 points (11/20 FG, 6/11 3PT), five rebounds, nine assists

Rathan-Mayes nailed the first shot of the contest, draining a corner three after Chris Goulding dished out on the drive. Unfortunately, he found himself outsized against Jarell Brantley, and conceded the turnaround jumper. He missed his next couple of shots, but continued to get involved by executing the pick-and-roll with big man Isaac Humphries, who finished inside from Rathan-Mayes’ pass.

He tried to get a bit too fancy a couple of possessions later, with his behind the back pass intercepted by the Breakers’ defence. His second assist came from a swing pass across the top of the three-point line, as David Barlow drained the triple. After a short stint on the bench, Rathan-Mayes checked back in and nailed the final shot of the term too, fading across the three-point line and nailing the tough long range bucket.

The smooth-moving guard started the second term similar to how he did the first, delivering Melbourne’s first score after driving along the baseline and producing a nice reverse lay-up. His ability to nail a shot off the dribble was again on display just a minute later, taking advantage of the screen and drain another triple.

With plenty of wind in his sail, Rathan-Mayes fired off another three the very next possession, which also found the bottom of the net. With the defence checking him a bit closer, he combined well with Goulding to produce another assist, before getting involved on the defensive end by swatting Rayan Rupert‘s lay-up attempt. He headed to the bench for a spell, and could not regain his groove to close out the half.

Vickerman must have predicted the New Zealand defence would close out on Rathan-Mayes in the second half, so a lot of the offence to start the third was focussed around Goulding, and ‘XRM’ was used as a facilitator, as the veteran sharpshooter took full advantage of Rupert’s generous defence. Rathan-Mayes was able to get involved on the scoring front, cutting through the defence and draining a nice floater. He closed out the term by managing to draw a foul and nail the two free throws, and while it was his quietest period of the contest, he was still able to play a key role.

United opted to rest Rathan-Mayes to open the fourth quarter, as he re-entered the game with six and a half minutes on the clock. It took the recruit no time to get involved again, nailing the pull-up from mid-range, before executing a similar play a couple of minutes later. It was his ability to take advantage of the mismatch off the dribble that was the catalyst for these baskets. Across four attempts, he drained two crucial free throws in the dying stages of regulation time, sending the game to overtime in the process.

In extra time, Rathan-Mayes cashed in on a pair of massive three-pointers to extend Melbourne’s lead to five (although it appears the refs should have called a shot clock violation on the first), before splashing yet another driving lay-up and flexing on the opposition in the process. His final score of the game saw a crucial free throw nailed in the closing seconds as he led his side to their first victory of the season.

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