Christmas comes early for Taipans

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Christmas comes early for Taipans

Last Saturday night, I witnessed a National Basketball League game that will go down in the annals of history as one of the Taipans’ finest victories at home.

The Snakes were playing host to the Melbourne Tigers, the team that this year signed Ayinde Ubaka, Ron Dorsey and Daniel Dillon from under the noses of the Taipans at the end of the Snakes most productive season.

With the Far North fans’ emotions on a rolling simmer, and the anticipation of a take no prisoners game, the Cairns Convention Centre was ready to erupt, even before the teams made their way onto the court.

After preparing themselves for a hostile reception from the Orange Army, the Tigers took to the court met by an eerie silence, noticeably taking the visitors by surprise.

Tip-off was won by the Snakes’ Ian Crosswhite and he quickly followed up with the first bucket of the night, sending the crowd of 4800 into raptures. The rest of the quarter was basket for basket, with the Tigers holding the narrowest of margins at quarter time, up 14-13.

The second period saw the Taipans jump out to a handy 11-point lead with four and a half left on the clock, thanks to a brace of three-pointers to Kerry Williams and Drewy Warren finding his range from distance as well.

But the quarter was far from over as the Tigers’ Cam Tragardh was on a first-half scoring frenzy, posting 18 along with Dillon’s six, pulling the margin back to one in favour of the home team. Taipans up 34-33 at the long break.

A resurgent Taipans outfit shot to a handy eight-point lead half way through the third period thanks to Warren and Hill, both with multiple baskets, and alas, once again, the Tigers stepped up another gear and quickly reduced the deficit to two with baskets to Dorsey and Ubaka in the dying seconds of the third term. Snakes up 53-51.

With drama, anticipation, mystery and expectation, the last quarter was set to be one to remember, two of the best point guards, Jamar Wilson and Ubaka squaring off, not only to guide their team to a win, but a bit of bragging rights as well.

The big men were also in a battle, with Crosswhite and Tragardh banging bodies under the hoop, not to mention the clinical shooting prowess of Warren versus Dorsey.

In a shot-for-shot period, it all came down to the last 30 seconds of the game, and with the Taipans down by three, Wilson was sent to the line and made only one from two free throw attempts, putting the Tigers up by two with ball in hand.

Ubaka brought the ball up court, draining valuable seconds off the clock, and with 10 seconds left, put up a three-pointer that hit the front of the rim, landing in Warren’s hand. Warren passed to Wilson, who went the length of the court to lay up two points with two seconds on the clock to send this game into overtime, 77-apiece.

The fifth period, played over five minutes, was a new game in itself as Cairns’ seven-footer, Crosswhite, was fouled off and took no further part in the game.

Undermanned and under-sized, the Snakes had their backs to the wall.

Once again the two teams traded baskets until the visitors took a handy four-point lead with one minute left to play, mainly due to a brace of three pointers from Dorsey and a rampaging Ubaka.

Consecutive threes from Wilson and Warren put the home team up by two with 23 seconds left and possession with the Tigers.

Again the ball was in the hands of the former home crowd favorite, Ubaka, and with time running out, he shot a three pointer that never look like missing, silencing the feverish crowd.

With the referees uncertain if the ball was released from the hand when the buzzer sounded to end the game, they decided that a TV replay was necessary to decide the game.

Reviewing the footage and waving away the shot gave the home team the win and the Orange Army the Christmas present they were wishing for.

Cairns 79-77 in an absolute thriller.

Leading stats:

Cairns - Wilson 27 points and five rebounds, Crosswhite a double double (13pts, 13 rebounds) and Warren 16 and 7.  Melbourne – Tragardh 24 and 7, Dorsey 18 and 12 and Ubaka 18 and 6.

This week, the Taipans travel to the Land of the Long White Cloud to take on reigning champions the Breakers, a huge ask to win in NZ, but with the Snakes now four from the last five, and arguably the form team of the competition, don’t rule out an upset here.

Other games in round 11 will see the Adelaide 36ers at home, too strong for the hapless Wollongong Hawks, the Gold Coast Blaze at the Coast in overtime to beat Perth, and Melbourne at home will lose their fifth consecutive game when they take on the Townsville Crocs.

Catch you on the rebound

Double Oh. 

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