18/04/2024

Image: @NBL Twitter

The Cairns Taipans kept their top two hopes alive, dominating from the second quarter onwards to defeat the South East Melbourne Phoenix at home.

Coming into the game, Keanu Pinder was still on the sidelines recovering from his ankle injury. While the Phoenix were looking to snap their three-game losing streak and looking to stay in the top six finals picture.

Both teams played at a frantic up and down tempo and trading basket in the early stages of the game.

The Phoenix found their flow on the offensive end, with Alan Williams making the most of his size inside the paint.

Mitch Creek was a workhorse and efficient in the first quarter, scoring 14 points, whilst DJ Hogg and Tahjere McCall found their range and shots around the perimeter.

Whilst the Phoenix shot 68 per cent compared to the Taipans 47 per cent in the first quarter, the Taipans enjoyed a nine to two scoring run to cut the margin down to just two points.

The Taipans lifted the tempo in the second quarter, driving to the basket applying defensive pressure on the Phoenix, forcing them into five turnovers for the first half.

With the Phoenix breaking down defensively, the Taipans were able to convert seven points from turnover, and winning the second quarter, 33-14 to be up eight points at half-time.

Both teams shot at a similar efficiency during the first half at 53 and 51 per cent from the field. However the Taipans had more contributions from the bench and looked to be the more settled team going into the main break.

The Taipans tempo and defensive pressure were the story in the third quarter, as well as dominance from their bench. Their second unit scoring 17 to five and creating pressure from the defensive end, which lead into the offensive end.

The Taipans continued to punish in the points from turnovers category, 15 to four, maintaining a 10-point lead at three-quarter time.

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Whilst DJ Hogg, Shannon Scott and Tahjere McCall continued to force problems for the Phoenix, the likes of Majok Deng provided the energy and spark off the bench. Deng scoring 10 points for the third quarter, whilst Ben Ayre has tough to guard with his drive and punch.

The Taipans controlled the opening portion of the last quarter, with the Phoenix starting to get stops and reduce the margin.

The Taipans picked up uncharacteristic turnovers down the stretch, finishing the game with 12-11.

The Taipans finished the game shooting at 51 per cent from the field, compared to the Phoenix at 44 per cent. The Phoenix won the rebound count, 42-36, and were 16-6 on the offensive end. Meanwhile, the Taipans dominated the defensive rebound count, 26-23.

Owen Foxwell and Ryan Broekhoff hit some tough shots, helping the Phoenix go on a 14 to four scoring run, but the Taipans pressure was much to handle for the Phoenix, sealing the victory, 94-85.

Speaking to the media post-game, Cairns forward Sam Waardenburg spoke about how his team got past being challenged throughout the game.

โ€œIt was great to see the guys get the result that they deserved,” he said.

โ€œIt wasnโ€™t without itโ€™s challenges and we found ourselves down again, the offence got a little bit stagnant on the third when we were getting stops.

โ€œWe were just rushing it a little bit on the offensive end and playing a little bit passive in the fourth, but then to reflect of the fact this was probably our best shooting percentage in a while.โ€

Cairns head coach Adam Forde spoke about the rebounding issues in the game and spoke about his team giving his all.

โ€œItโ€™s still an area of concern, we couldnโ€™t defend without fouling. Second chance points we gave up 35 points and found ourselves down early,” Forde said.

โ€œThe cool thing about it is where weโ€™ve improved without Keanu and then when Keanu coming back, weโ€™re gonna be better for it.

โ€œYou canโ€™t replace 10 rebounds a game by an overnight solution. But the cool thing about it is the guys compete in battle, they have had to work for it.

โ€œWeโ€™re not just giving them up and guys are getting uncontested layups. I canโ€™t fault the guys for effort because every single one of those outboards they had to fight for, South East earned them.โ€

The Cairns Taipans face a double header in Round 15, facing the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night at home, then the New Zealand Breakers away on Sunday afternoon.

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