The Tasmania JackJumpers have proved all the doubters wrong and done what most thought was impossible and after a remarkable season have made their way to an NBL grand final series against the Sydney Kings.
Many are calling it a fairytale but to call it that would be a discredit to everyone involved. It is so much more than that, this is a sporting story about resilience, belief, and determination.
It has been highly publicised that the organisation had its issues early on with recruitment and their lack of stars was touted by experts as a problem. What the experts didn’t take into account was that the JackJumpers focused their recruiting around personality and character.
This is the formula that has created the team that has now made the JackJumpers, the first expansion team since the Geelong Cats in 1982 to make the NBL Grand Final in their inaugural season.
Nothing in the season came easy for the JackJumpers at one point in the season they were sitting at two wins and six losses. Then they lost their marquee signing, Will Magnay after just eleven games.
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The resilience and the adversity of the group kicked in after this point and Tasmania went on to win 15 of its last 20 games to give them hope of a finals berth. As the season’s end drew closer, the question of whether they could pull off the unthinkable began to be asked.
Following the theme of their season, the JackJumpers won their do or die final game of the season against Melbourne United. But still had to wait on the outcome of the last game of the season between the Perth Wildcats and South East Melbourne Phoenix.
If results didn’t go Tasmania’s way, it would’ve been the only team to get 17 wins in a season and not make the playoffs.
In the end, South East Melbourne ended Perth’s 35-year streak of making playoffs, winning in overtime to win by two points. The outcome sent the Tasmania JackJumpers to the playoffs against the reigning champions and this season’s minor premiers Melbourne United.
The stage was set and with the basketball world behind them, it would take all the determination of the JackJumpers to make it to the Grand Final. With Melbourne having home-court advantage, Game 1 was a low scoring affair that saw Tasmania go down 74 – 63.
Despite the loss, it was actually a positive sign for the JackJumpers, the strong defence that they had cultivated their season on had held up. They kept United to 13 points less than their season average. All the JackJumpers needed to do in Game 2 was find a way to score themselves.
In front of a home crowd, the atmosphere in Game 2 was completely different for the JackJumpers. The shooting that they had struggled with came to them, and they took an 11 point lead early in the second quarter.
The defending champions were not going down without a fight and clawed back to end the third quarter tied at 59. The JackJumpers were spurred on by the home crowd, whose “march” chants were filled with belief that they would see their team fight.
The team banded together as they have for the whole season, and nailed crucial three-pointers in the last quarter to build momentum early and hold on to force a Game 3 in Melbourne.
Yet again going into Game 3 Tasmania were underdogs. The game was the definition of an arm wrestle, where neither team was able to grab hold of any momentum in any quarter.
Import Josh Adams had a huge game for the JackJumpers scoring 30 points, including a miracle three-point shot which showed everyone that they were not going to let this game go without a fight.
Again it was the JackJumpers’ defence that came into play, they stuck to the grit and tenacity that saw them hold teams from scoring all year. They were able to limit United to just 73 points and hold on to win by three points and book their spot in the Grand Final series against the Sydney Kings.
Game 1 of the Grand Final Series is Friday, May 6 7:30 pm AEST
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