South East Melbourne guard Kyle Adnam scored a career-high 30 points to guide his side to victory. (@SEMelbPhoenix - Twitter)

Despite being without several key pieces due to injury, the South East Melbourne Phoenix found a way to overcome last year’s grand finalists – The Tasmania JackJumpers, with the help of guard Kyle Adnam’s brilliant performance in the NBL23 season opener.

With import point guard Gary Browne sidelined with a knee injury, it meant Adnam was inserted into the Phoenix’s starting five.

The first few minutes of the encounter were even as the two teams went toe-to-toe. South East Melbourne recruit Alan Williams was grabbing every missed basket, ending the first quarter with five rebounds.

In the past few seasons, South East Melbourne has had issues defensively but in the first quarter, its players looked switched on, holding Tasmania to 16 points.

Speaking to the media post-game, coach Simon Mitchell said he was very proud of some of the Phoenix’s younger players stepping up and playing their roles, particularly on the defensive end.

“We were a little bit out on our feet. We didn’t execute as well as we possibly could have but it was great to see Kyle (Adnam) and ‘Creeky’ (Mitch Creek) make big plays down the stretch,” Mitchell said.

“Good to see guys defend and the last two minutes, I thought were pretty good.

“We got some kids out there. It’s a great learning experience for them.”

The Phoenix ended the first quarter with a 12-point lead, thanks to Kyle Adnam setting the court alight, scoring 11 points in the quarter, including three three-pointers.

While Adnam only had two more points in the first half, the Phoenix were able to maintain a 10-point point going into halftime, with Alan Williams, Reuben Te Rangi, and Mitch Creek keeping the scoreboard ticking over.

Adam was able to get hot again scoring eight points in the third quarter, but the JackJumpers also got cooking, reducing the margin to six points as the Phoenix’s defensive pressure released.

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After a tough first half, both Tasmania’s imports Milton Doyle and Rashard Kelly shook off their performances and helped their side draw closer.

Kelly scored 13 points across the last couple of minutes of the third and at the start of the last quarter to bring the JackJumpers within a single point, but with the game on the line in came the Phoenix’s captains Mitch Creek and Kyle Adnam.

The pair scored 20 combined (11 points for Creek and nine for Adnam) in the quarter to ensure the Phoenix would open NBL23 with a victory. Adnam would sink two free throws to seal an 84-79 win for the Phoenix.

Adnam said post-game that when the JackJumpers made their charge, it was time for the leaders to step up and get the Phoenix over the line.

“Looking up at the scoreboard, with the clock winding down, we often have had conversations about closing games and how important it is and I grabbed ‘Creeky’ [Mitch Creek] in the huddle and I said, ‘we’ve got to get into some action, we’ve got to try and get us home’,” Adnam said.

“We just wanted to get back to something (on offence) that was solid for us and, fortunately, I was able to make a few plays out of it.”

Adnam finished the game with a career-high 30 points (his first 30-point game in the NBL), four rebounds, and four assists. While Mitch Creek (23 points and six rebounds) and Alan Williams (12 points and seven rebounds) were also among the best for the Phoenix.

Jack McVeigh (20 points and five rebounds) and Rashard Kelly (18 points and six rebounds) were the JackJumpers’ best players.

In Round 2, the South East Melbourne Phoenix will face the Illawarra Hawks at the WIN Entertainment on Thursday night before hosting the Cairns Taipans on Saturday night.

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