The Melbourne Tigers kept their finals hopes alive, defeating the Cairns Taipans 67-64 at The Cage on Sunday afternoon.
It was a battle between import point guards which produced the outcome with both Jonny Flynn and Jamar Wilson determining the fate of their respective sides.
Ex Tiger Cam Tragardh being sent to the bench after less than four minutes appeared to be a blessing. His replacement, Shane Edwards scored 8 points before the end of the quarter. Edwards (17 points) who was the Tigers achillies heel in their previous encounter looked to be the same dominant force again.
With Wilson (19 points) leading the show for the Taipans in the third quarter, Cairns broke out to a 10 point lead with several minutes to play in the half. The Tigers however managed to claw their way back after a travelling violation against rarely clumsy Wilson which resulted in four easy points to the Tigers.
Tigers coach Chris Anstey, realizing the game was in the balance looked to his stars to get him over the line. Import duo Flynn and Scott coupled with Goulding put on a show in the third, recovering a five point deficit at half time and turning it into a five point lead by the end of the quarter.
Flynn and Scott went on to play the full second half but after two big shots from Kerry Williams (six points) and Alex Loughton (nine points), the crowd at The Cage was in for a nail biter.
The Tigers kept their cool while the Taipans faltered. Poor inbounds passes and the unawareness that they needed a three point basket to tie resulted in Edwards giving away an offensive foul and the Taipans surrendering any chance of victory.
Anstey was pleased with his team’s ability to get a victory in a game that could have easily gone either team’s way.
“We were a gear below were we needed to be in the first half. We’re finding ways to win games. Those two final defensive possessions were the best possessions we had all night”
In contrast Cairns Taipans coach Aaron Fearne was disappointed about his team’s effort, and sighted lapses of concentration as a major problem in his team.
“I just thought we lost some momentum before halftime,” said Fearne. “We lost concentration.”
“We thought we could cruise through to half time. The third quarter we played really slow, then cruised through the fourth quarter.”
“We had some opportunities down the stretch and couldn’t execute.”
“We talked about what we would do at the time out, we needed to foul them, send them to the line. Then we either need a two or three (pointer). Some of us don’t even know. I don’t even know what to say about that.”
The Tigers now have the record of 8-10 and are still well within playoff contention. On the other hand, that Cairns Taipans are on 6-12 and would need a lot of things to go right to make the post season this year.