Perth extend winning streak over Cairns
The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans knew there would be some growing pains as the full roster played together for the first time, and the adjustments showed as they went down 80-88 at RAC Arena against the red-hot Perth Wildcats, who extend their winning streak to four games.
It was just the third game in the 2023-24 season for Tahjere McCall, as he finished with the team-high 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal while Pat Miller had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds in his return from back injury.
The Taipans welcomed McCall and Taran Armstrong (foot) back less than two weeks ago, with Miller and Bobi Klintman (hip) also back in the mix for the Thursday night match against the Wildcats, with the home team running out to a 7-0 lead.
McCall found his way to the basket to break the Taipans scoring drought after 2:30 minutes, but Cairns only managed five points in the first five minutes. Lat Mayen again made an instant impact off the bench, scoring two triples, while Bul Kuol also managed to add to the team’s three-point tally while also restricting Bryce Cotton to just seven points in an exciting match-up.
Cairns managed to work their way back into the contest in the second, with McCall tying the game as both teams traded baskets, including Cotton hitting a three and Kuol immediately responding with two threes of his own.
AK Gak was at the foul line to see the Taipans gain their first lead of the match, and later had an impressive dunk on Alex Sarr on his way to register seven points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal.
At the main break, the Wildcats had the 47-43 edge as McCall had put together 11 points, three boards and two assists while Kuol added 10 points, Miller eight. Outside of a dunk in the opening minutes, former Taipan Keanu Pinder was kept scoreless.
Cairns continued to put on the defensive pressure but struggled offensively, shooting 36 per cent from the floor as Perth got a 10-point buffer heading into the final quarter.
Lat Mayen (15 points, four rebounds) helped close the gap to just three points and added another three triples in the fourth, but the momentum swings throughout the game right to the end, with the home side extending their lead to eight and their winning streak to four.
Taipans Head Coach Adam Forde emphasised there was always going be a period of adjustment for the team playing alongside each other – a luxury that they haven’t been afforded at any point so far this year.
“We’ve got Tassie to bounce back at home. And then we’ve got this two-week window, which everybody has. I reference Simon Mitchell last year, who used the FIBA break like a mini pre-season for them. And it’ll be something similar for us, not so much from say, a conditioning, and getting bodies right standpoint, because that’s on point,” he explained.
“It’s about logging minutes and getting guys on the same page and looking to capitalise where we can score and move the ball. And again, continue to address the turnovers issue. But until we fix the offensive end, we’re going to find ourselves on the wrong end of the results – especially in a bit of a grind, like this one.”