Taipans get payback win over Hawks
The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans remain undefeated at the Cairns Convention Centre so far this season, with a payback 81-71 victory over the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday evening. The Taipans trailed their boogey team in the first and second quarter, before outplaying their visitors in the third and fourth to secure their 3-0 home record.
The Taipans were missing two big pieces to their offensive puzzle, with Patrick Miller (back) and Bobi Klintman (hip) both sitting out, however Bul Kuol and Sam Waardenburg continued to step up as they’ve done every game so far this season.
Waardenburg has been quietly consistent for Cairns, contributing 15 points, four rebounds and being a tough task for any opposition in the paint; while Bul Kuol did a number on Justin Robinson and also restricted Tyler Harvey, who was looking to hit three triples during the game to reach 300 NBL career three-pointers.
The last time these two teams met, Harvey hit a three-pointer to win the game in the dying seconds and Kuol ensured that Cairns got to exact their revenge, ensuring he did not reach the feat and limiting him to 2-9 from beyond the arc and 12 points at 29 per cent.
The 2022 Rookie of the Year continues to be a weapon for the Taipans on both ends of the floor, with the team-high 19 points, five rebounds and three assists. His three-pointer at the end of the third got Cairns in front and the lead was maintained as they outscored the Hawks 25-16 in the last quarter.
In his 50th NBL outing, Tahjere McCall reminded the Cairns crowd why he’s the fan favourite, putting in a showy effort on defence and jamming the rims in the first and fourth quarter for what was also his first home game of the 2023-24 season.
McCall missed the entire pre-season with a hip injury, as well as the opening games, before remaining in the US for the birth of his daughter. In his second game back, he put up a respectable 16 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists but the team leader admitted he is not yet back to match fitness.
“I’m still getting my rhythm back – this is my second game. Layups I usually make? I’m missing. Freethrows? Piss poor. Turnovers? Piss poor. It’s hurting the team but that why we’re brothers. They pick me up, and it makes it easy for me to do the little things,” said McCall.
“A couple more games and I’ll be back to normal. I’m still finding my stride and finding my rhythm, but I’m just out there trying to make sure we get the win. I’ll take the ugly win. Eventually it’s going to look pretty.”
Similarly, Taipans Head Coach Adam Forde acknowledged that the win was ugly, but said he appreciated the intensity the team brought after lacking effort last round. Off the bench, Lat Mayen was again major with 10 points and eight rebounds, while AK Gak was dominant with eight and eight.
“It wasn't the prettiest game… I'm not going to sit here and pretend like this improved our offensive rating - it did not. But the desire to win, that's the separator,” said Coach Forde.
“This is competition at its best.
“Whether it’s this free-flowing, high-octane three-point shootout, or it’s a grind – competing for offensive rebounds, diving on loose balls? Guys want to compete.
“We’ve got to keep building. We’re still a little bit in survival mode. All we’ve done is win in Queensland… I’d like to try and win somewhere else.”