Taipans go down in Melbourne
The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans went down to the South East Melbourne Phoenix 91-78 at John Cain Arena on Sunday afternoon despite maintaining pressure throughout the clash.
With the South East Melbourne side entering the game sitting third and undefeated at the Fire Pit, the task was always going to be tough, but the Taipans showed their resilience and toughness in the loss.
The undermanned Taipans side welcomed Tahjere McCall back to the starting line-up after the recent birth of his first child, in a boost to the side with Patrick Miller still sidelined with the injury sustained during the last round win against the Sydney Kings. He flirted with a double-double with eight points and ten rebounds from 33 minutes of court-time.
Taran Armstrong played his second game for his NBL career, after being given the keys to this youthful Taipans side from coach Adam Forde and put up 12 points along with four rebounds.
Craig Moller drew first blood for the home side with a lay-up before drawing the foul and heading to the line before Bul Kuol responded leading from the front registering the first points for the Taipans ending an unanswered five point run from the home-side.
The first quarter saw 12 individual scorers with Reuben Te Rangi leading for the Phoenix with seven points.
Lat Mayen showcased why he is well and truly in the frame for the Most Improved player for NBL24 as the Taipans highest point scorer for the quarter, with seven including a three-pointer.
Former Taipan Ben Ayre hit the floor for his first points in the first quarter for his Phoenix side and at the end of the first quarter the score was locked up 23-23.
Starting the second quarter Alan Williams sank the first points, in a double-double performance of 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Ayre also hit two threes. He would be the lead point scorer for the second quarter on ten points with Sam Waardenburg putting up eight for the period.
At halftime Williams had a double-double as his Phoenix led at halftime 47-43, with the Taipans keeping the margin to four.
Point guard Armstrong took the first points in the third quarter, in which the promising talent was unleashed sinking six points including a deep three as an exciting battle ensued between Bul Kuol and Mitch Creek.
With frustration setting in, Taipans Sam Waardenburg received his fourth foul before avoiding a fifth and tech foul after being subbed out by Forde, with the bench receiving the tech.
As the buzzer rang out sending the squads to the final break, Creek arched back to shoot from beyond the arc and sink the dagger as the Phoenix extended their lead to eight points with the scoreboard showing 69-61.
As the final quarter began Armstrong took first points again as the margin was cut back to three, however the comparison between point guards was clear to see, given the experience and speed from Browne.
The Phoenix took the lead out to 14 points with one minute of play as Alan Williams was fouled out, but it was too late for a comeback to be mounted from the Cairns side, with the South East Melbourne side remaining undefeated at home with the win.
The star power of Mitch Creek (21pts, 11 rebounds) and Alan Williams (18pts, 15 rebounds) was clear to see with them both taking double-doubles in the win for their side.
Waardenburg, Armstrong and Mayen led the Taipans with 12 points each. Kuol stuffed the stat-sheet once again with a respectable 11 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Waardenburg pulled up gingerly before fulltime with a possible groin injury but will be assessed to determine the extent of any injury.
Head coach Adam Forde was blunt but honest during the post-game press conference.
“We played how we looked,” he said.
“We could pick it apart, but my main priority is to get my boys home, give them a day off and a week to ready their bodies and prepare for a home game and try and stay in touch with the pack.
“The things that are a problem, are fixable. This is the first time we have really broke a little bit mentally.
“There are some real learning points from this.”
The Taipans will now prepare to return to home-court to host the Illawarra Hawks on November 11 with tip-off at 4:30PM.