By Boden Westover, Pagemasters
The Melbourne Tigers recorded a tense and important 67-64 win over the Cairns Taipans at The Cage on Sunday afternoon to bolster their finals hopes.
Riding the momentum of a game-changing eight-zero run in the third quarter, the Tigers stayed strong down the stretch in a dour affair that will have huge ramifications going into the post-season.
Melbourne were led by their big three of Jonny Flynn (21 points, 5 rebounds 4 assists), Seth Scott (19 points) and Chris Goulding (10 points, 4 assists).
Cairns relied heavily on Jamar Wilson (19 points, 5 rebounds), Shane Edwards (17 points, 6 rebounds) and Alex Loughton (9 points).
Tigers coach Chris Anstey understands the importance of grinding out ugly wins if they are going to be playing in the finals.
“It’s not always pretty. The defence breaks down, we take bad shots,” Anstey said.
“But we found a way to win and that’s where our season is, we have to find a way.”
Despite the close finish, Cairns coach Aaron Fearne pointed to the middle of the game as the catalyst for his team’s defeat.
“We lost momentum going into halftime, just lost concentration,” Fearne said.
“Our lead drops to five then they come out and hit a three. They played pretty hard and we just couldn’t match it. Then we tried to cruise through the fourth quarter and squandered our opportunities down the stretch.”
Tension ran high late in the game as Melbourne’s offence momentarily dried up and Cairns hit some clutch shots, including threes from Loughton and Edwards that reclaimed the lead for the visitors.
A left-handed Goulding leaner put the Tigers back up one before Cairns floundered their major opportunity with 25 seconds remaining, losing the ball on a back-court violation.
Melbourne then wrapped up the game at the free-throw line to put further heat on Sydney and Wollongong in the race for third and fourth place.
Melbourne Tigers 67 (Flynn 21, Scott 19, Goulding 10)
Cairns Taipans 64 (Wilson 19, Edwards 17)
Crowd: 3012 at State Netball & Hockey Centre, Melbourne