By Murray Wenzel, Pagemasters
Jamar Wilson provided the early steam before his American teammate Shane Edwards tore the roof off the Cairns Convention Centre with a remarkable final quarter to give the Taipans a much-needed 85-71 win against the Melbourne Tigers on Friday night.
Wilson had 19 points before he was rested on his fourth foul with the game still in the balance in the final quarter.
But enter Edwards, who strung together some of the most entertaining play the Cairns club has seen in years.
A left-handed tip in jam gave them an eight-point lead to equal their biggest margin of the night, but that was just the beginning.
It was the first of a quick 11 points from the import, who raised the roof with another massive jam and smooth jumper to extend the lead to 12.
Still not happy, and obviously still hot despite the time-out, Edwards then drained a three from the corner to complete a dream 90 seconds for the Snakes.
And just when the crowd thought they had seen it all, he muscled to the rim for another massive dunk to seal the win with two minutes left on the clock.
It was a game not short of highlights and Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said they did their best to exploit them.
"I am (a believer in key points). I think one play can turn a game. One big three, a missed shot, a stop," he said.
"The momentum can turn very quickly. Shane had some big plays, then knocked down that big three from the corner and good for him.
"Inspired plays inspire the team, the player, the crowd and we had a few of them tonight."
While Tigers stars Jonny Flynn (14 points), Chris Goulding (15 points) and Seth Scott (13) had kept the Tigers within range all night, they had no answer to Edwards’ onslaught.
The Taipans had committed just three turnovers heading into the final break, led by their guard Wilson who won his much-hyped battle with Flynn with some amazing drives to the basket.
"Jamar kicked our asses tonight," Tigers coach Chris Anstey said.
"He kept it ticking over at a high rate and his energy was contagious with the rest of the group and they started rolling."
But the lead was just four in the final term, and should have been two when Lucas Walker attacked the hoop.
His spectacular dunk attempt fell out, and Cameron Tragardh (18 points) made his mid-ranger to give the Taipans some breathing room before Edwards stole the show.
"Hanging around isn't enough. Our effort was poor all night. It felt like we were losing when we were right in that ball game," Anstey said, describing his team's energy as not "at an NBL level".
For the Taipans it was the win they needed to keep their finals hopes alive despite starting the round at the bottom of the ladder.
Cairns Taipans 85 (Wilson 19, Tragardh 18, Edwards 13)
Melbourne Tigers 71 (Goulding 15, Flynn 14, Scott 13)
Crowd: 4059 at the Cairns Convention Centre