One of the greatest shots ever seen in the NBL was the highlight of a thrilling grand final rematch at the Cairns Convention Centre last night; where the Cairns Taipans snatched a crucial 90-87 come-from-behind win over the embattled New Zealand Breakers.
Desperate not to leave North Queensland with their sixth straight loss, the Breakers led 10-2 early, whilst the Taipans struggled to initiate offence with 1-of-10 shooting to start the game.
Strong inside play from Alex Pledger and sharp shooting from Cedric Jackson saw them combine for 13 points, and it appeared the Breakers had a 22-11 lead at the end of the first.
But the visitors were deemed to have committed a shot clock violation, and Torrey Craig made the most of the Taipans’ do-over – sinking a spectacular half-court heave to make it 22-14 on the buzzer and ignite the crowd.
Craig’s catch of the ball, with a twist and release before landing with only 0.8 seconds remaining, could be the fastest full length basket ever made.
“I knew we only had 0.8 seconds left. I just thought I’d give it a try and heave it – there is no way I ever thought it would bank,” said Craig post-game.
“But, as soon as it left my hand, I was like ‘Oh, this might just have a chance!’
“As soon as it went in, I just started laughing…”
The Taipans forward is just in his second professional year, but knows the trick shot will be a stand out in his career.
“I’ve hit half-court before – but never in the same fashion. Not by jumping and turning in the air and throwing it. It was definitely a first,” he confessed.
The special moment jolted the Taipans into action after the first break, and spurred them onto a 32-point second quarter as the home side found their rhythm and clawed back within three at the main break.
Cairns Taipans captain Cam Gliddon was quick to praise his team mate on the half-court hail mary, and the impact it had on the rest of the game.
“It was pretty freakish. We didn’t score too well in the first quarter so to get a bonus three points, for the morale to pick up and for the crowd to get into it was helpful in the second quarter,” said Gliddon.
“That bucket relaxed us. When you get in the game, you can lose your mind a little bit – get too involved with the refereeing or the things that aren’t going right.
“So when something like that happens, it refreshes the mind and gets you back on track.”
The third quarter was a scrappier affair, with Breaker Charles Jackson hammering a dunk in the final minute to take their lead to four heading into the final quarter.
But when Cedric Jackson was benched with four fouls and just five minutes remaining, the Taipans surged in his absence with a 24-11 run home.
Despite Jackson’s steady hand when he returned to the court including his fourth three of the night, he soon fouled out and Craig proved the match winner by landing two clutch free throws to get the Taipans ahead.
Gliddon finished the game with 23 points to earn Ladbrokes Player of the Game, but said Craig’s plays were key in the victory.
“We’ve talked to him a lot this year about being focused in the clutch, especially on defence. He made some huge plays tonight – he played really well. I’m very proud of him.”