The Cairns Taipans recorded their first win at home since Round 1 with a 76-66 win over the in-form Wollongong Hawks on Sunday. It snapped a four-game losing streak at the Cairns Convention Centre, a place they had made a fortress in recent years. The win was extra special for Aaron Grabau and Dusty Rychart, who celebrated their 400th and 300th career games. The Snakes shared the load, with Jamar Wilson (11 points), Cam Tragardh, Brad Hill and Grabau (10) leading the way.
Coach Aaron Fearne revealed he had punished the side with a torrid week of training to get them mentally tougher. "The guys had a tough week, they would have been pretty tired going into this. But we gotta go there 'cause we have to develop a mental toughness and that paid off against the in-form team," he said. "We probably played our longest patch of consistent basketball." Wollongong star Adris Deleon was kept to just six points while Glen Saville (15 points) and Rhys Martin (15 points, 7 assists) led their scoring. The Taipans shot at nearly 60 per cent for the first three quarters. The victory was set up in the second and third quarter, with the Snakes shooting ten three-pointers at nearly 60 per cent and dominating the boards 42-24. Cam Gliddon started it, nailing three in quick succession to establish a small lead, before Shane Edwards, Alex Loughton and finally development player Shaun Bruce followed his lead. Bruce’s second triple came on the three-quarter-time buzzer and helped the hosts to an 18-point buffer at the final break.
"We were letting the wrong guys shoot, like Steindl and Gliddon. But then Hill and Bruce started making them too. They were hot tonight," Martin said. All that damage was done despite Martin's clever elusiveness around the hoop and Hurdle good form from long range.
The Taipans' intent was clear to see from the get go, with exciting rookie Clint Steindl latching on to a tip-in jam and Edwards tucking in a massive jam.
Celebrating his 400th career game, Grabau started well with a three-pointer and sweet fade-away to get the crowd involved. Some crucial rebounds down the stretch were also telling, as the Cairns favourite showed he was not slowing down. It was Oscar Forman who made the early running for the visitors, knocking down eight first-quarter points.
From there the Taipans were always in control, and while Hurdle picked Hill’s pocket to reduce the deficit to three midway through the third, Cairns kicked it up a gear to secure victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Hawks coach Gordie McLeod paid tribute Grabau, who made a massive impact despite playing just 12 minutes. "He has evolved and you just admire his love for the game, they are the kind of guys you go to war with," he said. McLeod added that his side would return to Wollongong to "lick their wounds". "We'll have our tail between our legs," he said. "We were expecting a tough one and they outplayed us in every aspect." Cairns Taipans 76 (Wilson 11, Grabau, Tragardh, Hill 10)
Wollongong Hawks 66 (Saville 15, Martin 15) Crowd: 3754 at the Cairns Convention Centre