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JackJumpers Catch Fire to Keep Dream Alive

The fairytale story of the Tasmania JackJumpers is not over after they overcame a 15-point deficit to shoot their way to an 84-80 victory against the South East Melbourne Phoenix to keep their NBL finals dream alive.

A win for the Perth Wildcats on Saturday night meant the JackJumpers needed to keep winning to remain any prospects of reaching the finals in their inaugural NBL season, and the Phoenix weren’t in a giving mood at John Cain Arena on Sunday.

Frustrated at being out of the finals hunt themselves, South East Melbourne came out motivated for a big performance and just before half-time they found themselves with a 15-point lead with Mitch Creek and Xavier Munford starring, and Cam Gliddon hitting a couple of big threes.

The JackJumpers struggled on the glass and shooting the three ball in the first half, but a Jarrad Weeks buzzer-beater gave them some hope going into half-time, and they picked that momentum up in the second half.

Josh Magette, Jack McVeigh and Josh Adams all hit huge threes to eliminate that deficit to put the JackJumpers in front, and then down the stretch huge triples from Adams and Magette, and then a stunning block from Adams on Creek sealed the four-point win.

The result improves the JackJumpers to 16-11 on the season with a home game with Melbourne United to come next Saturday as they try and chase down either the 17-9 Illawarra Hawks or 16-10 Perth Wildcats.

It was a career-best night for McVeigh who put up 26 points and nine rebounds for Tasmania including 4/9 from downtown. Adams added 23 points with 5/10 from deep and Magette 12 points and four assists.

JackJumpers coach Scott Roth couldn’t hide his emotion with how proud he was of his team afterwards.

"I'm just proud. These guys have been incredible and it's emotional for me to see the way we've invested in each other. They're an amazing group," Roth said.

"We were obviously a little bit out of character giving up 48 points in the first half so I challenged these guys at half-time to clean up a few areas. We've only really been embarrassed one time by Illawarra so I reminded them that we're on track to lay another egg here, no pun intended over Easter.

"We were on track to not do very well and these guys just responded to a little bit of a pep talk and their character, their fight and their grit was amazing. The defensive effort in the second half was fantastic."

Creek finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and three assists for South East Melbourne with Munford adding 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, and Izayah Le'afa 11 points, five boards, three assists and three steals.

Creek was frustrated afterwards about letting another opportunity to win slip away.

"It wasn’t amazing, not closing out games again and the third quarter was ****house. We didn’t box out, gave them easy second chance threes repeatedly," Creek said.

"We had zero o-boards in the first quarter, three in the second which is reasonable for how effective they've been and then in the third and fourth we gave up 11 of them. 

"That probably resulted in 15 or 20 points and that's where we lost it. It's frustrating when you play such a well-rounded game against such a well-oiled machine such as the JackJumpers, and with all respect to them they made big plays when they needed to."

Little separated the two teams for much of the opening quarter and that was reflected on the scoreboard with it all locked away at 19-apiece at quarter-time.

South East Melbourne pulled away to start the second quarter with the opening seven points through Mitch Creek and Xavier Munford. A run of five points from Izayah Le'afa soon had the Phoenix up eight, and just before Cam Gliddon drained a three to make it 15.

The Phoenix had all the momentum on the back of a combined 27 points from Creek and Munford while pulling in 26 rebounds to 13 including 11 at the offensive end to three to lead 48-36 at the half despite a Jarrad Weeks buzzer-beater for the JackJumpers.

Tasmania needed to dig deep and they kept shooting the three ball and were rewarded to open the second half with two quick ones from Jack McVeigh and Josh Magette. 

By the time Josh Adams nailed two of his own from deep and McVeigh nailed another, suddenly Tasmania had turned that 12-point deficit at half-time into a three-point lead.

McVeigh's career-best night continued to extend Tasmania's lead with a three-point play and the JackJumpers clung to a 68-66 edge after three.

The Phoenix regained the lead courtesy of a Gliddon triple to start the fourth but JackJumpers captain Clint Steindl responded in kind. McVeigh hit another to put Tasmania back on top before import guards Adams and Magette hit one each from downtown on back-to-back possessions.

There were some dramatic moments late, but ultimately buckets to MiKyle McIntosh and Magette, and then a block from Adams on Creek sealed the deal for the JackJumpers.

The JackJumpers now finish their season at home to Melbourne United on Saturday while the Phoenix are back home to Adelaide on Friday night and then finish in Perth on Sunday against the Wildcats.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 20

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 80 (Creek 27, Munford 17, Le'afa 11)

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 84 (McVeigh 26, Adams 23, Magette 12) 

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