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GAME REPORT

Phoenix Shake Off Cobwebs to Down JackJumpers

The NBL’s two youngest franchises faced off for the very first time, and it was the South East Melbourne Phoenix shaking off a slow start to draw first blood against the Tasmania JackJumpers at MyState Bank Area with a 76-63 win. 

The Phoenix played their first game in 28 days last Saturday and struggled against the Brisbane Bullets, and they started slowly against a JackJumpers team on Sunday as well who were playing their first game since New Year's Day.

South East Melbourne took some time finding their footing in their first ever game against the JackJumpers, conceding five turnovers in the opening five minutes to the glee of the MyState Bank Arena crowd in Hobart, with the home team piling on a 12-0 run early. 

But when it all clicked into place for the Phoenix, Simon Mitchell’s men showed why they are a bona fide NBL Championship contender.

They rode terrific second-half displays from Chinese superstar Zhou Qi (18 points in only 19 minutes) and MVP aspirant Mitch Creek (who top-scored with 19 and was dominant on defence) to a comfortable win. 

With this 76-63 victory, the Phoenix improved to 4-2 on the season. 

Most of the damage for the Phoenix was done in a 32-15 third quarter, where South East Melbourne appeared to respond to a stern half-time address (after trailing 38-35) from Mitchell that energised their defence. 

Such is the way with this Phoenix team when they get that going, their offence flows from there. 

There is no better example of that in the performance of Ryan Broekhoff, whose 11 rebounds dwarfed his season average of four, which counter-balanced a quiet shooting display (four points, 2/7 from the field) by his standards. 

For the Phoenix, it was Qi who frustrated the JackJumpers inside, and routinely found his way to the free-throw line (where he converted 8/9).

After being hit by foul trouble early, playing only six minutes in the first half, Qi had 16 of his 18 points in the second half to dominate his match up with fellow former NBA big Will Magnay.

Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell was happy to get a win, but knows there's still plenty of growth needed from his group.

"I'm comfortable with the roster, but I'm not comfortable with where we're at. We've got a few issues to navigate and form to find. It was positive to get the win," Mitchell said.

"I think having fitness levels to get up and down the floor are really important. You may have noticed against Brisbane we didn't look to enthusiastic or dynamic. 

"We haven't been great on the boards this season. I thought Brandon was fantastic when he did come in. He was fantastic on the glass."

However, with five blocks and a highlight reel alley-oop in the third quarter for Magnay, we saw some of the talent the one-time New Orleans Pelican possesses. Magnay also added 10 points and eight rebounds. 

JackJumpers’ captain Clint Steindl led from the front. He was deadly from three-point range (nailing 4/9) on his way to a team-high 16 points. On the other hand, JackJumpers guard Josh Adams (four points) was unusually inaccurate, making only 2/14 field-goal attempts (14 per cent). 

Adams’ fellow import Josh Maggette (nine points) was a little better (3/13), but Scott Roth will stress to his side that they’ll struggle to win with shooting like that. 

JackJumpers coach Scott Roth took positives from the game that was their first since January 1.

"I mentioned in the locker room after the game, 20 days off regardless of what is happening is 20 days off. I thought we handled ourselves very well early on," Roth said.

"The third quarter was not good but I don't want to blame anything on COVID. We've been off 20-something days... this has nothing to do with COVID at the end of the day. 

"We did some really good things. For me, I don't get caught up in the wins and losses. We're very competitive and we want to win. For me it is about going through the process of building this roster and competing. Obviously our offence is lagging, but the ball has to go in. Our defence has to be consistent."

As far as new faces go, Brandon Ashley debuted for the South East Melbourne, filling what has been a troublesome second import spot on their roster. 

The Oakland-born power forward has some experience in the NBL, having played for the New Zealand Breakers in 2019/2020. He came off the bench to score two points and pull in an impressive 10 rebounds, five of those on the offensive end. 

The Phoenix now have a short turnaround to taking on the Cairns Taipans in Traralgon on Tuesday while the JackJumpers are at home to the Adelaide 36ers on Friday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 8

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 63 (Steindl 16, Magnay 10, Magette 9, McIntosh 9)

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 76 (Creek 19, Zhou Qi 18, Adnam 13) 

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