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R10 Report: Starks the hero in game of the season

[ooyala code="VtZXBneToKKLq4H8MGGmDVbt4vbdu7tn" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1920" height="1080" auto="true"] 40 minutes of basketball was not enough for the Cairns Taipans and Illawarra Hawks in Cairns on Friday night. Nor was 45. Finally, in the second overtime period Markel Starks and the Taipans escaped with the 103-101 win in undoubtedly the best game of the 2015/16 NBL season. Cairns fans were treated with the first overtime game of the season, which came as the home side inexplicably dropped an 18-point lead with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter. Rhys Martin (16 points) and Kevin Lisch (30) poured in eight and seven fourth-quarter points respectively to bring it back within five points with 1:39 remaining. From there the perimeter duo each scored to even it up at 80-80, as Lisch missed the game-winner from the corner. Jarrad Weeks took the Hawks’ lead out to four with 1:33 left in the first overtime period, but Taipans captain Cameron Gliddon landed a top-of-the-key three with 14 seconds to even it up at 89-89. Again the Hawks failed to win the game as Coenraad’s rushed baseline jumper bounced over the backboard. Enter Starks. With eight points – all deep in the paint – in OT2, Starks cut open the Hawks’ defence time after time on the back of defensive stops from Mark Worthington. Down 101-93 with 46 seconds remaining, the Hawks’ last hurrah came when Lisch recovered a Taipans turnover, kicking to Weeks on the wing for three. But Gliddon put the game on ice at the foul line in the final seconds. Cairns coach Aaron Fearne did not look back on the blockbuster fondly, feeling disappointed after dropping such a big lead. “A little frustrated and disappointed for the guys probably,” he said. “I wanted them to come out and establish a level of real energy and effort and physicality, and for three quarters we were sensational. “We play basketball like that consistently then we will win a lot more games. And then just to let that go, that’s why I’m disappointed for them.” Both sides came out clearly aware of their respective ladder positions – Cairns fighting for their season while Illawarra looking to gap Adelaide in fourth position. Veteran Hawk Oscar Forman passed the 4000-point mark with a wing triple in the first minute, but counterpart Alex Loughton displayed shades of 2008 on Friday as the 32-year-old posted nine points and five rebounds to quarter time. While Loughton owned the first term, quicksilver guard Starks went straight silly in the second. Starks (0-3 FG) was scoreless in the first before piling on 19 on 6/7 FGs. From slicing down the lane to sizing up and splashing from deep, Starks did it all to set up a 53-40 half-time lead as Cairns won the first-half paint battle 32-8. The third term (17-13) was a grind, and veteran Snake Mark Worthington ensured Cairns came out of the break the more desperate side. After early accolades, Forman fouled out midway through the third term with just three points to his name. The game looked over with Cairns in cruise control, up 18 points at the 8:31 mark of the final quarter, but in true NBL fashion this season, the Hawks made a run. The 18-point gap became 11 on an Ogilvy three-point play, which became just five after more Lisch and Martin magic. But the basketball gods were with Cairns on this night as the Snakes live to fight another day. “It was a lesson for our players; the first half we were totally dominated in all facets. That wasn’t the Illawarra Hawks basketball we’ve been playing,” Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said post-game. “We are so far from locking in a playoff position and maybe our players got ahead of ourseves after the game thinking that, so it was a good reality check for us.” Meanwhile, Hawks star Kirk Penney will be monitored after leaving the game early in the second half with back spasms. Illawarra (now 8-7) walk away from the split four-game series with a +16 points differential. They are home to Sydney next Friday, while Cairns (6-9) stay home to face Perth on Thursday.   CAIRNS TAIPANS 103 (Starks 33, Gliddon 19, Loughton 17) ILLAWARRA HAWKS 101 (Lisch 30, Martin 16, Coenraad 15, Ogilvy 15) BOX SCORE
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