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R12 Report: Goulding fires, Melbourne win open-air classic

[ooyala code="pzOXVxeTq0acm6kkuCGPfUAphO1_O0O7" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1920" height="1080" auto="true"] Melbourne United have dug deep to hold on for a thrilling 92-87 victory over the Perth Wildcats in an open-air epic at Hisense Arena on Sunday evening. On a beautiful evening for basketball, with the roof open for the first time, a sold-out Melbourne crowd were treated to a ripping contest as momentum ebbed and flowed throughout the match. It was Chris Goulding who proved the hero, the Melbourne guard firing home six booming three-pointers on his way to 27 points and Player of the Match honours. Goulding almost turned villain though, midway through the last quarter when Melbourne led by two points, as he was stripped of possession by Casey Prather the backcourt, with Prather giving the visitors a lead from the foul line. Yet Goulding showed serious grit in the next play with a swooping move to the rim to put his side ahead once more with 4.41 left on the clock, and Melbourne were not headed from there on. “Overall, we brought the juice tonight,” declared Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos after the much-needed win. “These guys flipped the switch and turned the page on those plays, just like Chris (Goulding) did when he got that turnover late.” There was still time for some late drama as Prather – who finished with 24 points – dunked to make it a one-point game with 12.3 seconds remaining. But a reaching foul from Damian Martin saw Stephen Holt ease the tension from the free-throw line as Melbourne held on. Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson refused to comment on the incident. “I could but Santa might take some money off me,” he said.  “I think there was a number of them out there but look that’s not why we lost the game. “In the first half we gave them plenty of points. You don’t play defence, they get their eye in and they’re very hard to stop once they’ve got their tail up.” In a thrilling opening, Goulding ignited Melbourne in the first quarter with 11 points. His efforts helped the hosts out to an 18-12 lead, but the Wildcats soon reeled them in, Shawn Redhage and Jermaine Beal nailing three-pointers in the quarter’s dramatic last 10 seconds to give Perth a 27-25 lead. Scoring dried up in second quarter as Perth forced Melbourne into low-percentage, long-range shots. But when Nathan Jawai – struggling with back issues – missed twice from the free-throw line, Melbourne upped the ante and took advantage of some sloppy Perth defence to fire off a 17-8 run and lead 55-46 at half time. The advantage was out to 11 early in the third before Prather stepped in, scoring seven points as the Wildcats went on a 15-4 run to level scores again midway through the term. But as was the case throughout the night, the Wildcats just couldn’t maintain momentum as Melbourne finished the quarter with a five-point lead. Melbourne (now 12-7) will look for a second straight win when they face Sydney on the road on December 30, while the Perth Wildcats (13-7) will enjoy a much-needed break before heading to Cairns to face the Taipans on January 6.   MELBOURNE UNITED 92 (Goulding 27, Warrick 16, Holt 16) PERTH WILDCATS 87 (Prather 24, Knight 19, Jawai 15) BOX SCORE  
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