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R12 Wrap: Holiday hoops raise the roof

Holiday hoops went off without a hitch, with sold out crowds in Adelaide and Melbourne and the Kings finding strong support at their new home, Sydney Olympic park. In the round’s feature game, Melbourne United revelled in the open air to give their season new life. A few nights earlier, Adelaide dismantled United to stay in the hunt for a semi-finals position, while Corey Webster and the defending Champions kept on keeping on with a 10-point win. Adelaide 36ers 91 def Melbourne United 81, Titanium Security Arena Daniel Johnson and Jerome Randle teamed up to put some pre-Christmas hurt on Melbourne in a tight and tense encounter on Wednesday. Titanium Security Arena hosted its largest crowd since Game Two of the 2013/14 Grand Final series, and the sell-out crowd of 7,641 left home happy as Johnson (21-point, seven-rebound first half) tagged Jerome Randle (17 second-half points) to close the game. Johnson was superb in the first half, hitting all five of his three-point attempts – the first time he has made five threes in a game and the first Sixer this season – while crashing the glass with vigour. Johnson’s 31 and 16 performance became even more special when it was revealed that he is the only player to have landed five threes and grabbed 15 rebounds in the NBL’s 40-minute era. While records were being broken down one end, Melbourne held tough with Hakim Warrick (14 first-half points) and Todd Blanchfield keeping the margin within five by the main break. A 22-9 spurt through the third quarter had the visitors over the hump and in control, but Randle and Johnson answered the call to wrest momentum and go into the last term down just one. That’s when Adelaide’s defence stood up. Holding Melbourne to just 12 fourth-quarter points after 26 in the third, the Sixers rode the hands of Randle and Johnson. Veteran Ebi Ere sunk a dagger triple to have them up seven with under two minutes remaining, and the home side closed it out at the foul line. BOX SCORE New Zealand Breakers 93 def Sydney Kings 83, Sydney Olympic Park The Kings made all the pre-game headlines with the return of Ben Knight and their debut at Sydney Olympic Park, but New Zealand’s Corey Webster made sure his side held the spotlight post-game. Webster exploded for 38 points on 12-of-24 shooting, including 16 in the money quarter as his side kept the hungry Sydney at bay. The NBA hopeful had it working on Sunday afternoon, using solid handle and expert off-ball movement to create enough space to launch his deadly jumpshot. The 27-year-old received typical scoring and rebounding contributions from athletic swingman Thomas Abercrombie (14 points, seven rebounds), along with solid all-court play from point guard Cedric Jackson (four points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals) whose small point total failed to illustrate his large impact on the game. Sydney co-captain Tommy Garlepp also found his shooting stroke to register a team-high 25 points on an efficient 10-15 shooting, backed up by 14s from Jason Cadee and Rhys Carter. Knight went scoreless on 0-3 FGs in his 400th game. The Breakers kept it in second gear for the first 20 minutes as both sides went into the rooms level at 38 apiece. A 10-2 run straight out of the blocks had the home side reeling; Cedric Jackson was picking them apart and it seemed that the only side yet to score 100 points in a game this season was looking for their maiden century. The quarter ended 32-18 in NZ’s favour and while Sydney pegged the margin back to seven points at the 4:09 mark, the Breakers largely had it on cruise control at the old West Sydney Razorbacks gym. BOX SCORE Melbourne United 92 def Perth Wildcats 87, Hisense Arena Sunday evening’s open-air spectacular went off as hoped, with over 10,000 vocal basketball fans selling out Hisense Arena. Exposed to the elements, both the court and crowd glowed in natural light to add another dimension to basketball broadcasting. But it wasn’t just those watching at home who felt the change; the audience was amped from the get-go with the amphitheatre element heightening excitement levels throughout the already-intense clash. Losing seven of their past nine games, Melbourne came out sharp as stretch big man Daniel Kickert opened up a 12-6 lead on a top-of-the-key three. Both sides went back and forth in a high-scoring first term that was capped by Jermaine Beal’s buzzer-beating triple. Going into the second quarter down 27-25, United hit another gear with some of their best basketball in two months to win the term 30-19. Chris Goulding had his swagger back, with 17 at the half and 27 by full time, including the dazzling and downright ridiculous from downtown. Their lead stretched to 11 points on the other side of the break, but Perth’s Casey Prather (24 points, seven rebounds) hit six points on consecutive possessions as the visitors started clamping down. The lead had dissolved to zero by midway through the third on a Jesse Wagstaff three, but Melbourne again kicked it up a notch to lead by five at three-quarter time. Perth found their winning formula by feeding centre Nathan Jawai down low each fourth-quarter possession, but the ‘Cats giant was battling a back complaint throughout the game and could not stay on the court when it mattered, as Melbourne fought for the five-point win. BOX SCORE Festive basketball wraps up with four games in Round 13, as Melbourne tries to keep momentum going after turning over a new leaf in their post-Christmas win over Perth. They face the Kings at Sydney Olympic Park on Wednesday, while North Queensland hosts the two New Year’s Eve games as the Breakers roll into Cairns and the Hawks fly into Townsville. The round wraps up on the second day of the new year when the Taipans travel to meet the Kings.
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