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R13 Report: Crunch-time Kings hold off Taipans

Resilience in crunch time has not been the Sydney Kings’ strongest trait this season, but they showed no signs of buckling under pressure in Saturday night’s hard-earned 87-77 victory over the Cairns Taipans at Sydney Olympic Park. Playing their third game in six days, last-placed Sydney’s win was just their fifth in 2015-16 and the second for Joe Connelly after taking over from former coach Damian Cotter six weeks ago. Sydney star Josh Childress had 21 points in his second game back from injury, along with guard Jason Cadee, while Marcus Thornton and Tom Garlepp added 10 points apiece. Torrey Craig and Shaun Brice led Cairns with 17 each. The Kings cannot make the playoffs, but they all but ended the Taipans’ hopes. Minus injured starters Stephen Weigh and Markel Starks, Cairns were coming off an impressive New Year’s Eve home win over New Zealand but couldn’t make it a perfect Round 13. “They showed so much character, everyone contributed and our defence got us the win,” Sydney coach Joe Connelly said of his team. “Poise was the difference for us in the fourth quarter tonight,’’ Garlepp added. The Taipans were at their harassing best defensively in the opening minutes, limiting the Kings to one shot per possession and scratching out a 20-14 quarter-time lead. Sydney chipped away to pull within a point in the second quarter before stunning the visitors with 12 unanswered points. Childress was prominent during the Kings’ run, while Cadee was causing problems with his mastery of the high on-ball screen. Sydney didn’t score over the final 2:29 of the second period and the Taipans fought back to trail 35-33 at half time. Both teams continued to do their best work at the defensive end in the third quarter and open looks at the basket were rare. The Kings pushed the lead back up to nine on Cadee’s three before Gliddon’s pair of free throws cut the deficit to 56-49 at three-quarter time. The underrated Bruce single-handedly kept his side in the contest by scoring their first 11 points of the final period. But the Kings responded again to be up by eight with 5:22 to play. Nothing summed up their determination more than Angus Brandt’s powerful tip-jam off Cadee’s missed three-pointer. The Taipans got the margin down to four but the Kings held their nerve in the final two minutes. Sydney’s record stands at 5-15, while Cairns slipped to 8-10. “Fatigue was a factor and we were shorthanded again. We fought hard and I was really proud of the guys,” Cairns coach Aaron Fearne said. “The effort was fantastic but we had some mental fatigue errors down the stretch.” The Taipans are on their home court twice in Round 14, taking on Perth on Wednesday night and North Queensland rivals Townsville on Friday night. Sydney host Illawarra next Saturday - their penultimate home game of the season.   SYDNEY KINGS 87 (Cadee 21, Childress 21, Garlepp 10) CAIRNS TAIPANS 77 (Craig 17, Bruce 17, Gliddon 13) BOX SCORE
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