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R13 Report: Kickert perfection shoots Melbourne to victory

A breathtaking shooting performance by forward Daniel Kickert sparked Melbourne United to a 100-90 triumph over the Sydney Kings on Wednesday night at Sydney Olympic Park. Kickert put together a game he won’t forget in a hurry, finding the bottom of the net on all 10 of his field goal attempts and three free throws for a team-high 26 points. Melbourne kept hold of third spot with their 13th win of the season, moving a step closer to a top four finish and ensuring they soar into 2016 on a winning note. “These guys have a commitment to each other and they come to work every day,” Melbourne coach Dean Demopolous said post-game. “You don’t always see the fruits of your labour, so it’s good to get a reward and I’m happy for them.” Sydney were down by two at half time before allowing Melbourne backcourt ace Chris Goulding to take over in the third quarter and falling behind by double digits. Melbourne spoiled the return of Kings import Josh Childress, who tallied a game-high 27 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Childress missed the previous five games with a broken hand and was making just his third appearance of the season after enduring a wretched run of bad luck with injuries. He showed he was over his latest setback with a thunderous dunk, three blocked shots and three-pointer in the opening minutes. Sydney forward Tom Garlepp drained back-to-back threes, but Goulding and Kickert hit a collective seven of eight shots and the visitors dominated the glass (11-4) to grab a 28-23 quarter-time lead. Sydney centre Angus Brandt found space underneath for some easy buckets in the second quarter, sparking a promising 12-5 run. But Melbourne regained the momentum on the back of Kickert’s impeccable shooting display and took a 54-52 lead into halftime. Kickert had 20 points, making all eight of his shots, including 3/3 from downtown. Goulding went scoreless in the second period, while Garlepp led the Kings with 14 in the first half and Brandt and Childress had 12 apiece. Goulding cut loose for seven quick points in the third period, prompting Kings coach Joe Connelly to burn a timeout with his team trailing by nine. Childress connected on a pair of long bombs and Garlepp upped his total to 21, but the Kings couldn’t subdue a steely-eyed Goulding, who poured in 12 points in the period to push Melbourne’s lead up 82-72 with a quarter to play. Melbourne went on with the job in the fourth period, avenging a shock 96-81 home loss to Sydney two weeks ago. “I’m thankful I didn’t get injured tonight,” Childress joked afterward. “It was great. It felt like I hadn’t played in five years, so I came out a little anxious and nervous. It felt good to play and compete and hopefully I can stay the course for the rest of the year.” The last-placed Kings (4-15) are back on their home court – their third game in six days – on Saturday night against Cairns, while Melbourne have a full week to prepare for a January 7 home meeting with surging Illawarra. MELBOURNE UNITED 100 (Kickert 26, Warrick 21, Goulding 19) SYDNEY KINGS 90 (Childress 27, Garlepp 22, Brandt 15) BOX SCORE
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