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R16 Wrap: Snake’s shot of the century

The race towards the semi-finals became tighter as the hot Adelaide 36ers went 2-0 over the week, while New Zealand lost both of their clashes. Meanwhile, Perth made a championship statement and Townsville kept showing signs for the future. But the round belonged to Torrey Craig, whose freak effort on the buzzer will undoubtedly be seen as one of the greatest plays in NBL history. But it wasn’t the only buzzer-beating heave of Round 16. Adelaide 36ers 96 def Sydney Kings 89, Titanium Security Arena We are starting to run out of superlatives for the pint-sized Chicago native. Jerome Randle is still wowing audiences weekly and shows zero signs of slowing down. The 28-year-old stupefied Sydney’s defence on the way to an NBL season-high 41 points on an astonishingly efficient 16-of-21 shooting, as his Adelaide 36ers won their fifth-straight game in a scrap. It was not as straightforward as expected, but the home ground advantage helped the Sixers over the line. Much like their game in Perth last round the Kings played spirited basketball for the first 20 minutes, and this time found themselves up at half time. But the visitors could not sustain their level, as a 10-point lead late in the third quarter eroded once Randle found backup in the form of Ebi Ere (season-high 19 points). Both sides wrestled for the lead until Adelaide went on a quick 8-0 run midway through the fourth quarter and never looked back. Josh Childress led the Kings with 27 points and six rebounds, while Mitch Creek had 15. BOX SCORE Townsville Crocodiles 89 def New Zealand Breakers 66, Townsville Entertainment Centre The Breakers took a further step away from the semi-finals race with a heavy defeat at the hands of Townsville on Thursday. They penetrated New Zealand’s once-solid defence with ease, scoring 48 points in the paint while the Crocs connected on a healthy 40 per cent from downtown, thanks in no small part to sniper Clint Steindl, who posted a game-high 23 points. The rout was on early, as the home side built an 18-point lead thanks to the guidance of Mitch Norton (14 points, six assists). Corey Webster got the margin back to 10 points with three minutes left in the second quarter, but it was the Breakers’ last stand as Townsville stretched it back out to 16 by half time. With the game put to bed at 69-48 at three-quarter time, both sides decided to put on a show. The Jacksons connected early in the fourth and Charles threw down a vicious alley-oop reverse slam, while Omar Samhan (16 points, 12 rebounds) hit twice from downtown and Crocs development player Tom Howard showed his ups with a fastbreak slam as the seconds wound down. BOX SCORE Perth Wildcats 95 def Illawarra Hawks 72, Perth Arena It was a championship statement like no other this season. Illawarra came in as the form team in the competition, but left contemplating what they need to do to match it with a team that will, in all likelihood, meet them on the road to the Promised Land. Imports Jermaine Beal (22 points – 14 in the final quarter) and Man of the Match Casey Prather (20 points, six rebounds) were fantastic, but Nathan Jawai (18 points on 7/10 FGs, five rebounds) was lauded by coach Trevor Gleeson, who said it was “Nate’s best game in a red jersey, without question.” Losers of their past 21 games in Perth, the Hawks actually held a double-digit lead in the second term, but were reined in by Perth’s 18-4 run to finish the half down by just four points. The Cats’ 24-13 third quarter was hammered home by Jarrod Kenny’s three-quarter-court heave on the buzzer, as Beal (four fourth-quarter triples) made sure the home side ran away with it. The fourth term featured a couple of Jawai jams along with an AJ Ogilvy triple, but the highlight of the night belonged to Casey Prather, whose picture-perfect windmill will be on the shortlist for Dunk of the Year. The Hawks – minus Kirk Penney – were led by Oscar Forman’s 17 points. BOX SCORE Adelaide 36ers 90 def Melbourne United 81, Titanium Security Arena Just like that, five post-season contenders have just about become four as Adelaide won their sixth-straight on Friday. The top-of-the-table United were monstered in a 22-9 final quarter after the Sixers kept on their coattails for the better part of three quarters. The Sixers got 26 points and five assists from Jerome Randle, whose quicks and tight handle dumbfounded United defenders, while bigs Daniel Johnson and Anthony Petrie (11 rebounds each) helped their side win the rebound count 44-32. Ebi Ere looks to have hit form at the right time of year, backing up Wednesday’s season-high with 16 points and five rebounds (four offensive). When the chips were down United was powerless to stop Randle, who started the game shooting 1/10 from the field. Randle (10 fourth-quarter points) awoke from his slumber to outscore the entire Melbourne team, in a textbook final quarter that saw just two field goals from the visitors. Adelaide shot just 2/15 from deep, but the game was won on the glass. Todd Blanchfield led United with 15 points. BOX SCORE Cairns Taipans 90 def New Zealand Breakers 87, Cairns Convention Centre ALLEY-OOP TURNAROUND HALF-COURT SLING TO BEAT THE BUZZER… have you ever heard anything like it? This one will be remembered for one thing and one thing only. Not the 10-point final-quarter comeback and not the sixth-straight loss to all but end New Zealand’s season, but Torrey Craig’s once-in-a-lifetime shot to beat the quarter-time buzzer. The Breakers came out firing in this Grand Final rematch, desperate to respond from five-straight losses and get their season rolling again, and led by 11 points in the first quarter before Craig’s miracle three-pointer – which proved to be the difference between both sides after 40 minutes. New Zealand’s offence looked the best it has in a month, and they opened up a 10-point lead after quick threes to Cedric Jackson and Tom Abercrombie early in the fourth term, but Taipans’ trio Craig (nine final-quarter points), Cameron Gliddon (eight), Markel Starks (five) took over the final nine minutes to will home the win in front of their raucous home crowd. Gliddon (23 points) shared game-high honours with Abercrombie, while NZ’s Cedric Jackson had 20 and six assists, and Starks had 19. BOX SCORE Seven games comprise Round 17, with the season’s first Monday game (Taipans at Perth) and a Friday triple header that spans three time zones and over 5,300 kilometres. Following Perth and Cairns on Monday, the Crocs and Kings battle at the Swamp on Wednesday while Illawarra looks to bounce back at home against the Sixers on Thursday. Friday has Townsville visiting New Zealand, immediately followed by Sydney at Cairns, then United in Perth. The round wraps up on Saturday when Adelaide hosts the Hawks for their second matchup in 48 hours.  
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