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R17 Wrap: Randle takes a spill, Craig continues to thrill

In a split second the 2015/16 season was flipped on its head. A potentially serious knee injury for MVP favourite Jerome Randle on Saturday had Adelaide fans biting their collective fingernails, while scans earlier this afternoon revealed that he will not require surgery but has strained ligaments on the outside of his knee that will sideline him for 2-3 weeks.  Meanwhile, the Sixers kept rolling in Randle’s absence and Melbourne United snatched a top-of-the-table overtime classic at the Jungle. Sydney’s wooden spoon fate is sealed two weeks out from the conclusion of the regular season, and New Zealand scraped home to snap a six-game skid to remain a slight chance of post-season action. Perth Wildcats 84 def Cairns Taipans 74 Travelling across the country to face a top two side in the League’s most hostile environment was always going to be a tall order for the Taipans after playing just two days earlier. Showing their typical fight, the visitors jumped out of the blocks and went toe-to-toe with the League heavyweights to remain in the contest until early in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell short. After holding a 10-6 lead the Taipans found themselves on the wrong end of an 8-0 run, surrendering a lead they would never get back. Nathan Jawai and Damian Martin helped the Cats establish a double-digit lead through the middle of the second quarter, but the Snakes snapped into action with an 11-0 run to trail by just two at half-time. Perth answered the call with their usual third-quarter domination to have Cairns reeling, and then they were in cruise control for the remainder of the night. Jermaine Beal (15 points, six assists) led the Cats, while Matt Knight posted an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double. Cameron Gliddon had 16 for Cairns and Markel Starks netted 15. BOX SCORE   Townsville Crocodiles 96 def Sydney Kings 88, Townsville Entertainment Centre The Crocs landed the final blow in Sydney’s dismal season in Townsville on Wednesday, guaranteeing the Kings – which were highly-touted in the pre-season – a wooden spoon. It was a tight affair throughout the 40 minutes, with the double digit lead held by Sydney at 20-10 in the first quarter. Jordair Jett (team-high 24 points, six assists) championed the comeback to have the home side back within one by quarter time. Neither side held a lead of more than two points in the second quarter as both went bucket-for-bucket until Omar Samhan’s three took the Crocs’ lead to a half dozen midway through the third term. Both sides jockeyed for position throughout the remainder of the game until Samhan buried it with another triple in the final minute. Samhan was a beast on the boards, with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Clint Steindl, Nick Kay and Corey Maynard all scored double figures. Josh Childress (27 points and nine rebounds) and Jason Cadee paced the Kings. BOX SCORE   Illawarra Hawks 104 def Adelaide 36ers 97, Win Entertainment Centre Illawarra responded from their thumping in Perth the week prior to account for the white-hot Adelaide 36ers on Thursday. Still without Kirk Penney (hamstring), the Hawks got winning contributions from superstars Kevin Lisch (27 points, seven rebounds) and AJ Ogilvy (21 points, nine rebounds). The seven-point win was Illawarra’s 11th in their last 14 games, and stopped Adelaide’s win streak at six. The visitors, led by Jerome Randle (28 points and six assists) and Ebi Ere (season-high 23 points) hung tough for the entire 40 minutes, but Lisch and Ogilvy made the bigger plays in crunch time. Illawarra had built a 10-point lead just 3:30 into the first quarter before Randle, Ere and Daniel Johnson (12 points, seven boards) dragged it all the way back to lead 34-33 halfway through the second quarter. Scoring swings saw both sides take leads, but Illawarra maintained composure (winning the turnover count 17-11) when it mattered. BOX SCORE   New Zealand Breakers 77 def Townsville Crocodiles 74, Vector Arena The Breakers ended their six-game losing run with a scrappy win over an in-form Townsville side. After leading by eight, New Zealand forfeited the advantage when Clint Steindl connected on a triple just before three-quarter time. The Breakers took off with a 12-0 run in the fourth term thanks to Cedric Jackson and Corey Webster, before the visitors mounted a miraculous 7-0 run which included consecutive missed free throws to Webster, before Thomas Abercrombie (team-high 22 points and 11 rebounds) iced it at the foul line. Charles Jackson crashed the glass with a vengeance on the way to 18 and 15 off the bench, while Cedric Jackson had 15, five rebounds and four assists. Jordair Jett (18 points and seven rebounds) top-scored for Townsville despite an inefficient shooting night (23 shots), Steindl had 17 and Nick Kay had a strong 13-and-12 double-double. BOX SCORE   Cairns Taipans 81 def Sydney Kings 76, Cairns Convention Centre It was the win they needed to keep their season alive and Cairns got the job done in the middle game of Friday’s triple header. Fresh off a breathtaking half-court shot that made #1 on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 Plays, Torrey Craig (20 points, five rebounds) was near his best against the Kings. The South Carolina product threw down a couple of monster dunks in the process – including a strong left-handed and-one over Jordan Vandenberg – and drained a long three in the clutch to seal the win. Cameron Tragardh (18 points on 7-10 FGs) had by far his best game of the season and Markel Starks steered the ship with 10 point and seven assists). Despite their position as cellar-dwellers the Kings showed plenty of fight throughout the 40 minutes, but ultimately an inability to get crunch-time stops cost them as Cairns made six of their final seven field goal attempts. Sydney’s Jason Cadee posted a game-high 21 points, while Tom Garlepp had 16 and Josh Childress 14. BOX SCORE   Melbourne United 91 def Perth Wildcats 85, Perth Arena Four quarters were not enough for these two as United consolidated top spot on the NBL ladder three games out from the play-offs. Melbourne point guard Stephen Holt stepped up with a season-high 33 points (including seven three-pointers), but Todd Blanchfield landed the final blow with a triple in the last 20 seconds of overtime. Holt quietened the League’s loudest arena with five triples in the first quarter alone but the home side was hanging tough, down five after one. Both sides went blow for blow in the second until Perth’s 12-5 run to end the half. The Cats looked poised to go on with the job after Prather opened the second half with a jam, but Holt hit back immediately with two quick threes as part of a 16-5 run headed by Blanchfield and Holt. Hakim Warrick made his impact known, with seven-straight United points to open the last term. United looked home up eight points with 3:18 remaining, but managed just two the rest of the way as Perth’s to imports sparked the comeback. But Chris Goulding (11 points on 3/14 FGs) hit a three to open the extra period and Melbourne never looked back. BOX SCORE   Adelaide 36ers 104 def Illawarra Hawks 90, Titanium Security Arena Jerome Randle made all of the headlines in the wake of his side’s redemption win, but for the wrong reasons. The MVP favourite and League-leading scorer collided with fellow MVP contender AJ Ogilvy just over two minutes into the second half and crashed to the floor clutching his left knee. Randle would not return to the game but it did not affect the home side as veteran Ebi Ere (season-high 28 points on 6/10 three-pointers) took the reins and put on a show. Up 60-56 at the time of Randle’s injury the Sixers seemed to adjust instantly, stretching the lead to seven points, before Illawarra upped the ante with an efficient two-minute period of four consecutive field goals and 4/4 from the foul line to retake the lead. That’s when Johnson (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Ere stepped in. The pair had 19 of Adelaide’s 30 final-quarter points but they were only two parts of a devastating machine that bombarded the visitors with a 21-2 fourth-quarter run. A stunning 16 points in just two and a half minutes made sure it became a hatchet job, as the Sixers ran out 14-point winners. Mitch Creek chipped in 15 points and nine boards as the home side went +16 on the glass. Kevin Lisch had 24 points and Tim Coenraad 17. BOX SCORE Five games in six days make up Round 18, kicking off with the Breakers’ do-or-die matchup in Adelaide on Wednesday. Illawarra hosts Melbourne on Thursday, followed by a Taipans-Sixers (in Cairns) and Perth-Kings (in Perth) double on Friday. The Hawks host Townsville on Saturday, and New Zealand are back at home to Cairns on Sunday.
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