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GAME REPORT

Sixers Fire in Cruel Blow for the Phoenix

The Adelaide 36ers have delivered a hammer blow to the South East Melbourne Phoenix's playoff hopes with an impressive performance to win 100-92 on Sunday at Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

For a lot of the game on Sunday afternoon, it was the 36ers who looked like the team fighting for their playoff lives and not the Phoenix despite the situations the teams find themselves in with four rounds to go of #NBL22.

Despite being well out of the finals race with six wins for the season coming into the game, the Sixers came out on fire racing to a 21-5 lead. While the Phoenix recovered to lead at half-time, Adelaide came out similarly to start the second half and then maintained the pace.

The Sixers kept rolling and with the game on the line in the fourth, they went on a game-clinching run of 11 consecutive points to take their lead from seven to 18, and to go on and win by eight.

The 36ers outrebounded the Phoenix by 13, had 18 offensive boards for 20 second chance points and also helped keep South East Melbourne to shooting just 8/35 from beyond the arc.

There was plenty to like from the Adelaide performance with 22 points and 10 rebounds to Daniel Johnson, 21 points, five boards and three assists to Sunday Dech, and 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists to Mitch McCarron.

Hyrum Harris took advantage of his first start with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks with Dusty Hannahs contributing 10 points from the bench in just 12 minutes.

Sixers coach CJ Bruton couldn’t have been happier with what his team produced offensively, defensively and in the effort and hustle areas.

"All those things are things that I want to see out of our group every single time we step out onto the floor," Bruton said. 

"It's unfortunate to lose any player and when we lost someone the calibre of Cam Bairstow during the week with his professionalism and elite playing ability, we needed other guys to step up. This guy next to me (Harris) is a guy who every day is one of those guys you want on your team. 

"I've had guys like him on my teams a lot on my career and I know what they bring every single every day, and when they get the opportunity they are willing to talk to the guys, understand the plays and give you all they've got no matter how many minutes it's for."

It's a cruel blow for the Phoenix who had snapped their four-game losing run in Cairns on Friday. But now they have lost five of the last six to be losing touch with fourth spot at 12-10 behind Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Illawarra and Tasmania.

Mitch Creek still put up 27 points and 11 rebounds against the team he was once captain of while Xavier Munford finished with 24 points, three assists and three steals, and Izayah Le'afa 11 points and three boards.

Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell didn’t hold back in his disappointment over his team's performance.

"We got outmanned. We had everything to play for and physically we didn’t get the job done. You watch a kid like Hyrum Harris out there just giving his all and the impact he had on the game, and some of our guys had good numbers, but they're false numbers," Mitchell said.

"It's endeavour, fighting for positions on the floor, fighting for every square inch, fighting to box out and giving up your body and bone on every possession. I thought we failed that test and that's tremendously disappointing."

It was a hot start from a Sixers team playing their first game since last Sunday's loss in Melbourne to United and they came out ready to atone in front of their home fans. 

Sunday Dech set the tone with a couple of early threes with Hyrum Harris scoring too having earned the start. When captain Mitch McCarron converted a three-point play, it was 11-3 for the home team.

Then out of a timeout, Adelaide kept rolling with 10 straight points with Daniel Johnson hitting six of them when Todd Withers coming on to knock down one from deep and suddenly it was a 21-5 lead.

South East Melbourne did respond with 13 of the next 15 points but still the Sixers led 25-18 after one.

Mitch Creek was willing his team back into the contest, though, in the city he started his NBL career and with Cam Gliddon hitting from deep and Xavier Munford aggressive, the Phoenix got back level early in the second term.

A three from Izayah Le'afa and then four quick points to Munford saw them grab the lead too, but the 36ers weren't lying down and it was only a Creek o-board and putback on the buzzer that saw the Phoenix lead 45-44 at the break.

Neither team shot great from long-range in the first combining for 7/33 but Johnson and Creek were having fun battling once more combining for 26 points and 12 rebounds.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first with the 36ers on fire. They came out scoring the opening six points through Johnson, Harris and Dech to take a 50-45 advantage.

Tad Dufelmeier nailed a triple soon after and then two more points to Johnson stretched the lead out to eight once more.

Munford was continuing to keep the Phoenix close but four points to Withers, four to Dusty Hannahs and then four to Nick Marshall ensured Adelaide led 69-63 after three.

If the game was on the line still at three quarter-time, it didn’t stay that way for long. When Johnson connected from beyond the arc the lead for Adelaide was out to seven and then the 36ers put the game to bed in a stunning 11-0 run.

Hannahs started it, McCarron hit a three, Hannahs scored again and then four points from Dech closed it out. That had the 36ers up 18, it soon became 19 and while the Phoenix hit the next eight points, it mattered little with Adelaide going on to win by eight.

The Sixers remain at home now to host the Tasmania JackJumpers on Friday night while the Phoenix head back to Cairns for a return encounter with the Taipans on Saturday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 17

ADELAIDE 36ERS 100 (Johnson 22, Dech 21, Harris 11, McCarron 11)

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 92 (Creek 27, Munford 24, Le'afa 11) 

BOX SCORE

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