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GAME REPORT

Zhou Qi Leads Phoenix to Dramatic Throwdown Victory

It had all the drama and spice you'd hope from a Throwdown return to a packed John Cain Arena, and this time the South East Melbourne Phoenix withstood a Melbourne United fightback for the 94-86 win on Sunday.

The last time the teams met it might not have been in front of a crowd in Sydney, but it was with a Grand Final spot on the line with the Phoenix opening up a 17-point first half lead before being overcome by United who would go on to win the championship.

It was a similar story on Sunday in front of 6361 fans at John Cain Arena. The Phoenix dominated the early stages racing to a 27-12 quarter-time edge and leading by as much as 18.

But once again, United fought back inspired by Matthew Dellavedova and Jo Lual-Acuil and even took the lead early in the fourth term. However, the Phoenix responded led by Zhou Qi's inside presence at both ends with a 14-0 run to set up the eventual eight-point win.

That only tells part of the story of a dramatic and tense Sunday afternoon. Things spilled over late in the third quarter when Mitch Creek threw down the most spectacular of dunks in transition over Boomers teammate Dellavedova with his right hand.

He flexed over a fallen Dellavedova afterwards drawing the ire of Mason Peatling who came in and gave Creek a bump to fall him. Chaos briefly ensued and in the aftermath, Peatling was ejected while the Phoenix's Creek and Izayah Le'afa received techs.

That set the stage for a dramatic finish with the Phoenix prevailing largely on the back of their Chinese superstar. Zhou Qi finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks on 10/13 shooting.

Creek added 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Xavier Munford 16 points and three assists, Ryan Broekhoff 14 points and six rebounds, and captain Kyle Adnam 11 points, four rebounds and three dimes.

Matthew Dellavedova was tremendous for United with 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals with Jo Lual-Acuil locked in a fascinating battle with Zhou Qi with 17 points, six blocks, four assists and three rebounds.

Caleb Agada stepped up well for 16 points while Shea Ili added 14 points for the winless Melbourne in their championship defence.

With the momentum from two first up wins this season and determined for payback on last season, the Phoenix came out firing to lead 7-2 after the first couple of minutes with Ryan Broekhoff and Zhou Qi leading the charge.

While Jo Lual-Acuil and Mason Peatling steadied Melbourne with threes, South East Melbourne dominated the rest of the opening quarter stifling United defensively and piling on 27 points on the back 5/7 from three-point land.

Mitch Creek, Kyle Adnam, Isayan Le'afa and 250-gamer Reuben Te Rangi all hit from deep as they made Melbourne pay for shooting 4/14 and six turnovers.

United kept the roll going to start the second quarter with Zhou Qi involved in everything at both ends as the lead grew to 34-16.

However, Melbourne stemmed the tide and it was Matthew Dellavedova that helped turn the momentum. He scored nine points on his own including a three while setting up Brad Newley and Dave Barlow to hit from deep to cut South East Melbourne's half-time lead to 48-37.

To say things went up a gear in the third term would be a great understatement. South East Melbourne maintained an 11-point edge when Creek hit a three but Melbourne import Caleb Agada was warming into the game and helped make it a three-point ball game.

But then Broekhoff hit another three for the Phoenix before they forced a turnover, Le'afa dished off to Creek to deliver a thunderous dunk for the ages over Dellavedova. Mason Peatling didn’t appreciate it and bumped Creek leading to a scuffle that ultimately saw the United forward ejected.

It lit the fuse further and going into the fourth term, the Phoenix only led 70-69 and United assumed the lead early in the fourth with Lual-Acuil aggressive at both ends to lead a 6-0 run before he had to sit with a fourth personal.

The game then turned again with the next 11 points from South East Melbourne to be back up eight. Zhou Qi then swatted another attempt from Lual-Acuil for his seventh block before Te Rangi drained a three for the game winning 14-0 run.

Melbourne is back in action on Thursday against the Sydney Kings at John Cain Arena while South East Melbourne then plays the Kings at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday.

HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 2

MELBOURNE UNITED 86 (Dellavedova 19, Lual-Acuil 17, Agada 16)

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 94 (Zhou Qi 22, Creek 16, Munford 16)

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