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Plenty at stake in NBL Round 8

by Ross Lane

There was plenty at stake this week in the NBL. Round 8 would see struggling teams try and find a way out of their slumps and coaches fighting for their jobs. While there were only four games to be played this round, all of them would prove to be significant.

New Zealand Breakers were up against the Townsville Crocodiles at Vector arena on the Thursday night. The Breakers, last year’s champions, were hot favourites going into the clash. But if it was to be a one-sided affair then nobody told Townsville’s Jacob Holmes who put 21 points on the board by the end of the game, closely followed by fellow player Peter Crawford who finished on 17. The Breakers, however, would not be rolled so easily. Even though they were 23 points down early in the second quarter, they found the heart to fight back and eventually lodged a win against the Queensland team. Breakers 88 – 74 Crocs.

On Friday night the Sydney Kings were at The Cage in Melbourne for their third clash with the Tigers this season. Sydney has had a tempest of a week with behind-the-scenes meetings, former players doubting the current roster and press claiming there was an axe hanging over coach Ian Robilliard’s head. After a lack-lustre performance against Cairns last week and inconsistent form throughout the season, Sydney fans were waiting to see if the Kings would triumph. Similarly, Melbourne had seen the departure of superstar Patty Mills and spectators were keen to see how much the team would be hurt by this.

In the end though, Sydney would prove to be the side that wanted this one more.  Aaron “The Beast” Bruce set the tone of the game with 12 points in the first quarter. He repeatedly found the holes in a woeful Melbourne defence and dominated the team with buckets and pin point assists. But this was not a one-man show. Julian Khazzouh finished the game with 22 points and 9 rebounds; Ben Madgen re-found his form with 26 points; and Jerai Grant exploded with 19 points, including an amazing combination with Aaron Bruce who laid up a game highlight ‘alley-oop’ for Grant. Kings Legend Shane Heal should do an interview every week about how poor the current Kings roster is. It clearly gets the lads minds in the right place. Kings 89 – 80 Tigers.

The Gold Coast Blaze added to the woes of the Adelaide 36ers with their first win in four years at Adelaide Arena. Gold Coast led for the majority of the match as Blaze’s Adris Deleon clocked up 25 points and held 36er point guard Chris Warren to single digits.  Adelaide’s Darren Ng came to life in the final quarter collecting 13 points and trying to force a comeback. The 36ers were just one point behind with five minutes left on the clock, but Gold Coast kept the home side down and ensured the win. Blaze 95-82 36ers.

The final game of the weekend saw the rejuvenated Sydney Kings finish their road trip against the inform Perth Wildcats. Sydney fell short 103-92. Shawn Redhage was again the danger man for the Wildcats shooting a 23-point game. Meanwhile, Luke Nevill hit 17 points. For Sydney it was a return to form for Anatoly Bose who scored 22 points; Jerai Grant backed up Melbourne with an impressive 20 points; and Captain Khazzouh scored 16 despite being extremely well guarded by the Perth defence. Aaron “The Beast” Bruce clocked up 16 points and nine assists, including yet another spectacularly flashy ‘alley-oop’ combination with Grant.  But it was Perth who took the win. The Kings now return home to Sydney to target their revenge against Cairns next weekend.

Drama, excitement and class. A great week for the NBL.

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