February 15, 2014

Article at SportsNewsFirst

Wild scenes post-match in the NBL

PERTH, New Zealand and Wollongong scored crucial NBL wins on Friday night but all focus is on post-match scuffles between players and coaches of the Wildcats and 36ers that got out of hand.

The Perth Wildcats went a long way to securing the NBL's minor premiership for the 2013/14 NBL season with a thumping 85-61 win over the second-placed Adelaide 36ers, but the result is likely to be the last thing remembered about the game after what happened post-match.

A Greg Hire three-pointer on the buzzer, when basketball etiquette suggests the clock should be left to run out, sparked the scenes at the Perth Arena between the two fierce rivals when Adelaide players took exception.

Before long players from both teams got involved and just when it appeared to calm down, 36ers coach Joey Wright got involved with members of the Wildcats' coaching staff with actions of all involved set to be closely reviewed by the league's office.

There were two other NBL matches on Friday night as well, with the New Zealand Breakers beating the Cairns Taipans 96-78 at Vector Arena with the result keeping the three-time defending champions well in touch with the fourth-placed Sydney Kings.

And the other match of the evening pitted the league's two bottom teams against one another with the Wollongong Hawks keeping its feint finals hopes alive with a 90-75 victory over the Townsville Crocodiles at the WIN Entertainment Centre.

However, the game of the round was always going to be the battle of the top-two teams at the Perth Arena and while the contest itself might have fizzled out, what happened afterwards ensured it will grab the headlines.

With Perth already leading 82-61 with time expiring, Wildcats forward Hire took a three-point attempt and made it as time expired.

It is generally accepted in basketball circles that with the game decided, the clock will simply be run down without a shot being taken on the last possession if it starts with less than 24 seconds remaining.

However, that rarely happens in the NBL particularly with points differential between teams deciding finishing positions come the end of the season.

That is what several 36ers players took exception to, though, and let Hire know just that and in the end most players from both teams got involved in a scuffle after the final buzzer.

Just when things seemed to calm down, Sixers coach Wright became involved and had a particularly heated and physical confrontation with Wildcats assistant coach Adam Tatalovich before eventually the teams were pulled apart.

Post-match, both teams were pointing the finger at one another but Wright, who has long-standing rivalries with the Wildcats from his time in charge of the Brisbane Bullets and Gold Coast Blaze, was quick to blame Tatalovich for the incident.

"As I went to break it up, just as I thought I did a pretty good job at that, that idiot assistant coach (Tatalovich) pushed me in the chest. I'm going to tell you right now, you don’t put your hands on me," Wright said.

"I had pretty good distance between my players and the Wildcats players and it was pretty much broken up, and for him to step across and push me in the chest I think is extremely disrespectful."

On top of what happened after the game, it was a night to forget for Wright with Adelaide's 61 points being the lowest a team he has coached has ever scored in his 307 games in the NBL while it's also the first time since 2003 that he has been in charge of teams to lose consecutive games by more than 20 points.

As for the game itself, it was barely a contest from the outset with the Wildcats piling on 27 first quarter points and then holding the 36ers to a paltry 24 points for the entire first half.

That 24-point first half performance was an all-time low in the 975-game NBL history of the Adelaide 36ers.

Both teams then added 37 points in the second with Perth running out thumping 24-point winners that improves the Wildcats to a 17-6 record on the season with the 36ers now slipping to 13-8.

The Wildcats would now have to perform incredibly badly in their last five games of the regular season to avoid finishing with the minor premiership.

James Ennis led the way for the Wildcats with 27 points and 11 rebounds on the back of shooting 11-of-17 from the field and 4-of-8 from three-point territory.

Fellow import Jermaine Beal also added 20 points while also hitting 4-of-8 from downtown.

Jesse Wagstaff continued his strong recent form with another 14 points and seven rebounds with Shawn Redhage adding 10 points.

It was a tough night for Adelaide with Anthony Petrie top-scoring with 15 points while Luke Schenscher and Daniel Johnson contributed 10 points apiece.

Meanwhile at Auckland's Vector Arena to begin the day's NBL action the Breakers were in control against Cairns from the outset to end up recording a crucial 18-point victory.

The win improves New Zealand to a 9-12 record on the season to be nipping at the heels of the fourth-placed Sydney Kings who are 10-9.

Meanwhile, the loss makes the job for the Taipans to still make the playoffs for the first time since losing the 2010/11 grand final series to New Zealand all the tougher.

Cairns now sits on a 9-14 record with just five games of its season remaining but the Taipans have now dropped three successive games since a stirring overtime win in Perth on January 30.

The Breakers set up the win in the first quarter outscoring the Snakes 24 points to 17 and then put their foot down after half-time with a 32-point third period to sew up the win.

Gary Wilkinson continued his hot form for New Zealand with 22 points and nine rebounds on the back of 9-of-13 shooting from the floor and 3-of-6 from downtown.

Tom Abercrombie also finished with 21 points and four boards for the Breakers shooting an efficient 7-of-10 from the field.

Import point guard Kerron Johnson also finished with 12 points and five assists while Corey Webster scored 11 points and replacement centre Casey Frank nine points, four assists and three rebounds as he continued to stand in for the injured Alex Pledger.

Alex Loughton top-scored for the Taipans with 15 points to go with four rebounds and four assists.

Stephen Weigh also tried hard for Cairns with 13 points and seven boards with Cameron Gliddon adding 13 points and Demetri McCamey 11.

And then at Wollongong's WIN Entertainment Centre, the Hawks made up for 23-point loss in Townsville a fortnight ago to score a 15-point victory themselves over the Crocodiles on Friday night.

The win is the Hawks' second straight to improve them to an 8-13 record on the season to remain an outside chance of still sneaking into the finals while the Crocs' hopes look all but over with them slipping to 7-14 despite impressive drought-breaking wins last weekend over Perth and Cairns.

As was the case in the night's other two games, the Hawks set up the win in the first quarter with 28 points to just 16 from the Crocs, and they were never headed the rest of the evening eventually winning by 15 points.

Impressive scoring guard Rotnei Clarke again was the star for Wollongong finishing with 26 points and five assists while shooting 8-of-15 from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.

Rhys Martin also finished with 16 points for Wollongong with Kevin Tiggs adding 15 points (seven rebounds), Tim Coenraad 10, Dave Gruber 10 (11 rebounds) and Oscar Forman nine.

Josh Pace top-scored for Townsville with 19 points while Todd Blanchfield added 12 points and Mitch Norton 11.

Experienced point guard Steve Markovic couldn’t quite continue his outstanding form with seven points and nine assists while shooting just 3-of-10 from the floor and 1-of-6 from downtown.

NBL Round 18 will now continue on Saturday night with the fourth-placed Sydney Kings hosting the Wollongong Hawks at the Sydney Entertainment Centre before on Sunday, the Melbourne Tigers face the Adelaide 36ers at Hisense Arena.