Sydney downs Cairns in NBL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Sydney downs Cairns in NBL

17/02/2006 10:56:07 PM Comments (0)

Reigning National Basketball League premiers Sydney Kings remain on track for a fourth consecutive championship after booking a Grand Final berth against the Melbourne Tigers on Friday night.

The Kings withstood a spirited fight from the Cairns Taipans to win a thrilling semi-final 84-82 in Cairns, taking their series 2-0.

Bench player Luke Kendall led the way for Sydney with 21 points - nine in the final quarter when the Taipans were pressing for the lead.

Cairns centre Chris Burgess finished with 19 points and 25 rebounds as the home side found inspiration from a capacity crowd to cut a 12-point deficit to two down the stretch.

In the final seconds former Boomer Martin Cattalini (15) had a chance to tie up the game with a jump shot, only to watch the ball rim out, handing Sydney the game and a trip to the Grand Final series beginning next Friday night.

Only a couple of baskets separated the two sides until late in the third quarter when the Kings began a 19-5 run.

It coincided with the absence of top Cairns guard Darnell Mee (12), who was forced to the bench in foul trouble after earning the wrath of the referees twice in a minute.

In a gruelling opening stanza, centre Ben Knight (17) bagged the first 10 points for the Kings while Burgess was almost as productive at the other end of the court with eight.

Taipans co-captain Darnell Mee kept his side in the hunt with a dunk to close the quarter.

Little separated the two teams in the second term, with the home team taking the advantage briefly in the fifth minute with another bucket from Mee only .

The ascendancy was shortlived, though, with a deuce from captain CJ Bruton handing Sydney a 46-44 lead to end the half.

The sides traded baskets through the third quarter until Mee was forced to the bench after being hit with the two fouls in a minute.

His absence coincided with a 9-2 run for the reigning champions, who took a five-point advantage into the final break.

Sydney Kings coach Brian Goorjian said he always knew Cairns would put up a strong fight at home and they had to work hard all night to get the right to challenge for their fourth straight NBL title.

"Tonight, it wasn't spectacular basketball, but it was an absolute dogfight," Goorjian said.

"It was an absolutely intense battle, the atmosphere was electric and you work all year for a night like that.

"Their defensive strategy on Jason (Smith) and CJ (Bruton) was very, very good, there's a lot been said about the guys on the national team, but we rely on those guys.

"But there's no one in the competition up here rather than us for each other."

Cairns coach Alan Black said it was a heartbreaking result and he lamented not finishing higher on the ladder.

"The challenge for every team in the NBL is to finish higher up and give yourself a better chance," Black said.

"We've established what we want to establish, when teams comes to Cairns they know they're going to have a hell of a game.

"It would have been great to go into overtime and great to go back to Sydney with one-all, but it wasn't to be.

"A bit more belief and a bit more grit at the time (during the regular season) and we could have finished higher on the ladder."

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