Tigers close in on NBL grand final berth - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Tigers close in on NBL grand final berth

By Guy Hand 21/02/2007 10:01:46 PM Comments (0)

Defending champions Melbourne Tigers are one win away from back-to-back NBL grand final appearances after a comfortable 13-point victory over Cairns Taipans in their opening semi-final match on Wednesday night.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series after a 100-87 victory at the State Netball Centre - Axel Dench top-scoring with 18 points, being amongst five Tigers to score in double figures.

The eventual winner of the semi-final goes through to the best-of-five grand final series starting next week against either the Brisbane Bullets or Sydney Kings.

Cairns had fought their way into the semi-final the hard way, with brave elimination final wins over South Dragons at home and the more-fancied Perth Wildcats on the road in the past week.

But the Taipans' gruelling schedule hit them late in the third quarter, with the Tigers blowing them away 32-13 in the term to open a 22-point lead at the final change.

The Taipans had stuck doggedly with the defending champions in the first half, and started well to open up a nine-point lead late in the first quarter.

But Tigers guard Dave Thomas swung the momentum back his side's way with a remarkable "hail mary" shot from deep in his own half right on quarter-time to give Melbourne a one-point lead at the break.

Cairns stuck with the Tigers for the second term and trailed by four points at halftime, before the Tigers went on their third quarter rampage to put the issue beyond doubt.

Coach Al Westover had the luxury of tipping out his bench with the Tigers up by 25 points midway through the final term, with the Taipans closing the gap in junk time.

Thomas finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Stephen Hoare also had a big game with 17 points and seven boards.

Kane Oakley and Martin Cattalini top-scored for the Taipans with 13 points apiece.

The Taipans have the chance to level the series at home on Friday night, with a third game if required scheduled for Melbourne on Sunday night.

The Bullets lead the other semi-final series 1-0 after beating the Kings in their opening match on Tuesday night.

Game two of that series will be played in Sydney on Thursday night.

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