Tasmania pip United, stay alive in NBL

Ethan James |

The JackJumpers tied their semi-final series against Melbourne United with a game two win in Hobart.
The JackJumpers tied their semi-final series against Melbourne United with a game two win in Hobart.

Tasmania JackJumpers have kept their hopes of an NBL grand final series alive in their debut season with a nail-biting seven-point semi-final win over champions Melbourne United.

Tasmania were at their tenacious best at a capacity MyState Bank Arena in Hobart on Saturday night, claiming the second best-of-three playoff 79-72.

It means the semi-final series will head to a decider in Melbourne on Monday, after United were victorious in game one on their home court.

The JackJumpers, who made the finals on the back of a strong finish to the regular season and when a final-round result fell their way, have defied expectations.

“These guys have done the work all year. They have the right to be in this position. They continue to just fight and scrap,” JackJumpers coach Scott Roth said.

Tasmania’s Canadian import MiKyle McIntosh (13 points) came to life with five points in the final minute to break a neck-and-neck last quarter.

It came after United clawed their way back from an 11-point deficit in the second quarter to lock it up 59-all at the end of the third.

Jack McVeigh, who top-scored for Tasmania with 15 points, nailed back-to-back three-pointers at the beginning of the fourth to give his side the momentum.

JackJumpers’ American import Josh Magette drained a crucial triple with about two minutes left for a 72-68 lead, before returning for two free throws in the dying seconds to put the icing on the cake.

“I’m super proud of the group and the effort and the fight. That’s all we were looking for. It was a heck of a game. Old school back-and-forth,” Roth said.

“We’re proud to be representing the state. We’re not done.”

Melbourne skipper Chris Goulding was inspirational in a losing side, picking up a game-high 18 points, including 11 in the third quarter to drag his team back into the contest.

But Tasmania shut him out in the final period, in which he didn’t register a point.

United had the yips from the free throw line, slotting eight from 14 shots, while Tasmania picked up 13 out of their 14 chances.

Led by American import guard Josh Adams, the JackJumpers out-enthused Melbourne in the first quarter, forcing several turnovers for a 17-12 lead.

Tasmania skipper Clint Steindl opened with back-to-back buckets in the second, before United went on a Goulding-inspired run of seven points.

A highlight of the quarter was a running battle between United’s Australian Olympian Matthew Dellavedova and Magette, with the pair sharing several verbal exchanges off the ball.

“The physicality they came out with in the first quarter was another level,” Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said.

“We held them to 17 but we were struggling to get points in the back half of that first quarter.”