JackJumpers win first NBL title in epic decider

Shayne Hope |

JackJumpers coach Scott Roth and man-of-the-moment Jordon Crawford celebrate their thrilling win.
JackJumpers coach Scott Roth and man-of-the-moment Jordon Crawford celebrate their thrilling win.

Tasmania JackJumpers coach Scott Roth has hailed his blue-collar team’s guts and resilience after a remarkable 83-81 road win over Melbourne United sealed a maiden title for the NBL’s newest franchise.

American guard Jordon Crawford (32 points) produced a historically great scoring performance to help the JackJumpers claw their way to the crown in a gripping battle in front of 10,175 fans at John Cain Arena on Sunday.

The best-of-five series fittingly went down to the final possession as Melbourne guard Matthew Dellavedova’s desperate attempt at a game-winner from long range hit the backboard and missed.

JackJumpers and trophy
JackJumpers players and staff let their emotions show after claiming their first NBL title. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Heart-and-soul Tasmania leader Jack McVeigh was awarded the Larry Sengstock Trophy as MVP of one of the toughest NBL Championship Series in history.

The victory sealed a 3-2 series win for the JackJumpers, who were thumped by 23 points in Melbourne in game one but recovered to win twice on their opponents’ home floor to clinch the result.

“The last four games really came down to a few possessions here and there, and our guys stayed resilient when it looked like they might throw a knockout punch,” Roth said.

“We just kept grinding away and I can’t be more proud of this group. That was the trait throughout the season.

“We had an anomaly in that first game when we travelled back from Perth and were maybe a little fatigued, and they smacked us pretty good.

“It was the leadership from our captains and more importantly the poise that we have, knowing that we’ve done the work all season.”

Melbourne entered the Finals series as favourites after topping the regular-season ladder with a 20-8 record, but fine margins ultimately went against them.

“We challenged for a championship and we all just want one or two possessions back,” United coach Dean Vickerman said.

“What an amazing series we were a part of and I’m sure we’ll reflect on that once we get over actually losing the tight game that we were in.”

Crawford endured a roller-coaster Championship Series but dominated an explosive opening to game five, scoring 19 points on perfect shooting in the first period to keep Tasmania in the contest early.

Jordon Crawford (left) and Matthew Dellavedova.
Jordon Crawford of the JackJumpers (left) tries to get past Melbourne’s Matthew Dellavedova. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

The American point-guard had 27 points by halftime and overcame a quiet third period to finish with a series-high tally of 32 points.

It was the equal-third most scored by any player in a title-series game during the 40-minute game era, which dates back to 2009.

“He was huge. He kept the scoreboard ticking over for us and he was aggressive,” Roth said.

“We’ve been harping on about him taking quality shots and being patient, because he wants to try to knock you out every single time he has the ball in hand.

“We’re trying to rein him back just a tad and he came up big in this game.”

Jack McVeigh
Jack McVeigh was awarded the Larry Sengstock Trophy as MVP of the Championship Series. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

McVeigh (14 points, eight rebounds), Will Magnay (11, 12) and Milton Doyle (11,10) were all crucial contributors for Tasmania in game five.

Each of Melbourne’s five starters scored in double figures, led by Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (14 points), Chris Goulding, Luke Travers and Dellavedova (13 each).

Goulding finished the series on one leg, as did Magnay, as the brutality of the battle took its toll.

Tasmania’s first championship came after they lost a title decider against the Sydney Kings two years ago in their debut season.