From nbl.com.au :
All season the Cairns Taipans threatened to take a big scalp and in the final round they did the job taking down Melbourne United at Melbourne Arena on Thursday night.
The Taipans came in with only five wins but they held their nerve and rode their talents to a spirited 87-85 win and potentially reshaped the upcoming finals series.
Melbourne staged a dramatic late comeback from 82-74 down with five minutes to play gaining the ball with 18 seconds left and a chance to take the lead. But Casper Ware’s jump shot missed and the Taipans grabbed the rebound then held on for the win.
Melbourne had to win to keep their chances of finishing on top in their own hands, now the Perth Wildcats are the only team with that right.
Wins Friday night over the Adelaide 36ers and over Melbourne at Melbourne Arena on Sunday will see them finish first.
“Disappointing is the word,” Melbourne captain Chris Goulding said.
“We have been presented with some amazing opportunities as a group and we’ve failed to take them at the first time they have been handed to us.
“We had the chance in Sydney to have a really good weekend, we stumble and then we say ‘crap, let’s be really good in Adelaide’ then tonight we had a chance here to get towards top spot and historically top-spot is a big prize and I just hope we respond like we have previously.
“But at some stage you have got to take opportunities when they present themselves as they don’t hang around in this league for long.”
Taipans point guard Melo Trimble put on another class display with 21 points and nine assists while DJ Newbill offered 17 points with 15 of them coming in a furious third quarter.
Retiring Taipans great Alex Loughton was again the inspiration for his side early with 11 of his 14 points in the opening term.
“Al has been great all season and to see him get him some shots last week and this week and I think the guys definitely followed his lead,” Taipans coach Mike Kelly said.
“He’s just continued to play like Al and with maximum effort. We keep hearing the word upset, at least when we talk to the media, but we haven’t been talking about upsets at all.
“It wasn’t about upsetting someone above us or hoping they were down. It was about us playing our best basketball and we didn’t do it for 40 minutes but we played hard the whole time and that’s what we are trying to build on.”
Goulding led his club with 22 points while Casper Ware had 18 points.
Loughton opened the game like a man with no regrets swishing two threes and an and-one play, inspiring his Taipans to play with freedom as they built a 20-8 lead.
The retiring power forward was aggressive and Melbourne was slow to realise he was shooting anything within half-court.
Melbourne’s defensive energy was low but they received a spark from forward Venky Jois who was thrown in mid-quarter. He immediately made an impact with a dunk and then forcing a turnover while Ware and Goulding made key baskets to cut the Taipans’ lead to 24-19 at quarter-time.
The second term was a tale of missed opportunities for Melbourne and their low energy play was punished by the Taipans who went out to a double-figure lead on a Trimble three before some late points from the home side cut it to 50-42 at half-time.
Melbourne looked to turn the corner in the third term and they cut the margin to three mid-quarter as Mitch McCarron, DJ Kennedy and Goulding sparked a run.
DJ Newbill came to life, though, scoring 15 points for the quarter and taking the lead back to double-figures.
Only a Goulding shot from just over half-court dropping on the buzzer to make it 73-65 at three quarter-time.
Melbourne also lost import centre Josh Boone midway through the third after he took a knock to his abdomen and needed treatment off court but returned to the bench for the final term.
The Taipans have been shaky in some final terms this season and Melbourne pushed them right to the buzzer but they couldn’t find that last basket and the Taipans claimed the win.
The Taipans finish their season in Sydney against the Kings on Saturday while Melbourne face-off with Perth needing to win to be assured of a top-two finish.
NBL ROUND 18
CAIRNS TAIPANS 87 (Trimble 21, Newbill 17, Loughton 14)
MELBOURNE UNITED 85 (Goulding 22, Ware 18, McCarron 13)