The Adelaide 36ers have dug their way out of a massive hole to pinch a dramatic 78-75 NBL victory over the Cairns Taipans.
The Sixers started poorly in Friday night’s game at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, falling behind by 19 points in the second term and by 17 early in the third before conjuring a spirited finish.
Robert Franks, who endured a horrid shooting night (15 points on 3-of-18 from the field), stepped up when it mattered, providing the last-ditch heroics by nailing three tie-breaking free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Franks was almost the villain moments later when he was called for travelling while celebrating the win prematurely after intercepting Shannon Scott’s desperate long pass.
With 1.3 seconds added to the clock, the Taipans were reprieved, but only briefly as DJ Hogg’s long prayer shot fell short.
“In the first half we turned the ball over against a team that lives off turnovers which set the tone,” 36ers coach CJ Bruton said.
“At halftime I said to the boys ‘there are two halves’. There needed to be an urgency.
“While we’re missing a few players we were able to step up and cover for each other.”
Antonius Cleveland (23 points, eight rebounds) was the star for the 36ers whose 23-12 fourth-quarter flourish was in contrast to their insipid start.
Stagnant and careless on offence, Adelaide led the turnover count 7-1 at quarter-time, shot 29 per cent from the floor and trailed 27-12.
Cairns captain Tahjere McCall (24 points) sizzled off the bench and led the charge for the visitors who still looked in complete control, ahead by 15 points at halftime.
Adelaide trimmed the deficit to five points during a third-term revival sparked by Cleveland before McCall nailed a triple over Hyrum Harris on the three-quarter-time bell to make it 63-55.
Paced by McCall and Keanu Pinder, the Snakes moved ahead 71-60 before Cleveland inspired a more sustained fightback.
The dynamic American’s breakaway dunk and offensive putback sandwiched Sunday Dech’s tough drive, capping a 15-2 splurge and giving the surging Sixers the lead.
“That was one we had, sure, but Adelaide did a fantastic job of bringing themselves back into it,” Taipans coach Adam Forde said.