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Eight NBL wins in a row for red hot Kings

The Sydney Kings have survived a late challenge from the South East Melbourne Phoenix to record a nail-biting 91-89 victory and extend their winning streak to eight successive games.

The Kings led for the majority of Saturday’s contest at John Cain Arena but their unbeaten run came under serious threat after Xavier Munford drilled a three-pointer with two and a half minutes remaining to cut Sydney’s lead to 90-89.

Both teams missed multiple chances in the closing stages before Jarell Martin capped a stellar performance with a clutch offensive rebound and free throw to put the Kings up by two with 0.8 seconds to play.

South East Melbourne had one final possession to try and break Sydney hearts but their inbounds pass missed the mark, leaving the Phoenix reeling from their fourth loss in a row.

Martin finished with 24 points and eight rebounds while Jaylen Adams and Dejan Vasiljevic each added 15 as the Kings inched closer to the franchise record for consecutive wins held by the 1996 squad coached by Alan Black.

Coach Chase Buford praised his squad for holding the Phoenix without a basket in the final minutes as the Kings maintained their winning run despite the absence of league MVP candidate Xavier Cooks with an ankle sprain.

“I think two or three times in a row down the stretch, we needed (a stop) and we got one,” Buford said.

“That’s really what it comes down to for us, can we keep them off the scoreboard and get stops.

“On offence, shots are going to come, you are going to execute well, sometimes you’re not but if you can get stops and that’s where you hang your hat, you give yourself a chance.”

Sydney’s offence looked unstoppable in the first half with the import trio of Martin, Adams and Ian Clark all reaching double figures but Munford fired in 17 points to help the Phoenix take a narrow 50-48 lead into the main break.

The Kings threatened the blow the game open with an 8-0 start to the second half but the Phoenix chipped away at the deficit and remained in touch to trail by three heading into the final quarter.

While proud of his squad’s overall performance against the hottest team in the competition, coach Simon Mitchell lamented another poor finish as the fifth-placed Phoenix (11-9) fell two games behind third-placed Sydney.

“I think there was improvement, certainly compared to our game in Illawarra, but again we need to be better if we are going to make finals and make a noise in finals,” Mitchell said.

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