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United stun Phoenix in NBL comeback win

Melbourne United have rocked local rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix by recovering from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to complete a stunning 98-90 NBL victory.

The Phoenix held an 82-70 lead with less than eight minutes to play in Sunday’s clash at John Cain Arena, leaving United in danger of dropping consecutive games and losing their foothold at the top of the ladder.

But United closed out the Throwdown derby on a 28-8 charge as the Phoenix imploded in the final minutes, Shea Ili and Chris Goulding combining for 23 points in the final quarter and centre Ariel Hukporti making his presence felt at the defensive end.

Matthew Dellavedova scored 19 of his team-high 22 points in the first half while Ili (19) and Goulding (16) came up big in the final term as United came roaring home in front of a raucous crowd.

“They have been through these kind of situations before and we know that if we put consecutive stops together, share the basketball and screen the way we should screen we always give ourselves a chance,” coach Dean Vickerman said after the ladder leaders improved to a 14-5 record.

Goulding shook off his recent scoring woes with 13 fourth-quarter points, including a long triple over 216cm centre Zhou Qi to give United a 94-90 advantage with one minute to play.

“At that point, I’d hit a few and felt good,” Goulding said.

“I’m confident in that shot so if I’ve got that space I’m going to take it – hopefully it goes in, it was good that it did tonight.”

A powerhouse performance from Mitch Creek (27 points, six rebounds, five assists) helped place his side in a winning position but the Phoenix star was forced out of the game in the final minute after following up an earlier unsportsmanlike foul with a technical foul.

Creek and Qi handed South East Melbourne a strong start but Dellavedova capped his 19-point half with a late three-pointer to hand United a 54-49 edge at the main break.

Creek’s influence at both ends of the floor fuelled a 24-12 third-quarter win for the Phoenix but another lacklustre finish left coach Simon Mitchell disappointed as they slumped to back-to-back losses.

“It was sort of endemic of our last three performances, I think, where we get a nice little lead and we’re unable to hold on,” Mitchell said.

“I know we gave up a whole bunch of points in the last couple of moments but leading into that, it felt like we were pretty solid defensively but at the offensive end, we just weren’t able to execute.”

The Phoenix remain in the top four despite the loss but face semi-final aspirants Illawarra and Sydney in a pair of pivotal Round 16 clashes.

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