Healthy Rebels a finals threat
UNI Rebels’ 13-point dispatching of in-form Lightning on Friday night proved one thing above all else.
At least one quality team is going to miss Darwin basketball’s League Men finals.
A competition that once looked like a two-horse race suddenly has five clubs jockeying for post-season action.
The Rebels made it back-toback wins since point guard Marcus Ch’ng (Achilles) returned, snapping Lightning’s four-match streak with a 79-66 victory.
Ch’ng, last year’s most valuable player, scored 12 points and moved well as Uni closed within a game and percentage of the top four after winning one of their first six contests.
Their starting five now stacks up with the league’s best, with Ch’ng, Jake Kirby, Lance Schmidt and imports Jerrell Sanders and Chad Bewley (29 points).
Ch’ng sustained a serious Achilles injury representing Darwin in Malaysia in November last year.
The 31-year-old made a low-key return in a Division One match in late August before his League comeback on Monday night.
“There were some dark moments after Malaysia, sitting there by yourself and everyone else is at the (league) presentation,” Ch’ng told the NT News.
“But the Achilles got better with all my rehab in the last few months.
“I did everything correctly and didn’t want to rush back. There were no setbacks; I just didn’t want to come back too early.”
Sanders hit 13 of his 18 points in the opening period to spark the Rebels to a 27-17 lead that increased to as many as 19 points.
The inevitable Lightning fightback came in the third term, led by none other than Craig Martin (23).
He was a beast on the defensive boards and used a variety of moves at the other end, including a classy floater that he followed with an And-1 to cut the deficit to 52-47.
But the difference blew out as quickly as it was eroded, with Uni taking a 14-point buffer into the last quarter.
“They kept coming back at us and we started going away from what works,” Ch’ng said.
“Every team’s pretty solid. Razzle even gave us a run and they’re sitting on the bottom.
“Ansett are still leading the way. They’ve had a couple of losses now, but I still think they’re favourites.”
Third-placed Palmerston inflicted a second defeat on Ansett, upsetting Paul Rowse’s men 78-75 to breathe further life into the competition.
Shaq Hohipa-Wilson (17) and Jesse Bell (16) led a balanced Power offence, while Ansett’s top scorer was Jerron Jamerson (29).
Top side Eagles had to work hard to see off Razzle 94-84, with Alex Fertig (37) and Joe Johnson (30) typically strong performers. Reed Ridder contributed 21 for Razzle.
* Yesterday’s games will be covered in tomorrow’s
Lightning’s Craig Martin drives for the basket past Rebels’ Jerrell Sanders on Friday