Healthy Rebels a fi­nals threat

Sunday Territorian - - SPORT - MARC McGOWAN

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

Pic­ture: IVAN RACHMAN

Light­ning’s Craig Martin drives for the bas­ket past Rebels’ Jer­rell San­ders on Fri­day

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