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Tigers Tame Galant Gaels

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The Melbourne Tigers have claimed their first win of the 2013/14 campaign on Thursday night by defeating the St. Mary’s Gaels 70-67 at the sold out Kilsyth Basketball Centre in Melbourne. An impressive 1,600 people packed themselves into the home of the SEABL’s Kilsyth Cobras and were treated to a fast-paced, physical battle between the two squads.

In the first half of the game it was evident that the Tigers were rusty. While turnovers mounted up early, they were occurring more through fumbling and lack of touch than confusion or erratic play. Tigers shooting guard Chris Goulding and power forward Adam Ballinger kept their team close early but St. Mary’s certainly looked the more settled team, being locked in their fourth game in five days.

Despite Melbourne’s best efforts, they found themselves in a 20-point hole midway through the second period. A combination of clumsy Tiger play along with some entertaining St. Mary’s hustle saw the energetic Gaels push the ball up the floor at every opportunity. Gaels big man Brad Waldow also caused the Tigers some trouble early, converting on a couple of strong, left-handed post moves inside.

The Gaels complimented the early dominance of their big man by piercing their way through the Melbourne defense via multiple high screens. All in all, St. Mary’s were putting on a clinical performance and the Tigers looked rusty yet by no means defeated, trailing 38-49 at the main break.

One player in particular who came ready to make a statement was Tiger point guard Nate Tomlinson. Looking leaner than last season and playing with the same intensity and purpose that he finished with last season, Employee #1 amassed 10 assists for the game while also chipping in seven rebounds. The feature of Nate’s game most enjoyed by Tiger fans though would have to be his aggression and poise. Nate didn’t over-think much out there and it was a nice early sign that he could be in for a great season.

Goulding and forward Lucas Walker were the two highlights on the box score as they combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds, 17 for 29 from the field (58.6%) and 5 for 9 from downtown. While Goulding provided the daggers from range, Walker provided the highlight of the night punching home a spectacular dunk on Gaels player Jordan Guisti.

Rising up off a two-foot jump in semi-transition, Walker took the chest-to-chest contact from Guisti, cocked the ball back with one hand and delivered the emphatic flush with with foul. Needless to say there were 1600+ people losing their collective minds and the buzz around the stadium lasted until long after Walker’s subsequent made free throw.

Here’s some fun game facts courtesy of Dan Attias regarding the play of Walker and Goulding:

A nice little Thursday night indeed.

The game tightened up eventually, with the Tigers finally reclaiming the lead with less than three minutes remaining on a Goulding score. As the clock ticked lower and lower, both teams appeared to get tighter and tighter. The Melbourne Tigers prevailed in the end, forcing turnovers and converting free throws to eventually run out 70-67 winners. Tommy Greer atempted to miss his final free throw with less than a second remaining and holding a two point lead but “Murphy’s Law” prevailed as the basket banked in off the glass. A desperation heave from the Gaels followed but it was well short and the crowd tasted a solid Tigers victory.

The St. Mary’s Gaels were incredibly entertaining and while they lost this particular battle, they won the hearts of a lot of hoops fans attending on the night. Countless kids and adults alike were seen post-game posing for photos and obtaining autographs from both teams and needless to say we’ll all be keeping an eye on the Gaels during the upcoming NCAA season.

For St. Mary’s there were standout performances from the aforementioned Brad Warlow early (12 points, 4 rebounds), Garrett Jackson (10 points, 7 rebounds) and Stephen Holt (20 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals). While James Walker III provided plenty of energy and hustle, his 3 for 14 from the field was costly on the offensive end. While his shooting wasn’t on target in this game, he showed plenty in other areas and looks like an exciting one to watch.

For Melbourne it was all about Goulding, Walker and Tomlinson who took on the bulk of the workload. New recruit and local Kilsyth product Auryn McMillan looked a little rusty but didn’t do his hustle reputation any harm, tackling every play with full force. With new imports Stephen Dennis and Scott Morrison looking on alongside Boomer Mark Worthington, the Tigers have plenty to feel excited about.

Finally, here is a visual representation of the game:-

Hendo’s visual representation of the game.

A great night for hoops in Melbourne and a great experience to see such a quality, disciplined side from the United States play the game we all love.

Thanks to all involved.

Game images courtesy of the Melbourne TigersHoop Tours.

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Hendo has been a basketball-crazed individual since 1986. Since he started playing the game as an eight year-old he has been a fan of the NBL and the NBA. With countless VCR tapes full of old games and highlights, he's a devoted fan of the "Bill Woods Era" when it comes to Aussie hoops on TV. Bringing a Melbourne-centric flavour to ATF, Hendo plans to stick around a while and bring you some entertaining factoids from across the NBL.

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