Retiring champ gets Taipans home and into second
CONSECUTIVE three-pointers by distinguished retiring NBL superstar Mark Worthington on Saturday night blew open Cairns' clash with Adelaide, guaranteeing the Taipans a second-placed finish.
Cairns captain Cam Gliddon also was huge in the final quarter and bench guard Jarrad Weeks found holes in a 36ers defence which resembled a chunk of Swiss cheese.
Where previously the Sixers were closer to a Swiss Army knife as they cut a swath through the competition, last night at Brett Maher Court they were mostly neutral as the Taipans, with more to play for, simply wanted it more desperately and won 98-89.
It couldn't have been going better for Adelaide when Taipans centre Nathan Jawai fouled out on a technical foul with 4:32 left in just the second quarter.
One of the league's biggest drawcards, Jawai instead was treated like a travelling salesman knocking on a farmhouse door full of nubile daughters by the officiating crew.
He had to be benched by Cairns coach Aaron Fearne after collecting three fouls in just over four minutes and when inserted at 4:59 in the second, was called for a foul again within 27 seconds.
Considering most - if not all - of his fouls were simply for being the biggest man on the court, his frustration was understandable and led to a frustration tech foul and his expulsion.
Adelaide seized his unexpected absence to race to a 51-36 lead before Travis Trice and Cam Gliddon led Cairns to 43-52 at the main interval.
Daniel Johnson's 13 points paced Adelaide to the break but with Nathan Sobey again a pale shadow of the player he was when he was actually working defensively and focused offensively, was at the forefront of some awful 36ers basketball.
Seeing its opening, Cairns pounced, producing a 33-17 third period in which Stevie Weigh with seven points, Trice 10 and Weeks nine threw Adelaide onto a backfoot.
Trailing 69-76 with a quarter to go, 36ers captain Mitch Creek ignited the fans with a steal and three-point play before it was time for Worthington to step up.
He drew a fourth foul charge out of Johnson, fouled Jacobsen hard, then swished two triples to ensure all the work Jerome Randle was doing, was for nought.
Randle scored 13 consecutive points to try lift the 36ers who were unable to close within seven after Worthingtion's baskets.
Typically, Gliddon then put the seal on the win with a three and a closing dunk.
"We kept them on the (free throw) line far too much," Sixers coach Joey Wright said, Cairns hitting 13-of-14 for the quarter.
"They scored 33 points in the third and 55 in the second half and this is a team which likes to play slow.
"I felt our guys took it for granted when Jawai fouled out and we thought we had it done.
"Cairns has lulled us like that before, and then Wortho hits those two big threes."
Worthington was honoured by the full house with a pre-game video highlights tribute, then reminded all why he was such a feared opponent.