The South East Melbourne Phoenix have upset ladder leaders and local rivals Melbourne United in a tense Sunday afternoon derby.
Keifer Sykes and the South East Melbourne Phoenix made a significant statement in Throwdown IX, using a strong second half to topple ladder leaders Melbourne United 94-83.
United came into Sunday afternoon with a firm stranglehold on the cross-town NBL rivalry, winning six of the eight Throwdowns since SEM entered the league at the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
With the scores locked at 43 through two quarters, the Phoenix broke away in the second half behind the latest electric scoring performance from their import guard.
Sykes scored 19 of his 26 points in the final 20 minutes, scoring from all three levels to spark an impressive win and solidify South East Melbourne’s grip on a finals position. The 183cm point guard had the United defenders on skates, using an array of dribble moves and changes of speed to penetrate the defence at will.
Missing 12 games with a combination of foot and back injuries in NBL 21, a healthy Sykes in conjunction with the recent return of star teammates Ryan Broekhoff and Mitch Creek leave South East Melbourne in the healthiest state they have been in all season long.
With Phoenix-United a potential playoff matchup, it was the ideal confidence boost for the suddenly surging squad.
LANDALE SILENCED IN SECOND HALF
Finishing with 27 points and 11 rebounds against the Phoenix eight days earlier, it was an eerily similar first half from the star big man. Landale relentlessly attacked mismatches to register 12 points on eight shots in the first half.
Largely guarded by Yannick Wetzell after halftime, the Phoenix were able to nullify Landale in the second half, leaving him to finish with 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting in a game changing defensive stand.
MITCH CREEK FINDS HIS GROOVE
It was an aggressive Creek from the outset in the Throwdown, with the Boomers representative shaking off recent struggles to control the offence and keep South East Melbourne in the game. Creek finished the night with 14 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in an excellent all around performance.
BROEKHOFF EASES HIS WAY BACK INTO FORM
Wearing protective goggles for the second consecutive game after recovering from an eye injury, Broekhoff once again came off the bench for the Phoenix.
After going scoreless in his return game against New Zealand last week, Broekhoff found the bottom of the net with a triple from the left corner on a dish from Creek during the second quarter. Broekhoff tallied six points on 2-for-8 shooting as he continued to shake off the rust.
BANGED UP GOULDING
United star Chris Goulding was slowed down early, appearing to hurt his left arm on a collision early in the game while setting a screen near the basket.
Goulding played out the contest but was clearly hampered by the injury on his non-shooting arm, often grimacing in pain. Goulding saw just 13 minutes and finished with 20 points.