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Gutsy South East Melbourne Phoenix defy odds to beat Tasmania JackJumpers

Tasmania’s Will Magnay blocks the drive of Phoenix’s Ben Ayre on Hobart on Monday.

Tasmania’s Will Magnay blocks the drive of Phoenix’s Ben Ayre on Hobart on Monday. Photo: Getty

Christmas Day basketball in the NBL has inspired South East Melbourne Phoenix to a morale-boosting performance full of heart to upset the Tasmania JackJumpers 85-77 in Hobart.

The NBL double-header for Christmas Day was greeted by a sold-out crowd at MyState Bank Arena and the odds were stacked against Phoenix.

Phoenix arrived on the back of losing its past three matches to Melbourne, Illawarra and Cairns by a combined 75 points.

To top that off it was still missing captain Mitch Creek, along with Craig Moller and Gorjok Gak.

Star centre Alan Williams also collected a fourth foul early in the second quarter, and 320-game veteran Reuben Te Rangi went down with a lower leg injury.

If that wasn’t enough, Phoenix was up against the second-placed JackJumpers, who were on their home floor in special Christmas uniforms with a raucous crowd behind them, but South East Melbourne just wouldn’t be denied.

The offence didn’t flow for Phoenix as it ended up shooting 26-of-77 from the field at 33 per cent with 6-of-25 from deep, but this was a performance full of heart and character.

To Williams’ credit, he started the second half and played out the rest of the game to have a significant impact with 11 points and six rebounds, but he had terrific help.

South East Melbourne got to the foul line 29 times and made 27 while out-rebounding Tasmania 55 to 40, including racking up a monstrous 24 offensive boards for 22 second-chance points.

Phoenix was in control most of the way, but the JackJumpers kept making charges, including back-to-back threes from Jordon Crawford and Jack McVeigh going into half-time to lead 40-39.

However, when Gary Browne hit back-to-back threes to start the fourth quarter, Phoenix was back up by five and held firm from there for the gutsy win to improve to 9-9 on the season.

Browne finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, with new signing Abdel Nader adding 20 points and seven boards on 11-of-12 field goal shooting, despite 4-of-15 from the field.

The JackJumpers are now 10-8, despite 20 points from Jack McVeigh, 18 from Milton Doyle and 12 from Crawford with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

-AAP

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