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Struggling South East Melbourne Phoenix stuns defending NBL champions Sydney Kings

Sydney’s Kouat Noi and Phoenix star Mitch Creek exchange words in Thursday night’s NBL match.

Sydney’s Kouat Noi and Phoenix star Mitch Creek exchange words in Thursday night’s NBL match. Photo: Getty

South East Melbourne Phoenix had no right to do what it did to the Sydney Kings down three imports and on a losing slide, but it put the defending NBL champions to the sword winning 104-98.

It was a night where a positive Phoenix performance at Melbourne’s State Basketball Centre was every bit as impressive as dismal the showing was from a Kings team that might now end the weekend outside the top six.

To say bottom-placed South East Melbourne was up against it would be an understatement, playing without import trio Alan Williams, Abdel Nader and Gary Browne as well as key pair Matt Kenyon and Craig Moller.

Phoenix had lost eight of its past nine games by an average of 25 points but coach Mike Kelly let the shackles off on Thursday night and his team responded.

Phoenix came out desperate to break out of their struggles and captain Mitch Creek (31 points, 10 rebounds) led the way.

He scored 14 points in the opening quarter, his team put up 36 to lead by nine and it was shooting a blistering 72 per cent from the field.

It continued in the second quarter, going into half-time leading 61-54 with Creek having 25 points and the pressure on Sydney to respond.

It didn’t happen in the third quarter with the South East Melbourne lead growing to 18 points after an 11-0 run that included triples from Ben Ayre (23 points) and Gorjok Gak (nine points, four rebounds).

Sydney responded in the fourth, cutting the margin back to eight and eventually four.

Phoenix (10-14) wouldn’t be denied, though, and scored the most remarkable of six-point wins to get off the basement ahead of hosting Perth on Saturday.

It was a breakout performance from Kody Stattmann with 16 points and six rebounds, while Owen Foxwell added 12 points and six assists.

Sydney are now 11-13 and in danger of sliding out of the top six with a home game against the league-leading Melbourne United on Sunday.

Former MVP Jaylen Adams had 24 points and nine assists for the Kings with Kouat Noi adding 19 points and Jonah Bolden 10.

-AAP

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