Expansion club Tasmania has kept the dream alive and forced a game three in Melbourne, squaring off their semi-final series with NBL champions United.
Tasmania JackJumpers are just one win away from marching into a historic NBL grand final appearance after the newcomers shocked the basketball world on Saturday night with a thrilling 79-72 victory over defending champion Melbourne United.
In the win-or-go-home clash, the JackJumpers kept alive their fairytale debut season with a clutch final-quarter performance to register a seven-point win and force an eye-watering game three decider in Melbourne on Monday night.
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After scores were tied at 59 apiece heading into the final term, the JackJumpers’ season came down to the final 10 minutes of Saturday’s matchup and in a thrilling final stanza the Jacks came up huge to show they aren’t done with just yet.
In an intense climax, the JackJumpers led by just two points with a minute left and in desperate need of a closer to seal the game. Up stepped MiKyle McIntosh.
The 201cm Canadian came up huge for the newcomers with five points in the final 52 seconds to seal the game and send the series into a deciding game-three blockbuster on Monday night in Melbourne.
McIntosh converted a huge three-point play before hitting another tough layup on the next trip down to push the Jacks’ lead to five points with just 16 seconds to play.
From there United was unable to get through the JackJumpers stifling defence and, after coming up empty on the offensive possession, were forced to foul Josh Magette, who sealed the game with two huge free throws.
McIntosh was the hero at the end of the game, but it wouldn’t have been possible if not for the earlier heroics of JackJumpers spark plug Jack McVeigh, who hit crucial shots throughout the game to keep alive Tasmania’s season.
The smiling assassin finished the game with 15 points and two rebounds to show once again why he’s regarded as one of the NBL’s most improved players this season.
McVeigh was aided by a well-balanced scoring attack with Magette (12 points, five rebounds), McIntosh (13 points), and Matt Kenyon (10 points) all scoring in double digits. For United it was the sharpshooting Chris Goulding who tried to will his side to victory to finish with 18 points.
Caleb Agada (14 point) and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (13 points, six rebounds) also contributed but were well held by a stingy JackJumpers defence.
Saturday’s win not only entered the record book as the JackJumpers first NBL finals win, but the matchup made history as the first time a Tasmanian NBL team played a finals game on home soil.
The JackJumpers will have just one day to soak in Saturday’s historic win before returning to the court on Monday night in Melbourne for the series-clinching decider at John Cain Arena.
The winner of Monday’s matchup will progress to the NBL’s best-of-five grand final series against the winner of the Illawarra and Sydney semi-final series that the Kings lead 1-0.