NBL23 round nine: Sam Froling fires Hawks to upset win, embarrassing Melbourne United

Last-place Illawarra grabbed their second win of the season with a Sam Froling-inspired smashing of Melbourne United.

Earlier in the round United’s woes started after they lost the Throwdown to their Melbourne rivals, the Phoenix.

Catch up with all the round nine NBL action.

Hawks’ Froling frenzy sends United to new depths

-Ronny Lerner

On a night when Melbourne United champion Chris Goulding became only the 11th NBL player to score 1000 career three-pointers, his team’s disastrous season reached rock bottom after they were thumped 93-79 by cellar dwellers Illawarra in Wollongong.

Goulding headed into the game needing three triples to bring up the milestone, and he did so early in the second quarter when he pump-faked to get around Deng Deng and then, off one foot, drained the long-range bucket.

But the historic moment wasn’t enough to inspire Melbourne from avoiding the humiliating result on Monday night as the last-placed Hawks registered just their second win of the season, and their first in two months, to snap a nine-game losing streak.

Illawarra’s average losing margin over that stretch was 17 points, while their average score was 74, but Hawks centre Sam Froling had a career night to hand Melbourne a fifth consecutive defeat.

Froling was unstoppable, racking up a personal best 29 points on an 11-17 clip from the field (64 per cent), including two triples, as well as nine rebounds and a block from 30 minutes of court time, as United again struggled to contain the opposition big men with the absence of Isaac Humphries (COVID).

The result leaves Melbourne (5-10) in a dire position, languishing in second-last spot on the ladder, now five wins adrift of the top six. To make the playoffs, they will likely need to win 10 of their last 13 games.

The first quarter was a seesawing affair that featured eight lead changes, as both teams lit it up from three-point range with Illawarra going at 4-7 (57 per cent) and Melbourne 5-10 (50).

But a blistering 14-2 run saw the hosts open up a 35-25 lead early in the second quarter, as they produced their best first period of the season (31) in the process, and they would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game.

Rayjon Tucker got United back to within a point (53-52) early in the third quarter, however a game-breaking 22-8 run from the hosts saw their lead balloon to 15 points (75-60) in the shadows of the final change and from there they would not be headed.

Illawarra‘s shooting was far superior all night, as they went 53 per cent from the field (36-67), 37 per cent from three (9-24) and 66 per cent from the free-throw line (12-18). Conversely, United shot 40 per cent (28-68), 26 per cent (9-34) and 58 per cent (14-24) respectively in what was a dirty night for them. The Hawks also out-rebounded Melbourne 44-35.


Froling had sound support from Michael Frazier II who registered 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal in just his second game for the club, while fellow import Tyler Harvey finished with 15 points. Meanwhile, Tucker played a lone hand for the visitors, ending the match with 27 points on 10-18 shooting (55 per cent), including 4-8 from downtown (50), and picking up a steal in what was one of his best games for United.


Froling started like a house on fire, scoring 16 points in the opening the term on 6-7 shooting from the field, including 2-2 from beyond the perimeter, to produce the highest-scoring first quarter by any player this season.


United guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes had a night he would rather forget, finishing with just 9 points on 2-14 shooting (14 per cent), including 1-8 from three (12). He was 0-7 from the field in the first half, and when he had a chance to redeem himself late in the game, he missed a pair of free throws on two occasions in the final quarter when his team trailed 76-65 and 82-70 respectively, killing any chance they had of mounting an unlikely comeback. Goulding was also quiet in the second half with two points, while David Okwera could only manage one point from 23 minutes.

Cooks thrills, Walton Jr stars as Kings blitz 36ers

-Martin Gabor

Xavier Cooks has already wrapped up the dunk of the year award, but the Kings big man showed he’s still got some tricks up his sleeve after he put Kai Sotto on a poster to help his side to a 97-78 win at home over the 36ers.

Days after they went down to the Taipans in overtime, the defending champions bounced back in style with four players reaching double figures on Sunday afternoon.

Derrick Walton Jr was the standout with 16 points and 11 assists, but it was Cooks who made all the highlight reels after his vicious dunk in the third quarter which even impressed last season’s finals MVP.

The hosts dominated the paint and protected the ball, while it was also encouraging to see Dejan Vasiljevic return to form from behind the arc with a few triples in his 15-point haul.

It was a fair effort by Cooks who was spotted at the Olympic Park Subway two hours before tip-off ordering the meal that fuelled the epic dunk.

“I think it’s probably behind the one on (Isaac) Humphries,” Kings coach Chase Buford said.

“He pissed off a whole nation with that one tonight.

“I think he’s by far the best player in this league.”

Teammate Tim Soares was equally impressed.

“That was nuts,” he said.

“I had to watch on the replay. He’s crazy.”

Cooks finished with 15 points and six rebounds in the comfortable win, but it was Walton who controlled the contest with a double-double that included a no-look pass to Justin Simon who punished the rim with a one-handed finish.

“Derrick did a great job offensively of getting us into the flow providing opportunities for others and himself,” Buford said.

“He had a great game as a floor general.”

This was the cruisy performance the Kings needed after a couple of pulsating wins at home that required buzzer-beating threes to get the job done.

The hosts dominated the paint and protected the ball, while it was also encouraging to see Dejan Vasiljevic return to form from behind the arc with a few triples in his 15-point haul.

Daniel Johnson did everything in his power to help his side upset the champs but he needed way more support from his Adelaide teammates, with some of their big names going missing on Sunday.

While Johnson led all scorers with 21 points, skipper Mitch McCarron finished with just three points and didn’t make a field goal, while Robert Franks recovered from a scoreless first quarter to post 16 points and five rebounds.

It’s a costly loss for the 36ers who are now 6-6 for the season and have fallen two wins behind the Phoenix, although they do have a couple of extra games to play, starting with a showdown at home against Perth on Friday.

All eyes will be on the 36ers and whether they make a roster move next week with coach CJ Bruton indicating a decision will be made soon after his side failed to lead at any stage in Sydney.

“We’ll have a shortlist soon,” he said.

“Once we have a shortlist, we’ll narrow it down and present it to the players to know what we’re thinking, and then we’ll hear their thoughts.”


There won’t be long for the Kings to celebrate with their attention quickly shifting to a showdown with the Breakers in a battle between the NBL’s top two teams.

Thursday’s match in New Zealand comes a few weeks after the Kings nearly let a big lead slip over there after Cooks limped off with an ankle injury.

“In a lot of ways we disappointed ourselves closing the game out. Hopefully we’ll learn,” Buford said after their narrow win earlier in the season.

“They’re a really good team and they’re going to come out and physically try to impose themselves on us. I’m excited for the game.”

Jackies’ star Doyle sinks brave Bullets

-Greg Davis

JackJumpers import Milton Doyle shot the lights out and broke Brisbane hearts with a matchwinning 33-point haul in Tasmania’s 99-84 win over the brave Bullets on Sunday.

The sweet-shooting Doyle had 11 points in the second term alone to repel the Bullets who were without three players from their normal rotation due to injury – Aron Baynes, Tyrell Harrison and Tanner Krebs.

The scores were level at 80-all midway through the final quarter but Doyle put the game on ice with his picture-perfect jumpshot to steer the JackJumpers to a 7-6 record with five of those victories coming on the road.

Doyle also had nine rebounds and three assists with a shooting clip of 12 of 19 (five of 10 from three-point territory).

The final margin did not indicate how tight the contest was for most of the afternoon with Jack McVeigh (16 points) and Josh Magette (13 points) helping Doyle put the Bullets away.

Brisbane showed enough fight and focus in their third game under interim head coach Sam Mackinnon that the Bullets should make the NBL legend their fulltime mentor as the undermanned home side battled manfully under the weight of a growing injury list.

The Bullets slipped to 4-8 with Nathan Sobey top-scoring with 20 points while Tyler Johnson, DJ Mitchell and Gorjok Gak provided good support.

Sobey had nine points in the spirited third quarter that finished with Tasmania holding a slender two-point cushion after a run of calls against Brisbane late in the term.

Brisbane’s crisp ball movement and defensive intensity allowed the home side to jump out to an early 24-13 lead but Tasmania eventually found their range to close the gap to 27-24 by quarter-time.

Bullets jumped out to another fast start in the second term but Doyle and fellow import Magette kept the JackJumpers in touch to see the teams locked together at 54-all at halftime.


With the tall timber duo of Aron Baynes and Tyrell Harrison out of action again, Brisbane’s towering Gorjok Gak stepped into the void with some intensity and explosiveness. He had six of Brisbane’s first nine points with two thunderous two-handed dunks to go with three boards and a block before some early foul trouble halted his momentum. A missed dunk and a goal tending call went against him but an emphatic block on Will Magnay in the third quarter brought the fans to their feet before he finished with an impressive 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.


Former Bullets and New Orleans Pelicans bigman Will Magnay has had a quiet comeback from injury with the JackJumpers. He had three points, four rebounds and a block in his two matches before heading back to his old stomping ground on Sunday. He had three points, two boards and one spectacular assist by halftime against Brisbane who were being coached by his former mentor Sam Mackinnon. He made two important buckets in the tense final quarter on the way to 10 points for the match.


The NBL does not public criticism of referees. Maybe the truth hurts too much because the standard is not getting any better. It’s an issue whether they like it or not. Both sides were left befuddled by inconsistent calls on Sunday with the level of allowable contact and the level of whistle from the officials swinging wildly from end to end and quarter to quarter. Not good enough for a league that self-proclaims to be the second-best in the world.


Brisbane added guard Koen Sapwell – son of former NBL forward Rupert – to their roster as cover for the injured Tanner Krebs to take Brisbane’s tally of father-son combinations to play in the NBL to six. Krebs (father Dan), DJ Mitchell (Mike), Jason Cadee (Robbie), Hunter Clarke (Marty) and Harry Froling (Shane) are the other Bullets with two generations of NBL in their bloodlines. Young Sapwell grew up in South Australia and represented the state in under-age teams before heading to the US to play college ball. He was in the South East Melbourne Phoenix squad last season.

United continue poor form after loss to Phoenix

– Ronny Lerner 

Melbourne United’s season is on life support after losing to cross-town rivals South East Melbourne 78-72 in the third ‘Throwdown’ of the summer at John Cain Arena on Saturday night.

United (5-9) have now lost their last four games, and the result saw them slide to second-last on the ladder, four wins adrift of the top six at the halfway point of their campaign.

Meanwhile, the Phoenix (8-6) rebounded impressively from their thumping loss to New Zealand on Thursday night to re-enter the top four and improve their season record against United to 2-1.

The Phoenix never found themselves behind United at any stage, and even led by 12 points a few times in the second quarter.

But despite that, they were seriously tested by United who refused to throw in the towel all night, and came agonisingly close to snatching the lead on numerous occasions.

With 3:53 to go, Melbourne sharpshooter Chris Goulding drained a spectacular contested three against two Phoenix defenders at the top of the arc to level the game at 72-72.

And then with a couple of minutes remaining, David Barlow and Goulding had another couple of chances from beyond the arc to even proceedings again at 75-75, but they both missed, and Rayjon Tucker failed to convert the offensive rebound.

South East ultimately scored the last six points to survive the late United surge.


The story of the night was at the free-throw line. In such a tight game, United basically handed the result on a platter to the Phoenix who had a whopping 35 shots from the charity stripe, converting 25 of them, compared to Melbourne who were only 4-8 in the same stat.

In fact, United shot only two free throws the entire first half, failing to nail either of them, while South East were 11-17 at the major break.


After having their colours lowered badly by the Breakers 48 hours previously, the Phoenix starting five responded emphatically.

Alan Williams (18 points, 12 rebounds and two steals) and Mitch Creek (16, six and three) starred again, but this time Gary Browne (17, eight, two and seven assists), Trey Kell (14 points and four steals) and Ryan Broekhoff (10 and nine rebounds) came to the party.

For United, Xavier Rathan-Mayes finished with 15 points, seven assists, a steal and a block, Goulding had 13 points and new import Marcus Lee impressed with 10 points eight rebounds and two blocks.


United’s American imports Marcus Lee and Rayjon Tucker combined in the first and second quarters for a pair of beautiful alley-oop dunks. Tucker was the provider on both occasions as Lee got up high and stuffed both assists into the hoop with a couple of authoritative two-handed jams.

Adelaide produce record comeback to stun Taipans

– Jason Phelan

Adelaide was in desperate need of a hero and it was Robert Franks who donned the cape, the star import draining the foul shots that capped a furious fightback, which sealed a stunning come-from-behind win against fast-starting Cairns on Friday night.

The disjointed Sixers trailed by as much as 19 points, but stormed back to claim a 78-75 win, the biggest comeback victory of the NBL season.

In a frantic finish, Franks was fouled by Tahjere McCall with scores tied as he attempted a matchwinning three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.

Cairns coach Adam Forde challenged the call, but was unsuccessful, Franks draining all three foul shots to seal a remarkable win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

The Taipans had one last chance to steal the result when Robert Franks celebrated prematurely and was called for a travel with 1.4 seconds remaining.

But DJ Hogg’s desperate attempt from long range rimmed out.

The Sixers led with the first two points of the game 90 seconds in, then trailed until just under a minute left when Antonius ‘Cleveland put them back in front.

Cleveland starred with 23 points, with Franks (15) and Daniel Johnson (10) also important.

McCall led the way with 24 points, but it was a poor second half-performance by the visitors.

The Sixers’ missed the energy of Anthony Drmic, who has impressed in a starting role in place of released import Craig Randall II, with the 30-year-old sidelined with a back injury.


The Sixers have endured a home court disadvantage this season, with their only other win at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre coming back on October 15 against last-placed Illawarra.

Adelaide had a 1-3 home record going in, compared to the Taipans’ 5-1 road record and the contrasting fortunes quickly became apparent in another listless start by the Sixers in front of their home fans.

Bruton’s men opened the game shooting 1-6 from the floor, while the red-hot visitors went on a 9-0 scoring run to lead by 15 points at the first break.

Cairns shot 47 per cent from the floor in the first term and committed one turnover, while the stone-cold Sixers shot 29 per cent and lost the ball seven times.

Franks was emblematic of his side’s struggles with no points in the first quarter and just five at halftime on 2-from-10 shooting, Adelaide recording its lowest first-half score under Bruton to trail 47-32.


While the 36ers have been troubled by sluggish starts, the Taipans’ Achilles Heel has been poor third quarters.

The issue reared its ugly head again with scoring drying up for Cairns.

The Taipans were outscored 23-16 in the third and shuddered to a near halt in the last with just 12 points to Adelaide’s 23.


The Sixers played their first match at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre since firebrand import Randall was released, Bruton’s side going on a three-game road trip after the international break.

The Sixers had a 3-1 record since Randall’s departure as well as a win against Illawarra when the controversial American was sidelined by a chest injury, leaving some to argue the improved team chemistry meant Bruton didn’t necessarily need to find a replacement import.

But that argument didn’t hold up in a disappointing first half.

“I don’t know who their go-to guy is,” NBL legend Lanard Copeland said in ESPN’s coverage.

“When you’re struggling like this you should have a go-to-guy and they don’t have him.”

Out of form Bullets stun Wildcats in Brisbane

– Greg Davis 

If Perth were serious about returning to the NBL play-offs this season, the one-time powerhouse needed to come into Brisbane on Thursday night and take care of business against the horribly out-of-form and Aron Baynes-less Brisbane.

But the Wildcats continued their wretchedly inconsistent campaign as the Nathan Sobey-inspired Brisbane found their missing spark and produced a stunning turnaround performance in the 106-95 overtime victory over Perth.

The teams were locked together at 92-all at the end of regulation time but Brisbane executed much better at both ends of the floor in the extra five minutes to improve their record to 4-7 while the Cats slipped to 5-7.

It was a remarkable comeback from Brisbane who were putrid in the 37-point loss to New Zealand on Sunday and were without Baynes again due to back soreness.

The laser-focused Sobey had 28 points for Brisbane who climbed back into the contest with a 23-13 run in the third term while Perth were best served by star guard Bryce Cotton who had a game-high 30 points.

Brisbane led by 10 early in the last quarter but Perth fought back to level the scores at 90-all with 32 seconds left on the clock.

Bullets forward Harry Froling was fouled outside the three-point line with 30 seconds on the clock and knocked down just one of his three free throws before being awarded another shot after the Wildcats broke early.

Perth responded with a slam dunk from Luke Travers to tie up the game once again and it into overtime.

Brisbane admitted to being “bullied” in an “unacceptable” performance in the 37-point loss to New Zealand last Sunday just days after sacking head coach James Duncan and they showed some sort of response to jump out to an early 12-6 lead on the way to a 27-25 buffer at quarter-time.

However, turnovers and defensive breakdowns crept into their game in the second term and the Wildcats pounced with Cotton leading the way for the visitors who edged to a 52-47 cushion by the main break.


One of the shining lights in an otherwise dreary post FIBA break period Brisbane has been swingman Tanner Krebs.

He had 19 points against New Zealand and backed it up with 18 points against Perth including two big three-pointers in the third term when the Bullets made a charge.

Krebs showcased his all-court versatility with a nice steal, behind-the-back flick pass and lay-up in the one play when Brisbane were on top in the first quarter. A nasty ankle injury unfortunately ended his night.


Perth’s calling card during their extraordinary period of sustained success was their rebounding – especially the way they crashed the offensive glass.

It has been one of their major flaws in their 2022-23 NBL campaign with the Cats finishing on the wrong side of the rebounding ledger in every game before Thursday night. The Bullets were without twin towers Aron Baynes and Tyrell Harrison due to injury but still beat the Cats on the boards by 52-41.


Thursday night is a tough sell at the best of times. But throw in Brisbane’s poor season to date, no Aron Baynes due to a back injury and persistent rain all day and it was the perfect storm for a paltry crowd.

Nissan Arena was half full – at best – at tip-off. Brisbane need to keep playing like that or the joint will be a ghost town over the glut of home games during the Christmas-New Year period.


Bryce Cotton seems to like playing Brisbane. For an extended period, he owned the Bullets with the three-ball his key weapon.

He has found other ways to shoot down Brisbane in more recent times but his potency from beyond the arc returned. He had 12 points by halftime with three triples and three free throws (after being fouled outside the three-point line) and 30 by the end of the game.

Breakers deliver reality check to Phoenix

– Ronny Lerner

If South East Melbourne fancied themselves as NBL title contenders this season, they received a sobering reality check on Thursday night from league-leading New Zealand who obliterated the Phoenix 110-84 at Christchurch Arena.

A first-half Breakers scoring extravaganza saw the hosts set up the win as they opened up a matchwinning 63-39 lead at the major break, and the difference blew out to 30 points late in the game (105-75).

After a tight start to the match, New Zealand split the contest wide open when they inserted bench players Barry Brown and Robert Loe into the game.

The duo powered a blistering 23-5 run to give their team a commanding 14-point lead at the first change (37-23).

The Breakers dominated in transition and with Brown (11) and Loe (11) combining for 22 points on 7-9 shooting from the field, including 4-4 from long range, the hosts took full control in the opening term.

Brown was the star of the show, scoring 21 of his 31 points in the first half, finishing the game with an 11-18 clip from the field (61 per cent), including 4-6 from three (66), while also picking up a steal.

South East struggled to make any inroads in the second period, and another devastating 19-7 run from the Breakers, inspired once again by Brown, saw them shoot out to an ominous 24-point buffer at half-time to swiftly end the contest.

The Phoenix could not stop the hosts’ free-flowing offence as New Zealand finished the first half going at 60 per cent from the field (21-35) and a gobsmacking 66 per cent from three (10-15), compared to South East‘s 48 per cent (13-27) and woeful 12 per cent (1-8) in those respective categories.

New Zealand also destroyed South East 37-0 in bench points in the first half, while the Phoenix tripled the Breakers for turnovers (9-3) in the same time frame.

The Breakers finished up with far superior field (39-69 at 56 per cent), three-point (14-25 at 56) and free-throw (18-21 at 85) shooting, as South East recorded 48 per cent (30-62), 22 per cent (5-22) and 67 per cent (19-28) respectively.

The hosts also demolished the Phoenix for bench points 62-16.

Loe ended up with 17 points for the Breakers, while Jarrell Brantley (18) and Will McDowell-White (14 and 11 assists) were also influential.

For South East, Alan Williams was superb in a losing cause, scoring 29 points on 12-15 shooting and picking up 13 rebounds as well as two steals. Mitch Creek also tried hard with 19 points.


New Zealand’s quarter-time score of 37 points was their highest-ever tally to that stage of a game in the 10-minute-period era, in which they have played 413 games. They also became the first NBL team to score at least 63 points in back-to-back first halves since 2010. New Zealand also scored 100 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2019. They’ve now won five games in a row and have won their season series against South East 2-1.


Gary Browne had a game he would rather forget. He headed into the clash averaging 8.5 assists a game this season, but failed to register a dime from 19 minutes of court time, and ended up with just five points and five turnovers, including all four of his team‘s first-quarter turnovers. He finished the game on the bench with an ankle injury which could put him in doubt for their meeting with Melbourne United on Saturday night.


The Phoenix have suffered just their second loss of the season from eight games with the starting five of Trey Kell, Browne, Williams, Ryan Broekhoff and Creek.

Originally published as NBL23 round nine: Sam Froling fires Hawks to upset win, embarrassing Melbourne United

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