Big on debut: JackJumpers beat NBL champions to reach finals
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The JackJumpers have made it all the way to the finals series in their debut National Basketball League season.
After a season which started with six losses in their first eight games, the team from the island state of Tasmania secured a spot in the NBL finals against Sydney Kings with a come-from-behind semifinal series win over defending champion Melbourne United.
The Australian league is describing it as the fairytale season. The five-game finals series starting Friday in Sydney.
The JackJumpers clinched the semifinal series 2-1 with a 76-73 win over United in Melbourne on Monday night. The Kings advanced 2-0 over the Illawarra Hawks.
“Our guys were gritty, tough, never-give up … just an incredible effort for our group,” JackJumpers coach Scott Roth said after the tight semifinal win. “To defend the island again and impact a state like these guys have done is just a fantastic thing for our group and the state.
“I don’t know what to say other than we’re just blessed to be in this position and humbled by it.”
The JackJumpers rallied from the bottom of the standings to qualify for the playoffs in fourth spot with a 17-11 record in the regular season. Even that went to the wire, with the Perth Wildcats narrowly missing fourth place when they lost their last regular-season game and bringing an end to the club’s 35-year finals streak.
Melbourne United won the first game of the semifinal playoffs 74-63 but the JackJumpers made it 1-1 with a 79-72 win at home.
Melbourne United missed captain Chris Goulding, who was sidelined for Game 3 with a lower leg injury. Josh Adams stepped up for the JackJumpers in the decider with a 30-point haul.
The island state of Tasmania, which is south of the mainland Down Under and is under-represented in national sports leagues, has embraced the start-up basketball franchise. The only other Tasmanian team to reach the NBL finals was Launceston Casino City, which won the title in 1981 but was disbanded after the 1982 season.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports