Bullets fire early to shoot down Tigers
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
THE Brisbane Bullets defeated the Melbourne Tigers 53-39 in the final of the 2006 Virgin Blue NBL Blitz at Sportz Central on Saturday night to gain a measure of revenge for their loss to the Tigers in the final of last year's tournament.
An impressive early run of eight points to jump out to a 10-2 lead paved the way for the Bullets victory as a tiring Melbourne team never had the spark to arrest the deficit.
The victory meant that the Bullets won their first trophy of any description since the power days of the club when they won the championship in 1987.
The Bullets and the Tigers couldn't have made their way to the final via more different paths.
The Tigers won just one game in the preliminary round, but got through to the championship decider thanks to their incredible size, talent and experience, while the Bullets stormed through the tournament, going undefeated with a 6-0 record behind the leadership of Sam Mackinnon and the offensive brilliance of CJ Bruton and Ebi Ere.
Adam Gibson was outstanding for the Bullets in the decider, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 from the three-point line.
Cam Tragardh was excellent inside and contributed eight points and five rebounds, while Sam Mackinnon had six points and eight rebounds.
Melbourne got 11 points from Axel Dench and nine from Daryl Corletto but they couldn't translate their possession and impressive set-up into points as time and time again the Tigers couldn't make their shots when they needed to.
Brisbane captain Sam Mackinnon had only been back a short while from the Boomers World Championship campaign, so he admitted with a wry grin that he was surprised at how well the team performed throughout the tournament.
"We've only been together for a week and to play like we played, we just gelled straight away so it was a lot of fun out there," he said.
"In the first quarter against Perth we were up 35-9 and I think that gave us a lot of confidence and if teams started to make a run-on against us we didn't worry, we were able to execute and just play and definitely as the tournament went on we got a lot better and more comfortable with each other."
Tigers coach Alan Westover was obviously disappointed at losing the final but he still remained philosophical about the weekend's experience.
"I think we were down to seven guys and the game before really took it out of us," he said.
"To play four games here which is the equivalent of two full games with only seven guys is a great effort by the fellas. I just thank them for their effort.
"I know they were trying in that last game but the legs go, the shots go and we had a hard time scoring and Brisbane kind of ran us off our feet there."
NBL BLITZ FINAL: BRISBANE BULLETS 53 (Adam Gibson 19, Cameron Tragardh 8, Sam Mackinnon 6, Ebi Ere 6) def MELBOURNE TIGERS 39 (Axel Dench 11, Daryl Corletto 9, Stephen Hoare 7).