MANILA, Philippines — Kai Sotto and the Adelaide 36ers ended a five-game skid as they escaped the Cairns Taipans, 99-96, to keep their playoff hopes alive in Australia’s National Basketball League 2022-23 season on Monday at Cairns Convention Centre.
The 7-foot-3 Filipino scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go with two rebounds and one assist but the starting center only played over 12 minutes due to foul trouble.
Antonius Cleveland came to the rescue in the payoff period, scoring 11 of his 27-point explosion in the quarter on top of seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals to keep the 36ers in the hunt for a playoff spot with a 12-14 record for the eighth seed.
When Cairns took a 90-89 lead after Dj Hogg’s three-pointer at the 4:20 mark, Franks scored five straight points to ignite Adelaide’s 8-2 run to take the driver’s seat, 97-92, with 2:24 remaining.
However, the Taipans refused to give up as Tahjere Mccall and Shannon Scott trimmed the deficit down to one, 97-96, only for Ian Clark to sink a clutch floater, giving the 36ers a 99-96 breather with 34 seconds to play.
It was a shaky finish for Adelaide with Clark committing a turnover. But luckily, Hogg missed his layup with 24 seconds left. Cleveland missed two free throws but he made up for his mistake with a steal on McCall to seal the much-needed win.
Franks had 20 points, nine boards, and five dimes for the 36ers, while Clarke and Daniel Johnson added 11 points each off the bench.
Sotto and his team need to win their last two games against the Sydney Kings on Friday and Melbourne United on Sunday to stay in playoff contention.
The second-seeded Cairns slid to a 17-10 record with Hogg and Sam Waardenburg scoring 26 points each as the former grabbed eight rebounds.
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