Sport Basketball Melbourne United beat Wildcats – and COVID – to claim NBL crown
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Melbourne United beat Wildcats – and COVID – to claim NBL crown

Melbourne United's Chris Goulding erupts in triumph as the scoreboard told the story. Photo: Melbourne United
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Melbourne United have claimed the NBL championship after holding on to defeat the Perth Wildcats 81-76 and complete a 3-0 sweep in the best-of-five grand final series.

United entered Friday’s clash at John Cain Arena knowing victory would secure their second title in four seasons, after back-to-back wins at Perth’s RAC Arena, and they withstood a mighty challenge from the injury-hit Wildcats.

Melbourne charged to a 25-9 lead but two-time defending champions Perth refused to quit as they fought their way to the front in the third quarter and threatened to extend the series to a fourth game on Sunday.

It took a scoring burst from import Scotty Hopson and clutch baskets from Jock Landale to break Perth’s resistance as United held their nerve down the stretch.

Landale led United with 15 points and nine rebounds while captain Chris Goulding added 14 as Melbourne completed a dominant season with the ultimate glory.

Peatling, an inspiration

After a six-week stint on the road due to Victoria’s COVID restrictions, United went for the kill in front of a reduced-capacity crowd of 5000 fans with Goulding’s deadly long-range shooting powering them to a 16-point lead in the opening quarter.

But the Wildcats battled their way back into the contest to trail by three at halftime, gritty defence and aggressive rebounding helping hold Melbourne to 12 points in the second term.

United’s shooting yips continued after halftime and Perth capitalised with Corey Shervile’s three-pointer giving his side their first lead of the night.

Mason Peatling responded for United to get their attack started and Hopson picked up the offensive slack with his three-pointer on the buzzer sending the hosts into the final quarter with a 58-52 advantage.

Perth threw everything at United in the closing minutes but, despite 14-point efforts from John Mooney and Kevin White, Landale stepped up when it mattered with a fadeaway jump shot in the final minute to close out the win.

-AAP