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Tigers win in Perth on Wortho three

By Chris Pike
25 January 2014 12:19AM EST

A STUNNING buzzer-beating three-pointer from Mark Worthington has seen the Melbourne Tigers hand the Perth Wildcats their first home loss of the season and keep their top-two NBL hopes alive.

Worthington, playing against the team from his home state, hit the three-pointer as time expired at the Perth Arena on Friday night to see his Melbourne Tigers beat the Perth Wildcats 83-80.

It wasn’t the only game on Friday night in the NBL, though, with the Reptile Rumble taking place in Townsville with the Cairns Taipans beating the Crocodiles 90-79 to also keep their finals hopes well and truly alive.

The Taipans controlled their clash in Townsville virtually from the outset to record the 11-point victory to improve the Snakes to an 8-11 record on the season to now be sitting on the same amount of wins as the fourth-placed Sydney Kings, but with three more loss with nine matches of their season to go.

Townsville, though, can basically kiss any hopes of making the finals goodbye now with the Crocs currently sitting in last place on the ladder with just a 4-13 record having now lost eight matches in-a-row.

It was hardly an inspiring opening quarter from either side with scores tied at 13-apiece at the end of the first period, but Cairns went on a scoring run of 22-7 in the first six minutes of the second quarter to suddenly open up a 15-point advantage.

Cairns still led by 11 points at half-time and try as they might, Townsville never could regain the lead throughout the second half.

The Crocs did get to within a point several times during the third quarter, but the Taipans always had the answers and went on to win by 11 in the finish.

Point guard Jamar Wilson led the way for the Taipans finishing with 23 points, eight assists and seven rebounds on the back of shooting 7-of-12 from the field.

Cameron Gliddon also added 18 points for Cairns while hitting 4-of-8 from three-point range.

Stephen Weigh contributed 17 points and seven rebounds as well for the Taipans with Demetri McCamey finishing with 17 points and four boards.

Townsville big man Brian Conklin top-scored for the Crocs with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Point guard Steve Markovic also added 21 points and five assists but no other Townsville player scored in double-figures.

The action then turned to the Perth Arena as the league-leading Wildcats hosted the third-placed Tigers.

Melbourne got off to a hot start to the game on its first visit to the Perth Arena for the season scoring the first six points, but once Perth did get on the board it was a tight battle all night.

The Tigers' biggest lead of the match was eight points – which they managed twice in the second and third quarters.

Meanwhile the Wildcats' biggest lead came with just under two minutes left in the game when they led by four points, 78-74.

However, despite the fact that the Wildcats had not lost at the Perth Arena since Game 2 of last season's grand final series to the New Zealand Breakers, the Tigers weren’t about to give up when falling behind in the dying stages.

A Chris Goulding free-throw and then Worthington basket soon had the Tigers back to within a point with just over a minute left before a huge three-pointer from Goulding as the shot clock expired put Melbourne in front at 80-78 with 21 seconds left.

Wildcats captain Damian Martin found a way to score under the basket, though, to tie scores up with 11 seconds left after a brilliant pass from Shawn Redhage.

The Tigers had the ball, though, and coming out of a time-out were trying to get the league's leading scorer Goulding free again, but he couldn’t shake the defence of Martin.

He passed it off to veteran Worthington and he drilled a three-point bomb as time expired to see the Tigers win by a point in remarkable scenes in front of a stunned Perth crowd.

Despite growing up in WA, Worthington has never played for the Wildcats and has often been painted as the villain when playing against the Perth team whether he's been with the Sydney Kings, South Dragons, Gold Coast Blaze or now the Tigers.

Remarkably, it was the Olympians first game inside the Perth Arena after he wasn’t in the NBL last season, and it's an occasion he will remember forever with his game-winning shot massive for the Tigers.

It improves Melbourne to an 11-8 record on the season to consolidate third position and remain in touch with the second-placed Adelaide 36ers.

It was just Perth's fourth loss of the season, and first at home, with the Wildcats still clear on top of the table with a 15-4 record.

Not only did Worthington hit the game-winning shot, but he also top-scored for the Tigers with 24 points and 10 rebounds on the night.

Goulding also finished with 23 points with Nate Tomlinson contributing 13 points and six assists, and Scott Morrison 12 points and 10 boards.

Centre Tom Jervis top-scored for the Wildcats with 21 points, five rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists in the best game of his young NBL career in the absence of Matt Knight.

James Ennis added 19 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals also for Perth while Redhage finished with 15 points and Martin 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

There is no NBL match on Saturday night, but on Sunday afternoon the Sydney Kings host the Adelaide 36ers and the Wollongong Hawks host the Melbourne Tigers.

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