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MANILA, Philippines – Kai Sotto started for the third straight outing and the Adelaide 36ers won as many games in succession after edging the South East Melbourne Phoenix, 94-88, on Saturday, December 24.
Gradually finding his groove in his second season in Australasia’s National Basketball League, Sotto finished with 7 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes of action for the 36ers, who hiked their record to 9-8 for a tie for the sixth spot.
The 7-foot-3 Filipino turned in a quiet first quarter as Adelaide trailed 26-32 before he made his presence felt, churning out 5 points and 5 rebounds in the second period to help his side mount a 49-47 lead at halftime.
Daniel Johnson showed the way for the 36ers with 20 points and 7 rebounds off the bench, while Robert Franks also put up 20 points to go with 8 rebounds.
Mitch McCarron tossed in 16 points and 4 rebounds in the win, knocking down a bunch of free throws late that kept the Phoenix at bay.
South East Melbourne sliced a 14-point deficit – its biggest of the game – to just 4 points off a 10-0 blitz powered by Tohi Smith-Milner and Mitch Creek, 85-89, before McCarron came through with his clutch foul shots.
McCarron sank 3 of his 4 free throws over the next two possessions for a 92-85 lead with under 30 seconds remaining.
Antonius Cleveland also shone for Adelaide on both ends with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals.
The 36ers are currently tied with the Tasmania JackJumpers for the sixth and last playoff berth.
Creek fired a game-high 24 points and 5 rebounds in the loss that dropped the third-place Phoenix to 12-8, while Kyle Adnam chalked up 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals.
Smith-Milner added 14 points for South East Melbourne.
Celebrating Christmas on a high, Sotto and Adelaide will return to action on December 29 at they host the Brisbane Bullets. – Rappler.com