After months of buildup and anticipation, Kai Sotto finally made his professional preseason debut for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australia NBL, and in no less than a thrilling 91-87 overtime win against the Cairns Taipans on Sunday, November 14.
Despite being only 19 years old, the former NBA G League prospect was thrust to the starting lineup, and he repaid the coaches’ trust with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block in 20 minutes of action.
Although Sotto had 4 turnovers in his debut, he still showed flashes of improvement and composure, most notably with his go-ahead layup at the 43-second mark of regulation to put Adelaide up, 74-72.
The 7-foot-3 beanpole also converted an emphatic drive and dunk, plus the foul back in the second quarter for his first NBL preseason points.
The 36ers unintentionally made the game harder for themselves at the end, however, as former Chicago Bulls player Cameron Bairstow got called for goaltending on Stephen Zimmerman’s game-tying tip-in at the buzzer for the 79-all tie.
But Adelaide immediately got back to work in the extra period with a quick 8-0 burst capped by an Emmanuel Malou triple at the 3:22 mark for the 87-79 lead.
Although Taipans reserve Bul Kuol gave the 36ers a scare with two quick threes in the final two minutes, Daniel Johnson kept the 76ers heads above water off a clutch layup with just 22 ticks left to seal the deal, 91-87.
Johnson outworked everyone in the thrilling win as he finished with a game-high 33 points on 12-of-25 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block.
Tad Dufelheimer added 14 markers off the bench with a perfect 6-of-6 clip, while Bairstow chipped in 8 points and a team-high 11 boards.
Five Taipans breached double-digit scoring in the tough loss, led by 18 markers apiece from Zimmerman and Majok Deng.
Sotto and Adelaide return to action on Tuesday, November 16, 2:30 pm, Manila time, to face off against the Perth Wildcats.
Adelaide 91 – Johnson 33, Dufelheimer 14, Malou 9, Bairstow 8, Sotto 7, Dech 7, Marshall 7, Mccarron 4, Gattorna 2.
Cairns 87 – Deng 18, Zimmerman 18, Mccall 16, Machado 12, Pinder 11, Kuol 6, Noi 3, Djeric 3, Kenny 0, Ngatai 0, Inger 0.
Quarters: 17-17, 42-36, 57-56, 79-79 (reg.), 91-87 (OT).