Melbourne United are once again Champions of the NBL.
United survived a late scare to complete a three-game sweep of the Perth Wildcats, clinching their second title since the franchise was rebranded in 2014 with the 81-76 win at John Cain Arena.
Head coach Dean Vickerman was showered with Gatorade on the sideline while the players embraced at centre court, with the franchise once again the toast of the league.
The star-studded United roster put a bow on a dominant season, overcoming a torrid stretch on the road in the lead up to Friday night’s fitting finale as sport returned to Melbourne after a month-long hiatus.
Star power overwhelmed system in a matchup that shouldn’t have really been this close. With Wildcats superstar and league MVP Bryce Cotton sidelined for the season with a quad injury, United were simply far too good.
Boasting Australian Olympic squad members Jock Landale, Chris Goulding and Mitch McCarron, along with two of the three Best Sixth Man finalists in Scotty Hopson and Jo Lual-Acuil, United put together one of the most talented rosters in league history on their road to the title.
Leading by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Wildcats worked their way back into the game eventually taking a 45-42 lead on a Corey Shervill corner three early in the third quarter.
United’s response was fittingly a showtime play, with Mitch McCarron darting a look-away lob to the soaring Scotty Hopson who finished with a pretty reverse lay-up in the highlight of the night.
Melbourne would never lose the lead from that point on, with a Landale turnaround jump shot icing the game in the final minute. Landale would finish with 15 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks while Goulding added 14 points.
Perth was gallant in defeat, but ultimately didn’t have enough to slow down the freight train of the league in what was essentially the theme of the entire season.
Quartet claim second United title
Four players from the 2018 Championship winning team picked up their second title with the United franchise. Chris Goulding, David Barlow, David Andersen and Sam Short were all on the roster in 2018 when United took down the Adelaide 36ers in four games.
Capacity crowd at JCA
Forced to play the first two games of the Grand Final series in Perth despite finishing on top of the ladder due to Covid restrictions, Melbourne United returned home to John Cain Arena for the first time since May 16. After 11 straight games on the road, the allowed 5,000 strong crowd sounded far greater than the 50 per cent limit, with fans treated to the championship clinching game.