The ejection of projected NBA lottery pick RJ Hampton has overshadowed the NBL clash between New Zealand Breakers and South East Melbourne Phoenix.
After a Ben Madgen flop early in the game, the 18-year-old basketball prodigy performed a little act of his own, tumbling to the floor when he was gently shoved by Phoenix import John Roberson.
An incensed Hampton sprung to his feet and appeared to put Roberson in a headlock, before the trio was separated by teammates.
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Hampton received a foul, a technical foul and an unsportsmanlike after the scuffle and was sent from the court by the referees.
Loud boos rang out around Melbourne Arena as many fans had come to catch a glimpse of the ultra-talented young gun who spurned US college to play in the NBL.
If that wasn’t enough drama, more was to follow in the second quarter when Corey Webster was slapped with an unsportsmanlike foul – with the Breakers on offence.
If debate over the application of the unsportsmanlike rule was raging before last night, it hit fever pitch, leaving the crowd confused and Breakers staff bemused enough to cop a technical foul, adding insult to injury.
The NBL has enjoyed a massive resurgence this season, with the success of the new Melbourne team and several kids projected to be NBA players, but the unsportsmanlike rule has become a constant bugbear of players, fans and experts.
On the whole, it has been applied correctly under FIBA rules, but that, unfortunately, is the issue, given it has killed off a number of close games this season.
Aside from all the drama, there was a game of basketball last night and it was won comprehensively by the Phoenix, 103-78.
In a scrappy affair that didn’t reach any great heights, the Breakers got out to a 7-point lead before a blistering 29-14 third quarter gave Phoenix a double-digit advantage they not surrender.
South East Melbourne did it by committee, with six players in double digits, led by Mitch Creek’s 21-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Wild Kyle Adnam, in his 100th NBL game, caught fire, roaming into the lane and hitting outside for seven of the first nine points of the second quarter on his way to 12 points off the bench.
No-fuss Jaye Crockett, signed as an injury replacement for star Tai Wesley, had his best game for the club, with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.
Flamethrower Corey Webster was his usual self, draining 22 for the Breakers, while new import Glen Rice Jr continued his hot start with 19.
Phoenix will hope to carry the momentum next Saturday into Showdown III against a Melbourne United side that has found its groove.
SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE 103 (M Creek 21 D Pineau 18 J Roberson 17) NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 78 (C Webster 22 G Rice Jr. 19 B Ashley 17