United break through to claim NBL crown
MELBOURNE is finally United.
After four seasons of discontent at the league's bold decision to strip the 'Tigers' branding, a move designed to unite the sporting capital of the world, the NBL championship belongs to Melbourne.
United clinched the crown on Saturday night, defeating Adelaide 36ers 100-82, in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,300 at Hisense Arena.
It takes a full roster to get the job done, but if one United player deserved to truly add "champion" on his basketball resume it was 256-game veteran Chris Goulding.
The only thing Goulding does more than splash threes, 102 of them this season alone, breaking the 40-minute era record set by Jermaine Beal in 2014, is promote basketball in Melbourne.
Goulding was a development player in Brisbane when current Adelaide coach Joey Wright led the Bullets to the 2007 title.
He watched from the bench that night, a wide-eyed spectator given a chance at the level after being discovered by Wright himself while playing in a social league.
On Saturday night Goulding rendered Wright the spectator, the Sixers coach unable to do a thing but watch the sharpshooter drop 19 points in the first half, including 12 from long range.
The inspired performance, which included the knockout three, his fifth of the night, midway through the last term to make it an unassailable 22-point margin, capped a brilliant grand final series for the worthy Larry Sengstock medallist - awarded to the most valuable player.
He had help, too, and it compounded the Sixers' problems.
Melbourne's starting line-up, considered by many as the league's "best ever" going into the season, lit up Hisense Arena last night, the quintet dropping double-digit scores.
Goulding lit the fuse.
Casper Ware, Josh Boone, Tai Wesley and Casey Prather burnt the house down.
United's ability to score quickly and in bunches had the run-and-gun Sixers firing blanks after levelling the series last Sunday in Adelaide.
United led from wire to wire on Saturday night, completing a series dominated by home-court advantage. Neither team dropped a game at home.
The Sixers were game in defeat, to their credit, fighting back to get within nine points deep in the second half on several occasions before the dam wall disintegrated.
With the game on the line it was Prather, the first NBL player to complete a hat-trick of championships in his first three seasons in the league after back-to-back titles with Perth Wildcats, and Wesley who kept the scoreboard ticking over in the right direction.
Melbourne drove with intent, attacking the rim early and often to keep the Sixers on their heels.
The only knock on the victory was United veteran David Andersen, the oldest player in the league at 37, lasted only 2.60 minutes before going down with a suspected calf injury.