STORY OF THE WEEK
Well, well, well, well, WELL.
The game was over. Done. Fin.
Cairns had a double-digit lead and was about to surge to a shocking upset of reigning title holders Melbourne United.
In their 600th NBL game, the Taipans had jumped on the back of Melo Trimble's long-distance marksmanship to seemingly lock in a second-straight win after upending the Wildcats in Perth two nights previously.
The Snakes had breathed new life into their season and even on the Fox Sports broadcast, veteran announcer John Casey became a victim of the moment, openly speculating about the chances of Cairns making the playoffs.
Uh, not so fast.
Roaring back into the contest behind some Casper Ware magic, United outscored their hosts 22-9 in the final quarter to force overtime on the back of a David Barlow triple.
Mind you, Cairns was plenty culpable down the stretch, folding like Superman on laundry day in an orgy of rushed shots and missed defensive assignments.
And once the extra period was underway it became readily apparent that Ware was in no mood to give Cairns any sniff of saving their blushes, pouring in 11 points as United smashed-and-grabbed a 99-89 win.
It was a comeback that may just save their season, an odd thing to say given it came against the cellar-dwelling Snakes, but United's form of late has been indifferent at best.
United was without US swingman DJ Kennedy for the Cairns game, but even accounting for that, Melbourne has been -- if not a shadow of themselves from last season -- then at least a blurry facsimile.
Wins have been more workmanlike, with far less showmanship; the losses have been borne of offensive droughts that run too long.
And yet, United still sit second on the table, just a half-game behind the Kings who suffered their own surprise defeat to Illawarra on Sunday.
Melbourne heads to Perth this Sunday for what is already shaping as a crucial contest for the Wildcats, who clearly have their own form issues right now.
And while Cairns will no doubt rue the missed opportunity to post a third win from four games, the past fortnight has resurrected at least a sense of optimism in far north Queensland. Two weeks ago, Cairns was dead. All that was left was for the time of death to be noted and the body disposed of.
But showing heretofore unseen resilience, the Snakes rallied, culminating in a Friday night road win over Perth at the always-hostile RAC Arena that was as surprising as it was impressive.
And while the Snakes won't be featuring in any post-season action, the past fortnight has shown they'll be more than capable of playing the always-irritating role of playoff spoilsport.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Melo Trimble (CNS) - "En fuego" doesn't adequately even begin to describe Trimble's white-hot displays over Round 13. The Taipans shooter kicked things off with a 32-point detonation of Perth on Friday night, nailing six of his seven attempts from international waters
Then, with his mother Kim looking on from the stands, Trimble poured in a career-high 42 points - including seven triples - as the Snakes suffered an epic overtime defeat to Melbourne.
TEAM OF THE WEEK
G: Emmett Naar (ILL) - The rookie playmaker erupted for a career-high 18 points as the Hawks disposed of the ladder-leading Sydney Kings on Sunday afternoon at Qudos Bank Arena. Naar added five rebounds and a pair of assists as Illawarra kept its faint top-four hopes alive.
G: Melo Trimble (CNS) - See above
G: Casper Ware (MEL) - Dropped 11 points in overtime - including back-to-back triples - on his way to 27 points as United roared past the Snakes at the Cairns Convention Centre.
F: Lamar Patterson (BNE) - Has been a staple of this team over recent weeks and was again prominent in Round 13. Added a sublime near-triple double of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists as Brisbane outscored the 36ers 35-14 in the fourth quarter to snatch a crucial road win.
C: Nathan Jawai (CNS) - The Taipans' big man in the middle has been on an impressive form streak of late and it's no coincidence that Cairns has some wins on the board as a result. Jawai played a huge part in the Snakes' big road win over Perth, with 14 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Backed up with 18 points and five boards in the overtime defeat to United.
WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Perth vs. Melbourne. Sunday, January 20. Both teams have title aspirations. Both teams have been horrendously inconsistent of late. Expect nothing short of an intense, physical contest at RAC Arena.