Tasmania’s JackJumpers win maiden NBL title in underdog fairytale

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Tasmania JackJumpers have defended the island and conquered the mainland en route to its first NBL title.

You always remember your first, but this was an unforgettable ride for Scott Roth and his JackJumpers, who overcame significant odds to clinch the championship.

JackJumpers point guard Jordan Crawford produced a stunning game five performance, scoring 32 points, including six threes, to go with six rebounds, as the JackJumpers took the decider 83-81 over Melbourne United in a thriller at John Cain Arena on Sunday.

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The JackJumpers came back from a game down in the series and won twice on the road to topple minor premiers Melbourne United.

This gutsy Jackies team will be lauded on the Apple Isle forever more, joining the great Tasmania Sheffield Shield teams of the last 2010s and early 2020s and the 1990 Tasmanian State of Origin team that upset Victoria in state sporting folklore.

A strong first quarter from forward Luke Travers saw United build an early double digit lead.

Travers showed his smarts as he carved his way through the JackJumpers defence with 11 first quarter points.

United went to quarter time with a 31-26 lead, but they had no answer for flame throwing Crawford.

Crawford has gone missing at times during these playoffs, but he was scintillating with 19 first quarter points for a JackJumpers team needing inspiration after a rough start.

The 33-year-old went a perfect six-from-six from the first with four three pointers in the first, much needed with stars Jack McVeigh and Milton Doyle scoreless after one.

United had a big problem with starting centre Jo Lual-Acuil Jr picking up three first quarter fouls, but a luxury for United coach Dean Vickerman though is being able to call on back up big Ariel Hukporti, who immediately made his presence felt on the defensive end.

After the first 10 minutes was played at a breakneck speed, the defences adjusted, settling in better and making scoring a much tougher proposition.

McVeigh was starting to get involved for the JackJumpers in the second, with coach Scott Roth trusting his forward in isolation situations.

The JackJumpers ate away at the deficit and had a first lead of the game in the shadows of half time on a Crawford three, who had 27 points in the first half.

Considering how close this championship series has been, it was no surprise to see the scores locked on 44-apiece at half time, but the halftime break came at a good time for United.

The third quarter was an arm wrestle with very few defensive assignments missed.

United constructed a seven-point advantage with Chris Goulding finding his range with a three, but the JackJumpers always had an answer with Fabijan Krslovic’s corner three trimming the deficit to two in the shadows of three quarter time.

A five-point Shea Ili run early in the fourth had United up by nine, but the JackJumpers came roaring back with a 10-2 run to level the scores with six minutes left.

Lual-Acuil Jr and Magnay traded dunks before two authoritative Doyle drives had the Jackies up four and within touching distance of glory with three minutes to go.

The Jackies fans started their “march” chant, but a Hukporti three-point play had United within one, before a Doyle floater.

Sean Macdonald stretched the Jackies lead to five, but Goulding gave United one last hope with a three to cut the deficit to two with 4.7 second left.

All the JackJumpers had to do was close out, but Macdonald turned the ball over from an inbounds play and gave Dellavedova a chance for a Hail Mary half-court shot, but it just missed and the Jackies celebrated with gusto.

The victory will reignite debate over where the JackJumpers rank among the best expansion teams in Australian sporting history.

Greg Davis wrote on X: “NBL CEO & his social media must stop saying the Jackjumpers are the most successful expansion team in Aust sporting history.

“The Melbourne Storm won the NRL GF in their 2nd year. Not everything that happens now is GOAT. It was still awesome from the Jackies though. Amazing.”

NBL SCOREBOARD

Melbourne United 81 (Lual-Acuil Jr 14 Dellavedova 13 Travers 13 Goulding 13)

Tasmania JackJumpers 83 (Crawford 32 McVeigh 14 Doyle 11 Magnay 11)

Tasmania JackJumpers win the best-of-five NBL Championship Series 3-2.

Crowd: 10,175 at John Cain Arena, Melbourne.