On a day where the door slammed shut on their NBL finals hopes, South East Melbourne Phoenix star Mitch Creek publicly declared he would remain committed to the club if he stayed in Australia.
Straight after the Phoenix’s 84-80 loss to Tasmania, Creek moved swiftly to “kill” speculation he had courted interest from other NBL teams.
“If I play anywhere in the NBL, it’s going to be at the South East Melbourne Phoenix,” Creek, flanked by coach Simon Mitchell, said.
“So everyone at home trying to be a keyboard warrior, whatever it is they want to try to say rumours and all that s**t, just pipe down, I’m signing with South East Melbourne.
“It’s as simple as that and puts it to bed.
“You heard it here first.”
Horsham-born Creek, who had 27 points in the losing effort, represented Australia and, in 2018 signed with the Phoenix in its inaugural season after a stint in the NBA and its affiliate G League. The 29-year-old has said previously still holds hope of another chance in the big league and could command interest from European clubs.
The Phoenix were a quarter away from a grand final appearance last season, but haven’t managed to reach those heights in 2022, falling apart after sitting atop the NBL ladder.
The plucky JackJumpers became the first expansion club to defeat every other team when they came back from a 15-point deficit to snuff out the Phoenix’s finals dream.
South East Melbourne enjoyed a double-digit halftime lead, but came out after the break with no energy, allowing the JackJumpers to make a mockery of the Phoenix defence and put together a 20-5 run that gave the visitors the lead.
The fired up Jackies poured in 32 points in the quarter after managing just 36 through the entire first half as Jack McVeigh and Josh Adams morphed into Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Each eclipsed 20 before the last break and they kept it going in the last, holding the Phoenix to a miserable 14 points for the period.
An incredible high-rise block with 19 seconds left from Adams on Creek preserved a four-point lead, but JackJumpers guard Josh Magette missed a pair of free throws that left the door open.
Izayah Le’Afa’s drive with five seconds left came up empty, though, and then the JackJumpers held on for a grinding win that kept them in the playoff picture.
The Phoenix still have two games left, hosting the 36ers Friday and then visiting Perth Sunday, while the JackJumpers host the NBL’s top team Melbourne United Saturday in Tasmania.
Lippy Adams epitomises what the JackJumpers do. Perhaps the most gifted player on the roster, Adams jawed his way through a litany of offensive highlights — and mistakes. He copped an offensive foul for a push off on Creek that left him incensed. The refs then slapped him with a tech foul for his words. Angered on the next play, he lost control in the paint and was called for a double dribble, finishing that off with a choice back and forth with Le’Afa. Coach Scott Roth sent him to the bench and he came back on a mission, he and running mate McVeigh combining for 49 points and nine three-pointers.
South East Melbourne Phoenix 80-84 Tasmania JackJumpers
Creek: 27 points, 7 rebounds
Munford: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
McVeigh: 26 points, 9 rebounds
Adams: 23 points