KAI Sotto and the Adelaide 36ers crashed out of playoff contention in the 2022-2023 Australia National Basketball League (NBL) with a costly 116-107 defeat against Melbourne United on Sunday at the John Cain Arena.
Playing in a must-win battle for its last regular season assignment, Adelaide stood its ground and nearly completed a comeback win only to falter in crunch time en route to another early exit.
At eighth place with a 13-15 record, it’s the second straight playoff miss for the 36ers in Mr. Sotto’s second season with the squad after finishing at seventh place with a 10-18 slate last year.
The 7-foot-3 Mr. Sotto, after serving as the team’s steady starting center for the majority of the season, suited up for only one minute and 45 seconds with only a rebound to show.
Antonius Clevelend showed the way with 30 points while Sunday Dech had 20 for Adelaide, which could have kept a slim playoff hope alive with a win.
A 36ers victory and a loss by the Perth Wildcats (14-13) against reigning champion and No. 1 seed Sydney at press time would have forged a three-way tie at No. 6 with Melbourne for the last playoff ticket.
Ian Clark (14), Robert Franks (13) and Daniel Johnson (10) contributed in a foiled cause for the wards of coach CJ Bruton, who ruled the NBL preseason only to fall short in the main tournament. Rayjon Tucker paced former champion Melbourne with 31 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Adelaide stared at an 80-87 deficit after three quarters but roared on to take the driver seat, 98-95, in the last four minutes before Melbourne closed it out with a searing 21-9 run. — John Bryan Ulanday