Playing their first home game in six weeks, Melbourne United have clinched the 2021 NBL championship overcoming a brave Perth Wildcats to win Game 3 of the Grand Final Series 81-76 on Friday night.
The record books will show that Melbourne swept the series three games to nil and were the dominant team all season long to be deserving NBL21 champions, but the fighting effort provided by the Wildcats can’t be ignored.
Written off prior to the season on the back of winning the last two championships, the ‘Cats still reached a 35th straight finals series and then reached the Grand Final without three-time MVP Bryce Cotton.
Then despite injuries to Luke Travers, Clint Steindl, and Mitch Norton during the Grand Final Series, they were a chance to snatch all three Grand Final games in the final minute showing tremendous heart.
But ultimately this Melbourne United team was too good and too deep, and with Jock Landale and Chris Goulding leading the way, they were never going to be denied.
Melbourne was raging championship favourites coming into the season and after ending the 36-game regular season three wins clear on top, they have secured a second championship in four years under the coaching of Dean Vickerman and captaincy of Goulding.
Landale hit the championship clinching shot for Melbourne with 38 seconds left and finished Grand Final Game 3 with 15 points and nine rebounds. He won the Larry Sengstock Medal also as Grand Final MVP.
Goulding finished the series as the leading scorer with 14 points including knocking down another four critical three-pointers.
It was far from a two-man show though. Development player Mason Peatling added 12 points, Scotty Hopson 12, Yudai Baba 11 and five-time champion David Barlow six to go with four rebounds and two assists.
Vickerman is now a three-time championship-winning head coach and afterward, was proud United achieved what they set out to in NBL21.