By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Kai Sotto proved he belonged with the big boys after putting up an efficient and clutch performance in their win against the defending champions Melbourne team, 88-83, during their Australia National Basketball League (NBL) showdown.
The young Gilas Pilipinas cadet chalked up 12 points and four rebounds including the dagger jumper from the right elbow that extended Adelaide’s lead to five with 33 seconds left in the ball game.
Despite going up against former NBA point guard Matthew Dellavedova and Australian national team staple Chris Goulding, Sotto showed no signs of nerves and went straight attack mode since hitting the floor with six minutes in the first quarter.
Seconds after he went in, the seven-foot-two center quickly scored his first deuce of the game off a wonderful drive from the top of the key.
Sotto continued to be aggressive and fished for fouls, sinking most of his shots from the charity stripe while stabilizing Adelaide’s defense in the paint.
Fast forward to the fourth-minute mark of the third quarter, the whole 36ers stadium immediately exploded after Sotto converted the highlight of the game when he did a reverse two-handed slam off a fast-break alley-oop pass.
The showdown continued to be a nip-and-tuck affair but it was Sotto’s jump shot that put the icing on the cake for Adelaide and grab the much-needed win.
Adelaide’s win ended Melbourne’s emphatic eight-game winning streak entering the contest while giving them their third loss of the season.
Meanwhile, Sotto and the 36ers improved to a 4-6 win-loss record while ending their three-game losing streak.