The Sydney Kings won a thrilling opening Schweppes Drury’s Cup match at the Tamworth Sports Dome last night.
The game was pushed into extra time after the Kings missed the basket on fulltime to leave the scores at 85-all.
They had led at every break and hit the front with just under two minutes to go in extra time and held on to win 98-93.
US import Corin Henry was great for the Kings, topscoring with 33 points while Darnell Lazare supported with 20.
Likewise, Taipans new signing Cameron Tragardh had a great impact, finishing with 26 points.
For the Kings it was the first major hit-out of the pre-season and a chance for new and old players to gel.
There has been a big turnover during the off-season with a number of new faces in the Sydney side.
But the same could be said of both teams and there are also a few Kings who were here last year, like Kevin White and Jarrad Weeks.
“It’s a chance to play games against a side like Cairns who we’ll be playing later on in the year,” White said.
“I think we’ve got more players returning than they do.
“It’s just that they have kept their point guard and a couple of others.
“We’ve got some experienced players but also some young guys too.”
Both players said the two-game series in Tamworth was about building for the new season.
Weeks acknowledges the Kings won’t be among the favourites for the NBL title but hopes the pre-season will help to whip the team into shape and they can cause some upsets.
“We want to get better as a team,” Weeks said.
“Hopefully we’ll build as a team and go all the way to the NBL championship.
“A lot of people have us as an underdog team but we’ll be getting better as a squad.”
In addition to some new players, the Kings also have a new coach in Shane Heal.
The former Australian rep brings a wealth of experience and knowledge.
“He’s good,” Weeks said.
“He’s been at a lot of different clubs in different leagues and he knows his stuff.
“He’s brought with him some new systems.”
Another big crowd will pack the Sports Dome tonight for game two.
White said he hoped the visit to Tamworth would show off the excitement of the sport and encourage people from the north west to take a closer interest in the Kings and maybe even get to some home games in Sydney.
“We’re promoting the game to an area that doesn’t get many opportunities to see us play,” White said.
“If they want to come to Sydney to watch us they’re more than welcome.
“We think we’ve got one of the best entertainment products and the best sport.”
Tonight’s second game tips off at 7.30pm and will decide the Schweppes Drury’s Cup.