TAIPANS bigs Alex Loughton, Cameron Tragardh and Shane Edwards will breathe a sigh of relief after Dusty Rychart was cleared to return for Friday night's clash against Perth Wildcats.
Coach Aaron Fearne said Rychart's month-long absence with a hairline fracture in his lower leg had been taxing on the team's other big men.
``Dusty's return brings us another big man into the rotation, not to mention another guy that has a tremendous amount of experience at such an important time of the year,'' Fearne said.
``I've had to stretch `Trigger', Alex (Loughton) and Shane (Edwards) in terms of court time, and (Aaron) Grabau has had to slide into the four spot. This will ease those guys back into their regular rotations.''
The Taipans made it through Rychart's three-week absence with an impressive two wins from their three appearances to keep their season hopes alive.
The Snakes currently sit in sixth position, with the same win-loss record as the bottom-ranked Adelaide 36ers but just two wins behind third-place Melbourne and fourth-place Wollongong.
With six games remaining, Cairns remains in the running for an unlikely playoff spot after a disastrous start 6-12 start to the season.
The team will have to take its game to a new level if it is to topple an in-form Perth Wildcats team that has won its past five games.
The good news for the Taipans is that both Loughton and Edwards have stepped up in the absence of Rychart.
Loughton, who had 24 points in Cairns' win over the Crocs last week, was in the running for NBL's player of the week award eventually won by Shawn Redhage, who he will face on Friday night.
Edwards responded to increased game time by posting an average of 13 points and six rebounds in the last three outings, both increases on his season-long numbers.
``The guys have done a phenomenal job with Dusty out,'' Fearne said.
``But it's (also) fantastic to have a veteran like him back on the court.''
The Cairns Taipans host the Perth Wildcats this Friday night at the Cairns Convention Centre, tipping off at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at taipans.com or phone 4041 3000.
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Experience: Dusty Rychart has been given the all clear to return from a leg injury against Perth on Friday night.