Taipans look to the real Alex
THE highlight reel from Shane Edwards has been appreciated but it's the work of another Taipans big man that must continue if the Snakes want to stay alive this NBL season.
Alex Loughton looms as the key to a last-ditch finals campaign that continues tonight at home against Perth thanks to a return to form in the last two months, culminating in a season-high 24 points last Friday night.
His laconic front-court partner Shane Edwards has done similar, finding his feet in Australia and making a name for himself around the NBL for his slam-dunking exploits.
Performing above his season average 10 points and five rebounds a game, Edwards' entertainment has been the perfect foil for Loughton's re-emergence.
He's fluctuated from ordinary to extraordinary this season, scoring 10 or more points in six of his last eight games after not breaking double figures in the six matches before that.
Coach Aaron Fearne admitted the Loughton that Cairns saw last Friday would be handy to keep for the remainder of the season but was mindful to not expect too much considering what has contributed to his patchy form this season.
"That shows what he's capable of doing," Fearne said in reference to last week's 24-point effort.
"We're a much better team when he does that and we need him to continue that. But nobody knows but him the significance of the injuries he's dealt with.
"I don't know how he got through the grand final with that osteitis pubis and then diddamage to his achilles. He's had two horrible off-seasons because of that; you need to keep that in mind."
Edwards can look almost half-asleep at times during a game but fans around the league are starting to realise his skills package. Whether or not the off-contract import will return for next season is far from settled, though.
"I haven't (thought about it) and he hasn't talked about it but I know he's enjoyed it here, he's fitted in well with the group," Fearne said.
"He's a good guy and there aren't many people in the league that can do what he does."
Fearne will need both to fire against the Wildcats, who are on a six-game run and have beaten Cairns by 19 and 22 points in clashes this season.
A combined 46 turnovers in those games is the glaring statistic that needs tidying up, something that was the focus of yesterday's training.
And Dusty Rychart is still expected to make a tentative return to the action for the first time since January 5.
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Last-ditch effort: The Taipans will be looking for another blockbuster performance from Alex Loughton against the Perth Wildcats to keep their season alive.