Phoenix import centre Keith Benson went from bench-warmer last week to star this week with a season-high 20 points and five blocks but it wasn’t enough as United found a way to win despite trailing for much of the game and most of the last term.
Benson’s dunk tied scores at 95-95 with just seconds remaining but Trimble managed to drive and draw a foul so he could shoot the match-winning free throw.
The former University of Maryland point guard came to United with the goal of showing he could defend at an elite level and his job keeping Roberson to just eight points before the Phoenix star fouled out will speak volumes of his improvement, while his scoring in the second half was stunning.
Melbourne guard Shea Ili set a new career-high with 16 points.
With five of the six NBL leading scorers on court, the baskets were always going to come fast.
Roberson knocked down the opening three-pointer and with Creek attacking the rim and Dane Pineau pulling in offensive rebounds and getting his club second changes, the Phoenix soon had a 22-10 lead.
But Chris Goulding looked in good touch and his side’s bench were excellent as the likes of Ili and Alex Pledger played some key minutes off the bench as that lead was cut down to single figures.
Goulding’s long distance three on the quarter-time buzzer made it 31-26 to the Phoenix and United’s fans weren’t happy.
Melbourne went on a run to start the second term, cutting the lead to a basket after a three from Barlow, but the Phoenix weren’t going quietly and they surprisingly went to little used import centre Benson, who pulled in some key offensive rebounds, one of which set-up Kendall Stephens for three and a 45-37 lead.
Creek kept driving at the basket and had 19 points by half-time while Goulding was ever dangerous with 13 points as the Phoenix led 53-47 at the break.
A defensive breakdown from Melbourne saw Stephens left open for a corner three just 24 seconds into the third term and United coach Dean Vickerman immediately called time out to demand better.
It must have worked as Melbourne began their comeback, Trimble broke his scoring drought with six quick points before his side took the lead after an Ili three, extending it on the next play as McCarron’s outrageous over the shoulder pass hit the New Zealand guard and he nailed a second-straight triple.
But it was Benson’s tough play inside, and two three-pointers from veteran Adam Gibson, the second on the three-quarter time buzzer, that made it 72-68 Phoenix heading into the last term.
Benson couldn’t be stopped early in the last term, making two jump-shots and a lay-up before setting up Creek for a lay-up and throwing down a dunk, opening a nine-point lead.
However, Trimble and Shawn Long saw to a nail-biting finish with Trimble making a free throw and missing his second with 2.1 seconds left to take the win.
The Phoenix host Adelaide 36ers at Melbourne Arena on Monday at 7.30pm while Melbourne United host Brisbane Bullets at Melbourne Arena next Sunday at 3pm.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.