Wildcats into NBL Grand Final series
THE Perth Wildcats will get a chance to defend their NBL title against the Sydney Kings after clinching the third and deciding game of their semi-final series against the Cairns Taipans on Thursday night.
They had to hold off a fast-finishing Taipans before celebrating their 93-82 win though.
Perth led by 18 points midway through the third term, but Cameron Oliver led a Taipans revival that saw them back to within five points with just two minutes to play.
However, 12 points from Terrico White and three big offensive rebounds from Mitch Norton, in the fourth quarter, saw the home side across the line.
They will meet the Kings in Sydney for Game one of the best-of-five grand final series before returning to Perth for Game two next Friday.
While the Taipans were able to keep MVP Bryce Cotton to just five points, they couldn’t contain Nick Kay.
Kay was devastating in the first three quarters and finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. White finished with 26 points.
So, the Wildcats go into their fourth grand final series in five seasons, looking for their fourth title in that time.
And coach Trevor Gleeson was full of a praise for his whole team getting them there.
“We had multiple guys step up who haven’t played well in the first two games,” he said.
“White was outstanding, Mitch Norton was huge and got some really big rebounds down the stretch and his defence.
“Our workhorse, Nick Kay, was unbelievable.
“I’m really happy with how we played; the level we played at, against a pretty damn good opposition.”
White got Perth going with two three-pointers within 30 seconds of each other each in the game.
They held a one point at the first break, courtesy of a Clint Steindl bomb on the buzzer.
The Taipans should have led though. Oliver missed a reverse dunk after stealing the ball from Kay when they trailed 18-20. That summed up Oliver’s opening half.
Cairns coach Mike Kelly said the constant pressure from Perth was too much for his side to handle.
“You give up 52 points in a half, you are going to struggle,” he said.
“They were physical and relentless on defence; their pressure was tough to deal with and it was constant.
“We were more sporadic.
“As a group, we had guys step up at different times, but we didn’t bring it together like they did.”
Kay ensured the Wildcats led by eight at half-time. He dropped 16 points for the half, pulled down seven rebounds and handed off three assists.
Scott Mechado was playing a lone hand in offence for Cairns before Mirko Djeric stepped and dropped nine points in less than three minutes before the long break.
Oliver didn’t score in the first half, but emerged a different player after the break. He finished with 20 points; Mechado with 19.