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NBL Rd.15: Wow. Wildcats back in business

THREE massive road wins including toppling the NBL leaders and defending champs, and an overtime conclusion has Perth Wildcats already back in serious championship contention, and that's ahead of nine home games at The Jungle to close their regular season.

Import forward Vic Law stepped up another level to deliver 27.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in wins in Melbourne over United, in Brisbane over the Bullets, and in Hobart over New Zealand, that one a ripper which went to overtime.

It fell to Bryce Cotton to rescue his fatigued team, scoring 12 points in the extension, including the match-winning 3-pointer over a desperately unlucky Breakers outfit which again glimpsed us with "what might have been" had Dan Shamir enjoyed the availability of his full roster all season.

New Zealand import Chasson Randle fouled out in 5:15, still a couple of minutes longer than Cam Tovey played way back when setting the record for fastest foul out.

While the Wildcats are most definitely one of two teams - United is the other - which look safely locked away for the post-season, suddenly Tasmania is making a run at the playoffs.

Wins over Cairns and Illawarra has the JackJumpers now on a 10-9 record and within striking distance of Sydney, South East Melbourne and Illawarra. This is how Round 15 went down:

OPENING with a 7-0 run translated into an 11-2 lead, Perth quickly showed United in Melbourne it was hellbent on ending its run of six straight losses to the league-leading defending champion.

Mitch Norton took full advantage of United's defensive strategies to compile an NBL career-high 26 points at 57 per cent and Vic Law was a positive monster on the boards, adding a whopping career-best 18 rebounds to a 20-point offensive return.

Majok Majok's 13 points also were his best tally as a Wildcat, ironically against his original NBL club, Melbourne riding Matthew Dellavedova's 15-point first half to lead at the main break.

Ariel Hukporti's 14 points at 60 per cent continued to raise his stock but it was his Melbourne teammate Jack White's dazzling tip-dunk to again tie the game at 50-50 which had fans jumping out of their seats.

Leading by two heading for the home straight, Bryce Cotton stuck a 3-point dagger in a 17-9 Perth run to the finish which meant a 97-87 end to United's five-win streak.

THERE was little at quarter-time in Cairns to indicate what was about to unfold as the Taipans took a 19-15 lead over Tasmania into the break.

But a devastating 24-9 period of JackJumper magic turned this contest on its ear, Tassie's defence at its best and Josh Adams closing the half with a long-distance triple.

It left Cairns languishing on 28 points at the main break, matching the club's lowest ever first-half tally and leaving it in a long-distance chase for the duration.

Tasmania was "smoking" at one stage, ahead by 21 and still en route to the largest road winning margin in the club's brief history. Adams finished with 20 points, Fabijan Krslovic and Jack McVeigh 13 each in another terrific team effort by the Ants. 

VIC Law celebrated his "homecoming" to Brisbane with a completely inspired and dominant 24-point (at 67 per cent), 8-rebound, 4-assist supershow as Perth buried the Bullets by 12.

Law also threw in a steal and a block for good measure as the Wildcats, trailing 42-47 at halftime, returned from the changerooms and produced the match-winning third period, containing Brisbane to eight points while piling on 26 of their own.

The Wildcats were miserly defensively while shooting at 51 per cent for the match, Bryce Cotton with 22 points and Todd Blanchfield's 13 coming off four shots. (And 6-of-6 from the stripe).

The Bullets are well-and-truly lost and even the search party looking for them cannot find a way home.

COULD the odds have been any more stacked against New Zealand in Adelaide facing the 36ers?

First of all, the NBL deemed it a Breakers' "home game". Right. A home game because the 36ers play their homers at Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Got it.

Of course, playing the match in the Sixers' ancestral home, on the hallowed and genuine "Brett Maher Court" and in the club's daily TRAINING FACILITY, in no way should have negatively impacted on the homeless Breakers.

And because these boys from across the Tasman are such sweethearts, well they even let the 36ers celebrate the 20th anniversary of their last championship in 2002, clinched in this same venue!

What it also meant was fans craving a Hungry Jack's cheeseburger needed to see one of their own players miss two free throws to earn the prize! How about them there wacky guys at the old NBL head orifice, er, office. Are they just a bunch of laughs or what?

And as if to confirm they were in on the gag and with their full strength team for the first time all season, the Breakers showcased their talent and led for the majority of the contest, bursting from the blocks with a 3-point barrage for a 30-16 lead at the first break.

Kai Sotto enjoyed a 10-point second period which included a big dunk and a 3-point bank shot - the 36ers again were an abysmal 3-of-22 compared to NZ's 12-of-24 dialling long distance, but then it must've been tough for Adelaide, playing away like that - dragging his team back into the game.

Chasson Randle and Peyton Siva both swished 3-of-3 threes, an emotion-charged New Zealand shooting at 55 per cent to the insipid Sixers' 39.

At halftime, fans most likely would have preferred to see the old blokes from the 2002 champs suit up, rather than sit through the dross these guys served up.

NEVER were Illawarra's problems as a unit more clearly exposed than in the two-three minutes before halftime of their playoff-rocking road loss in Hobart to Tasmania.

Trailing the fully-committed JackJumpers 32-33, the Hawks gave up the next 14 points to halftime to be 32-47 down and in a hole of their own digging.

The JJs came up the floor, ran the ball around and used teamwork to find open players for high percentage looks, a couple of head-turning assists amid that 14-point avalanche.

The Hawks came up the floor and jacked up the first open crap shot anyone could find - heroball, heroball, heroball again their downfall, downfall, downfall.

Could a contrast have been any more stark? It's unlikely. Captain Clint Steindl had stuck 6-of-8 threes at one point as Tasmania swarmed all over Illawarra, like ants at a picnic. The Hawks were simply slapping themselves, and deservedly so. 

Ahead by 19, Tassie faltered down the home stretch as Illawarra's extended fullcourt pressure forced a series of turnovers which suddenly opened the door for a late and unlikely upset.

Back to within three, Jack McVeigh halted the run with a key three-point play, and when Justinian Jessup erased that with a 3-point bomb for 77-79, it was McVeigh again sealing it with a layup.

LET'S be serious here regarding the latest Throwdown in Melbourne. There was some seriously weird shite going on in this one.

At halftime, the home team South East Melbourne trailed United 49-54 and Matthew Dellavedova was leading all scorers with 19.

Then it was Phoenix's turn to turn it on and turn it around with a 24-12 third period in which Mitch Creek and Xavier Munford set the table for a 73-66 lead with a quarter left. And that was despite Kyle Adnam doing his darnedest to screw it all up late in the quarter with repeated awful solo adventures.

The lead out to 12, the Phoenix were coming home with a wet sail - that's some sort of nautical term which means pretty strongly, if you were wondering - when Creek was called for an unsportsmanlike, trying to stall a United break.

And then, suddenly, Chris Goulding caught fire and United's bulls were stampeding home. His triple from the Docklands over Zhou Qi sealed this and was inspired, as was the great hustle and general play from Shea Ili.

A late tech on Creek for jumping over the baseline on an inbounds pass ensured this one was over, Melbourne with a withering 32-point final quarter to South East's faltering 17.

BY quarter-time in Cairns, it was obvious this was over, Sydney ahead 27-15.

Even missing Xavier Cooks, the Kings were not about to have a slip against the Taipans whose best is in the rearview mirror.

Sure, the Orangemen rallied late to give their long-suffering but perennially loyal fans reason for excitement before exiting the venue and heading home to once more lament what might have been.

But in truth, it was never really going to be. Jaylen Adams' 24 points and seven assists made it easy for the players around him, Makur Maker grabbing 10 rebounds.

Possibly the most poignant moment in the game - it being Indigenous Round - was Nate Jawai icing two free throws for the Taipans while shooting his freebies at the end with his home Torres Strait Island flag painted on the keyway circle.

WHEN second plays second-last, it looks a relatively routine night, which was how the story was unfolding in Hobart as Perth controlled this match with New Zealand, shooting at 58 per cent in the first half and Vic Law already with 21 points.

Leading by 11 and still 55-46 midway through the third period, this one was within Perth's keeping. And then Hugo Besson caught fire. The NBA-bound Breakers Next Star swished a 3-pointer at 5:45 in the third, his first points of the game.

Rasmus Bach's three drew the Breakers a tad closer, Besson driving to make it 56-61. At 3:04, Besson drilled a 3-pointer for 59-63 and at 2:32 he struck another whopper for 62-63.

His third in succession at 2:03 gave NZ the lead 65-63 and had Perth calling timeout to regroup. Besson iced yet another three - he had run off a personal 14-0 streak - and the Breakers were looking fresh and full of confidence.

It wasn't until Jesse Wagstaff nailed a transition top-of-the-key three at 6:05 in the fourth quarter that Perth had its first triple make of the night, and he was tying the game at 76-76.

At 4:57, Bryce Cotton had the Wildcats' second three bomb, blowing Tom Abercrombie out of his shoes. Down 81-85, Mitch Norton's free throws cut it to a bucket, Finn Delany's free throws taking the Breakers back out to four up.

Cotton swished another 3-pointer for 86-87 and when Todd Blanchfield was fouled with 6.3 seconds left, this looked done. But Blanchfield, who took only three shot attempts in the game, uncharacteristically aborted both freebies and with 4.6 seconds left, it was Yanni Wetzell (17 points, 19 rebounds) shooting a pair at the other end.

Free throws matter. Wetzell made his second, Perth took timeout, then ran a play which saw Law with a mid-range jumper, tying the game 88-88. Overtime.

Abercrombie opened the five-minute extension with a corner triple, then Law scored for 90-91, Cotton's drive giving the Wildcats the lead.

They were out 94-91 when Peyton Siva splashed a three, Cotton on the attack making it 96-94, Abercrombie from the same corner pocket restoring NZ the lead 97-96.

Big shot after big shot turned this game from a potential Monday night yawn into arguably one of the best of the season. Cotton's three made it 99-97, then Wetzell tied it from inside.

Cotton's drive made it 101-99 for the Wildcats, Besson's 3-pointer pushing the Breakers back out to 102-101.

Delany's corner three for the sealer missed and it was Cotton with the defensive rebound inside the last six seconds. Coolly bringing the ball up the floor, he pulled up high and calmly slotted the match-winning triple, Wetzell bumping him to boot, the clock showing 0.3 of a second.

That was adjusted to 1.3 but Cotton deliberately missed his bonus free throw and the Breakers were out of time, beaten 104-102 by the best one-two import punch in the league since Darnell Mee and Kevin Brooks.







PERTH WILDCATS 97 (Norton 26, Law 20, Cotton 19, Majok 13, Travers 10; Law 18 rebs; Cotton 5 assts) d MELBOURNE UNITED 87 (Lual-Acuil 16, Dellavedova 15, Hukporti 14; White 9 rebs; Dellavedova 5 assts) at the UN, John Cain Arena. Crowd: 4,169

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 85 (Adams 20, Krslovic, McVeigh 13, Magette, Steindl 10; 4 with 5 rebs; Weeks, Magette 3 assts) d CAIRNS TAIPANS 69 () at The Orange Grove, Cairns Convention Centre. Crowd: 3,300

PERTH WILDCATS 95 (Law 24, Cotton 22, Blanchfield 13, Norton 12; Law 8 rebs; Law 4 assts) d BRISBANE BULLETS 83 (Franks 21, Patterson 16, Deng 12, Cadee 11; Franks 8 rebs; Patterson 8 assts) at The Arnmoury, Nissan Arena. Crowd: 3,202

NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 84 (Besson 17, Siva 16, Dieng 13, Wetzell 11; Wetzell 9 rebs; Siva 6 assts) d ADELAIDE 36ERS 75 (Sotto 14, Dech, Johnson 12, Bairstow, Hannahs 11; Dech 8 rebs; Dech 7 assts) at The Fortress, Adelaide 36ers Arena. Crowd: 3,044

TASMANIA JACKJUMPERS 81 (Steindl 20, McVeigh 19, Magette 11; Kenyon 10 rebs; Magette 7 assts) d ILLAWARRA HAWKS 77 (Harvey 16, Jessup 15, Cleveland 13, Reath 12; Reath 7 rebs; S.Froling 4 assts) at the Anthill, MyState Bank Arena. Crowd: 4,738

MELBOURNE UNITED 98 (Dellavedova 22, Ili 19, Goulding 16, Agada 13, Lual-Acuil 12; Lual-Acuil 15 rebs; Ili 5 assts) d SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 90 (Creek 27, Munford 24, Qi 16, Le'Afa 13; Qi 12 rebs; Creek 5 assts) at the House of the Rising Sun, John Cain Arena. Crowd: 8,319

SYDNEY KINGS 86 (Adams 24, Martin 15, Vasiljevic 13, Clark 12; Maker 10 rebs; Adams 7 assts) d CAIRNS TAIPANS 77 (McCall 21, Deng 20, Kuol 15; Deng 8 rebs; McCall 7 assts) at the Orange Grove, Cairns Convention Centre. Crowd: 3,629

PERTH WILDCATS 104 (Law 39, Cotton 32, Wagstaff 11, Norton 10; Cotton 9 rebs; Cotton 8 assts) d NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 102 (Besson 23, Siva 19, Wetzell 17, Delany, Abercrombie 12; Wetzell 19 rebs; Siva 6 assts) in overtime {88-88} at the Breakwater, Mystate Bank Arena. Crowd: 10


*Hugo Besson on a shooting roll is as much fun to watch as any player in the NBL;

*Andrew Gaze's declaration of "Sacre Bleu!" when Frenchman Besson was going off was almost as much fun as his very "Franch" pronunciation of Hugo's name;

*A 12-point lead on United in the last quarter can still mean an eight-point loss;

*Nobody does the joy of emotional wins like Scott Roth and the JackJumpers;

*Adelaide's 2002 NBL champion would beat its 2022 team - and that's as they are TODAY;

*Dwayne Russell goes into every match he's commentating on with a set number of "facts" which he will relentlessly revisit ad nauseum as if the viewer didn't hear it the first 10 times and it's what he passes off for analysis;

*Apologies. This is "What We Learnt" ... and we all did know the previous item already.

*Bryce Cotton is the greatest NBL import of ALL time. That is, of course, if you've never heard or seen Leroy Loggins, Rob Rose, Daryl McDonald, Ricky Grace, Mark Davis, Rocky Smith, Ken Richardson, Chris Williams, Scott Fisher and James Crawford.

SORRY BUT, COREY WHO? Ken Richardson and Leroy Loggins, the latter easily still No.1.

Mar 14

Content, unless otherwise indicated, is © copyright Boti Nagy.