The Perth Wildcats have beaten Wollongong Hawks 85-81 in a thrilling semi-final which came down to overtime, and will now go through to their third NBL grand final series in four seasons.
Up against a tenacious Hawks outfit, a hostile crowd, and adversity when Damian Martin did not return after a calf injury in the second quarter, the ‘Cats lifted to wrap up the series in two games.
Outstanding on the offensive end for the Wildcats was Shawn Redhage who put up a season-high 27 points, while Kevin Lisch picked up 20 to go with his six assists. Putting in the big effort plays was once again Greg Hire, who pulled down an impressive 12 rebounds.
Tim Coenraad top-scored for the Hawks with 16.
Similarly to Thursday’s game Wollongong got out to a quick start, but the Wildcats went on an 8-point run to keep in touch with their opponents throughout the first quarter.
The big news of the game came three minutes into the second quarter when Damian Martin went down with what looked like a serious calf injury.
This sparked a Wollongong run but Perth battled hard in the final minutes of the half to bring it back to a two-point game, thanks largely to some big plays by Kevin Lisch, and Shawn Redhage.
Without the NBL’s best defensive player, the Wildcats needed to lift, and Shawn Redhage was the man to stand as the game turned into a shoot-out late in the third quarter.
After copping a loose elbow to the head Kevin Lisch made an amazing play to hit a three ball which got under the home crowd’s skin and helped the Wildcats to a narrow three-quarter time lead.
The final term had all the promise of a thrilling finish with the two teams trading buckets down the stretch, and Wollongong took over the lead with four minutes remaining.
With 90 seconds on the clock Greg Hire found his range and hit a three to give the ‘Cats back the lead but it was short lived as the Hawks regained it moments later.
Down by three with 30 on the clock Shawn Redhage missed a long bomb but got his own rebound, and allowed Everard Bartlett to hit a massive three-pointer to tie things up, and the game was headed to overtime.
The extra five minutes was a high-pressure defensive encounter, and huge rebounding by Greg Hire gave the Wildcats the extra possessions to develop an early lead.
Once in the bonus, the ‘Cats had control of the game and rode out the final minute to bring home the four-point win.
Rob Beveridge was thrilled to make it through to another NBL grand final
“They are such a quality team, simple as that, they’ve had a lot of adversity with injuries and for them to keep fighting the way they do, they should be so proud, which I know they would be, but here we are, another grand final and I’m pretty happy about that,” he said.
“We are such a tight group and when Damo (Damian Martin) went down, at half time we spoke about everybody lifting and everyone did that. Obviously Rhys Carter nailed a big three, but we missed a lot of shots, but we made some crucial ones.”
The Wildcats will meet the winner of the semi-final series between Sydney and New Zealand. Game two of that series is on Monday at 11am AWST.
Perth Wildcats 85 (Shawn Redhage 27, Kevin Lisch 20, Everard Bartlett 9)
Wollongong Hawks 81 (Tim Coenraad 16, Oscar Forman 14)