The Perth Wildcats have defeated the Adelaide 36ers in front of 10,766 at Perth Arena in exciting fashion, squaring up the season series and extending their record to 15 wins and five losses.
The game was close all night until a sizzling 8-point final quarter by Kevin Lisch sparked the Wildcats, who opened up a lead late in the game the 36ers couldn’t overcome.
Outstanding once again for the Wildcats was Greg Hire who, for the second week in a row, pulled down a career high rebound total, this time with an impressive 14. Matt Knight was once again a force all night, finishing with an equal season-high total of 21 points.
Top-scoring for the 36ers was Daniel Johnson with 22 points.
As the Red Army continued to fill the Perth Arena the evening got out to a high scoring start with Lisch, Redhage, Wagstaff and Carter amongst the early scorers, while Greg Hire dominated the boards at both ends of the court.
Shooting woes prevented the Wildcats from developing a strong lead in the first half, as their field goal percentage dropped to 30 per cent, and with two minutes remaining to the main break Adelaide got their noses in front.
The 36ers lead didn’t last long and thanks largely to rebounding dominance, the Wildcats clawed their way back to a one-point half-time advantage.
The game fired up early in the second half after Daniel Johnson was called for an unsportsmanlike foul against Knight in the paint, before Luke Schenscher did the same thing moments later as Shawn Redhage tried to lay-up.
The extra-trips to the line were enough to give the Wildcats back the lead but it was far from definitive as the two teams continued to trade baskets, and at the final break the ‘Cats were holding on to a two-point lead.
The final 10 minutes got off to an electrifying start as reigning MVP Kevin Lisch stole the opening inbound pass before getting to the rim with a spin move to drop in the lay up, lifting the Red Army to their feet.
Shawn Redhage, Jesse Wagstaff and Matt Knight went about backing up Lisch’s good work as the Wildcats extended their lead but the 36ers weren’t going away.
With less than two minutes to go it was still a two-possession game and the Wildcats knew they had to execute to hold onto the lead – and they did, with Matt Knight finishing off two plays inside to make it difficult for the 36ers to recover, and after a Wagstaff lay-up and Rhys Carter steal, the night was over.
The Wildcats dominated the backboards 49-29, but coach Rob Beveridge said it was an ugly win.
“I’m exhausted as a coach, you work so hard and then you let them back in, it was frustrating,” he said.
“They are a very good team, and I know if they play at that intensity all the time they would be a playoff team. It was tremendous for us to have that type of that game, it was ugly, and unfortunately when it comes to playoff time that is how a lot of games will be. Really physical. But we got through it.”
Beveridge was pleased with Jesse Wagstaff’s poise down the stretch.
“I enjoyed it,” said Wagstaff.
“It was good to be out there in the fourth quarter in a tight game, I think that’s what we need as a team, to play some tight ones under pressure, against a good team like Adelaide, to get us ready for playoff basketball.”
The Wildcats return to Perth Arena next Friday to meet the Townsville Crocodiles.
Tickets are available through Ticketek.
Perth Wildcats 73 (Matt Knight 21, Kevin Lisch 15, Jesse Wagstaff 14)
Adelaide 36ers 67 (Daniel Johnson 22, Stephen Weigh 11)