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Gutsy Wildcats force decider

The Perth Wildcats have forced a third and deciding Game Three in their semi-final series against the Illawarra Hawks.

In what coach Trevor Gleeson described as one of the gutsiest Wildcats wins he’s been a part of, Perth defeated the Hawks 79-71 in the do-or-die clash.

Without star Bryce Cotton, and with Mitch Norton sitting out the majority of the game, the reigning champions got it done on the road.

“I’m just so proud. I’m not sure how many games I’ve coached the Wildcats but that’s the gutsiest win I’ve seen a team play,” he said.

“When Mitch went down… we could have been a house of cards, but we showed toughness, we showed heart, we showed passion, everything that makes you proud to be the coach.

“Great teamwork, had each others back, found a way to get things done and that’s what you need in playoff time. Just guts and determination. Brilliant.”

After trailing by seven points in the third quarter, the Wildcats mounted a 17-point turnaround and eventually took a seven-point lead to the final break.

Clint Steindl was a major factor in the run, connecting on three triples for his 12 points.

19-year-old Luke Travers had his first double-double, scoring 13 to go with 10 rebounds while applying defensive pressure to Hawks sharpshooter Tyler Harvey under pressure.

John Mooney top-scored for Perth with 18 and eight rebounds.

“That (rebounds) was the focus, to make sure we had multiple guys crashing the glass. We’ve got athleticism. It’s hard to block us all out if we’re all crashing the glass. It’s pretty easy if only one gets in there.”

The series now returns to Perth for a win-or-go-home Game Three on Monday night.

Wildcats members can secure their seat until midday tomorrow, before tickets go on sale to the general public at 5pm Sunday.

Get yours here!

Perth Wildcats 79 (Mooney 18, Travers 13, Steindl 12)

Illawarra Hawks 71 (Harvey 24, Jessup 11, Deng 9)

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