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Wildcats book ticket to 2021 Grand Final

The Perth Wildcats have booked their ticket to the 2021 NBL Grand Final, after defeating the Illawarra Hawks 71-79 in the semi-final series decider on Monday night at RAC Arena.

It’s incredibly the Wildcats ninth Grand Final in the last 12 seasons, and six of the last eight under Trevor Gleeson.

“I’m just so proud of the guys, just the effort, how they played, how they carried themselves,” said the coach.

“To get into the Grand Final without your best player, it speaks volumes of the character of the team.

“We withheld a pretty big storm in the second half. Just really proud.”

After taking a double-digit lead to the interval on the back of 21 first half points from Todd Blanchfield, the Hawks clawed their way back to make it a one-point game early in the fourth.

But the Wildcats responded, with vice-captain Mitch Norton inspiring his team with 15 points and multiple hustle plays.

“It’s his time. We always had this envisioned when we signed him… When the pressure was on he took responsibility, he made a great and-one when we were struggling to score and that dive. He just puts his bod on the line and comes up with the loose ball.

“That’s what leadership is all about. When the game’s on the line taking a step forward. Mitch did that on a number of occasions.”

Norton was only cleared to play two hours before the game after aggrevating a hip injury on Saturday.

With the game still in the balance, young gun Luke Travers took the ball off the rim and ran the length of the floor to slam home the win, only for John Mooney to do the same moments later.

Mooney finished with a 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Travers had seven points, six rebounds and four assists.

Captain Jesse Wagstaff was steadying influence for six points and four rebounds while Clint Steindl fired from the bench with eight points including two triples.

Grand Final Game One and Two will be in Perth regardless of who the Wildcats play.

Their opponent will be decided on Tuesday night, with the winner of Melbourne United and South East Melbourne’s Semi-Final Game Three taking place in Sydney.

Tickets to Games One and Two are available here.

Perth Wildcats 79 (Blanchfield 24, Mooney 16, Norton 15)

Illawarra Hawks 71 (Froling 14, Harvey 10, Simon 9)

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