Wildcats fall short of comeback against Breakers
The Wildcats recovered from a slow start to make a game of it in the final quarter before going down 89-78.
It means a top-two berth is not yet secured, with next Saturday’s final home game of the regular season against Cairns vital in getting there.
“It’s a great reality check before the play-offs,” Wildcats head coach John Rillie said post-match.
“We’re just not playing at the level that we’re accustomed to. I just told the guys, you are never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think you are. We’ve got to find that with three games to go.”
Big man Keanu Pinder was the Wildcats’ best with a team-high 21 points and 15 rebounds, putting the team on his back late in the first half and again in the last term.
Veteran Jesse Wagstaff (13 points) hit three second-half three pointers, with the latter putting Perth within five points midway through the final quarter before getting fouled out.
Kristian Doolittle battled hard on the way to a double-double, amassing 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Jordan Usher provided a spark early off the bench with 11 points.
With Hyrum Harris on three fouls in the first 73 seconds, Wagstaff entered the court early.
New Zealand got the early jump on the Wildcats, scoring the first eight points of the match before a couple of settling free throws from Bryce Cotton.
The home side did well to claw back quickly and even the score at 10-apiece with four minutes left in the opening term but it was the Breakers leading 21-16 at quarter-time.
Usher enjoyed a red-hot start to the second quarter, scoring his team’s first seven points coming off the bench.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright was causing plenty of issues at the other end of the floor, becoming the first player to double-digit points on the way to 19 for the half while getting under the skin of the Red Army.
Tai Webster joined Hyrum Harris in foul trouble as young gun Ben Henshall got some court time.
The Breakers led by as much as 14 points in the second term before Perth hit back before half-time, inspired by big man Keanu Pinder, to cut the margin back to 46-39.
The game looked to be slipping away from the Wildcats in the third as Next Star Mantas Rubstavicius ran riot from long-range.
But from 19 points down, Perth had the sold-out crowd on their feet as skipper Wagstaff hit back-to-back threes and Doolittle knocked in consecutive jumpers.
Trailing 71-63 at three-quarter time, the Wildcats fought hard to get within five points but couldn’t complete a comeback victory.
The crowd stayed back after the match to honour club legend and six-time championship winner Damian Martin whose No.53 jersey was retired in a special cermony.