Wildcats secure finals berth with win over Phoenix
The Wildcats set the platform for their 15th win of NBL24 with a season-high 59-point first half at Victoria’s State Basketball Centre.
Next Star Alex Sarr was a worthy recipient of player-of-the-game honours after a career-best 18 points – including a couple of massive dunks - and five blocks.
Sarr was one of six Wildcats to reach double-figure points alongside big man Keanu Pinder, who registered a double-double with 23 and 11 rebounds, Bryce Cotton (21, eight assists and four rebounds), Hyrum Harris, Tai Webster (11 each) and Jordan Usher (10, seven rebounds and four assists).
UNO. ??— Perth Wildcats (@PerthWildcats) January 27, 2024
Alex Sarr had a career night tonight, picking up a career-high 18 points and a career-high 5 blocks in the W! pic.twitter.com/zKhiYPbzo4
Coming off the upset of the season against two-time reigning champs Sydney, the Phoenix weren’t going to be easy beats, despite missing all three of their imports and several other key players.
Led by captain Mitch Creek, who scored a game-high 29 points to go with six rebounds, the home side didn’t go away and cut the margin back to single digits late in the contest.
The Wildcats’ defensive rebounding was impressive early on the way to an 11-5 lead.
Sarr got on the court late in the opening term of just his second game back from a month-long hip injury and was everywhere.
The projected No.1 2024 NBA draft pick had three blocks in as many minutes and continued to attack the basket at the other end on the way to 10 first-half points, highlighted by an impressive dunk.
At the other end of the age scale, crafty veteran Jesse Wagstaff consistently got in the right spots for some handy baskets.
David Okwera was subbed on late in the first half for his milestone 50th NBL appearance.
The Wildcats amassed their biggest first half of the season with 59 points, bettering their 58 scored against the Kings last week.
The visitors led by as much as 19 before a Creek-inspired Phoenix hit back before half-time to make it 59-46.
Sarr was up to a career-high four blocks by midway through the third quarter, then a few minutes later produced arguably the highlight of the game with a two-handed jam on the fast break.
SARR WITH THE EURO DUNK! ??— Perth Wildcats (@PerthWildcats) January 27, 2024
Watch live on ESPN via Kayo. pic.twitter.com/ce6LjyazWh
But the Phoenix did well to outscore their highly-fancied opponents in the third to cut the margin back to 79-69 with a quarter to play.
The Wildcats went on a 6-0 run to start the final term and looked like running away with it before a late charge from the hosts which fell short.