Wildcats thrash Cairns to secure top-two spot
In front of nearly 13,000 fans for the last home game of the regular season, the Wildcats dominated after half-time to book their semi-final place.
Three-time MVP Bryce Cotton returned to his brilliant best with 26 points, while Kristian Doolittle (15 points and 10 rebounds) and Alex Sarr (14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks) posted double-doubles.
Big man Keanu Pinder, who was especially influential in the second half, continued his hot form with 18 points, nine rebounds and two steals.
PLAYOFFS HERE WE COME. ?— Perth Wildcats (@PerthWildcats) February 10, 2024
Members, you will receive communication from the club regarding finals ticketing next week! ? pic.twitter.com/lNluOOgNds
The introduction of Jordan Usher and Sarr into the game midway through the opening term brought plenty of energy at both ends of the floor to help Perth turn things around after a slow start.
Usher continued to make the most of his time on the court, finishing with 18 points, four rebounds and three steals.
“You can see, when we are dialled in for a nice chunk of time, we are an explosive team,” Wildcats head coach John Rillie said.
“I can talk about it as much as I want but they need to go out and execute and have a belief. They certainly do and it was great to see.
“We had a lot of contributors tonight in different areas and in different times. Moving forward, that is pleasing to me.”
From 21-14 down early on, the Wildcats evened the ledger at 30-apiece at quarter-time as Doolittle ran amok with 10 first-quarter points including a massive one-handed dunk.
Cotton came to life in the second quarter with a couple of huge three-pointers in an ominous warning for the Taipans.
Sam Waardenburg was damaging from outside the arc for Cairns on the way to a game-high 19 first-half points with scores once again tied at 57-all at the main break.
THAT FELT GOOD, RED ARMY! ??— Perth Wildcats (@PerthWildcats) February 10, 2024
BELIEEVVEEEEE! ?? pic.twitter.com/pikCkofgTa
There were signs in the third quarter that the Wildcats were taking control of the contest, but Cairns just kept hanging in there, led by import Patrick Miller (25 points), with seven points the margin at three-quarter time.
The Taipans cut the deficit back to just two early in the final quarter before back-to-back dunks from Pinder and Usher respectively swung the momentum in the home side’s favour.
With Waardenburg injured and Lat Mayen and Bul Kuol fouled out, Perth’s lead grew to double digits and it was party time.
With two minutes left and more than 20 points the difference, youngsters Ben Henshall, Michael Harris, David Okwera and popular guard Kyle Zunic got some court time, much to the delight of the Red Army.
The Wildcats finish their regular season with a road double against Illawarra (on Thursday) and Tasmania (on Saturday).