THERE is not a singular moment in a regular season that is as surely promised to be an unforgettable night than in a grand final rematch. Not only do we get to see the two best teams going at it, but the bad blood in the air practically creates an atmosphere only likened to that of a finals game. One team seeking revenge while the other seeks credibility, but when it ends with a final buzzer beater to win the game, it is pure magic. How else could you explain Bryce Cotton hitting the game winning shot, against the team he beat in the grand final? It is as if that game was so great that there just must have been supernatural powers behind it. That there was real magic. Either that or Cotton is just so far ahead of the rest of the league, that he can be held to seven points in the first half and still finish the game with 27.
The Wildcats were coming off their largest loss ever at the RAC Arena, so the stakes to perform for their fans against Melbourne were as high as ever. The game went just as you would expect. United’s Chris Goulding came out firing with nine of the team’s first 11 points, all from beyond the arc, helping secure a 22-19 lead to end the first. The second was more of the same style of back and forth baskets, ending the half at 44-42. If you watched this game, you would personally know that not one fan in the Melbourne Arena or anyone watching at home felt conclusive about which team was going to come out on top. That is when Cotton knew it was time to step up. Beginning the second half by drilling a three to give his team the first lead all night. The Wildcats fed off that first play and did not look back, leading by just four points heading into the fourth. So far the game was already at legendary status, as it transformed from a competitive game to an all-out battle. Melo Trimble (21 points) and Goulding (17 points) led a 16-4 run in the fourth. This was it, their one chance for redemption. For revenge. To prove that last year’s finals outcome was not going to follow them for the new season.
The Wildcats were on the clock, down by eight points midway through the fourth. Cotton was not giving up that easy as he cut down that lead one possession at a time. However Trimble would sink an abundance of doubt in every Wildcats fan, as he tied the game at 93-93 with 32 seconds left. Cotton proceeded to throw up an unbalanced, illogical haywire of a shot that bounced hard off the backboard and miraculously went through the hoop. Game over, Cotton raised his hand and waved at the shocked United players walking to the locker room with their head down. When Cotton waved, he was not just waving off the disgruntled Melbourne fans in their own arena, or just the Melbourne players who only seconds prior had hopes of actually winning. He was also waving off the critics, the people who for some reason did not believe Cotton was the man of this league, the best player. Like all of the great moments Cotton was a part of this season, he again showed exactly why this league is in his hands.
Top 10 NBL 2019/20 moments countdown so far:
#10 Phoenix upstage United in opening round
#9 Scotty Hopson’s consecutive buzzer beaters
#8 Bryce Cotton drops 39 points in grand final preview
#7 Bryce Cotton hits game winner in grand final rematch