Tag: Jesse Wagstaff

2021 NBL Finals: Perth vs. Melbourne – Grand final preview

IT is a tale as old as time with Perth Wildcats and Melbourne United once again set to lock horns in the National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final. Game 1 and 2 will be played at RAC Arena given the current COVID-19 restrictions in place in Victoria with the hopes of Game 3 to be played back in Melbourne.

Taking out top spot on the ladder three games clear of Perth, United will be hoping to bring that same level of intensity when they enter the fortress that is RAC Arena on Friday night. The two teams have faced off five times this season with United securing three of those victories to give them the edge heading into the grand final series. However with a home crowd behind them and an uncanny ability to do the unthinkable Perth are not without a real chance here. The Wildcats are not back-to-back premiers for no reason with their ability to come from the ashes and steal a win one of their specialities meaning United will have to be on their a-game.

The two sides met only a couple of years ago in the 2018/19 grand finals series where the Wildcats claimed victory in four games a feat that United will be hoping to reverse. An early win here in enemy territory could really shape a title push for Melbourne. But if Perth are able to apply the early pressure then it could make life hard for the visitors who are on the hunt for their first premiership since 2018.

Both sides were put through the wringer to make it to the grand final forced to three games in their respective semi-finals series. Perth was faced with Illawarra Hawks who turned their 2020 campaign well and truly around from bottom of the table to third while United had to come from behind in Game 3 to topple South East Melbourne Phoenix. But now heading into this clash it will be battle to see which playmakers can step up to the plate and lead the charge. Both sides are littered with classy figures that are no strangers to the big stage but it will be their ability to withstand the pressure and play composed basketball that will be the real difference.

Perth has been missing Bryce Cotton and he is an integral member in their side given his capacity to bob up at any given time and attack the rim or dish off dimes. Without him expect John Mooney to up the ante. Mooney is coming off a 16 point and 15 rebound game with the bigman proving to be a menace up either end of the court with 13 of those 15 rebounds defensive. Todd Blanchfield has been resurgent this season with his attacking manner and imposing style of play allowing him to impact the scoreboard as seen through his 24 points last game and season average of 15 points. Mitch Norton is another one the Wildcats will be hoping continues his hot run of form while Jesse Wagstaff is a real heart and soul player that can inspire his team when needed.

Looking at United and after a milestone game last round Chris Goulding will be wanting to continue his careers upwards trajectory. In his 351st game, the captain will be hoping to find his range nice and early from beyond the arc to send off a real warning shot to the Wildcats. Goulding averages 15.4 points a game along with 2.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Another real livewire for United is Jock Landale with the star recruit showcasing his attacking prowess last game to drag his side over the line. Landale leads the way for United with 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists to his name making him a concern for the Wildcats. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson with 12.3 points and 3.6 rebounds each time he steps out on the court plus the reliability of Mitch McCarron and United have their fair share of power players. Yudai Baba is known for his ability to chime in while Jo Lual-Acuil is also having an impressive season making for an enticing battle.

Photo credit: Getty images

First half blitz sees order restored, Wildcats back in the Grand Final

IT was a feat that no matter how much you took away from Perth Wildcats – a star player down and out, a one-game deficit – the reigning back-to-back champions were always going to find a away. Trevor Gleeson‘s team just refused to give in, and it showed during the Wildcats’ defining third game to put away a brave Illawarra Hawks in the National Basketball League (NBL) Semi-Finals Series.

The Wildcats lost the opening game at home, found a way to win on the road, then delivered the knockout blow back at RAC Arena, doing what they failed to do in the first game, and really putting last year’s wooden spooners to the sword early. A first half blitz, a dominant John Mooney close to the basket collecting everything, and a resurgent Todd Blanchfield showing his former side the exit door all led to the Wildcats’ eight-point win to secure yet another Grand Final Series spot.

In even better news, the Wildcats will get to play their two allocated home games up first against the winner of either Victorian side Melbourne United or South East Melbourne Phoenix, which if they can win already gives them a head start before needing to hit the road. Border restrictions have certainly played a huge part, but everything is aligning for an against-the-odds Wildcats title again.

From the opening tip-off it appeared both sides seemed to be comfortable in the do-or-die semi-final, as Illawarra Hawks got out to a five-point advantage midway through the term. It would not only prove to be their largest lead of the match, but once they surrendered it, the Hawks would never get it back. Instead, the Wildcats took control in the second half of the term to win the quarter 23-15, and by half-time that lead had grown to 46-32 and the writing was on the wall.

Brian Goorjian‘s Hawks were a different breed to the dismal outfit of 2019/20, so they threw down the gauntlet to the Wildcats in the third term, restricting the home side to just nine points, winning the quarter by 10 and cutting the final break deficit to just four – it was game on. When Tyler Harvey nailed the first triple of the last stanza, the Hawks were within a point (55-54), but that only spurred the Wildcats on, going up a gear that perhaps only they have, piling on 11 straight points to suddenly hold a 12-point advantage (66-54) with 6:31 on the clock. Whilst the Hawks were able to cut the deficit back – even reducing it to four points late in the game, it was that burst that proved the difference in the 79-71 result.

Perth won the rebounds (41-34), assists (16-11) and shot at a marginally higher clip (40 to 39 per cent), as well as scored more from turnovers (20-19) despite having more turnovers (15-12). The Hawks held their own with more blocks (7-2), second chance points (11-8) and bench points (21-17), but in the end it would not be enough, and their shooting percentage, particularly from long-range (29 per cent) and from the free-throw line (72 per cent) hurt.

Mooney finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds – 13 defensive – as well as two assists, while Blanchfield shot 24 points – four of 11 from long-range – five rebounds, three steals and two assists in a strong partnership. Mitch Norton (15 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) was the other double-digit scorer, while Clint Steindl (eight points, two assists), Luke Travers (seven points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals) and Jesse Wagstaff (six points, four rebounds) also did well.

For the Hawks, Harvey had the 10 points, two rebounds and two assists, with Sam Froling (14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks) being huge on defence and Justin Simon (nine points, 11 rebounds – five offensive – and four assists) a menace at both ends. Daniel Grida (nine points, three rebounds and two steals) and Justinian Jessup (eight points, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks) also contributed in an even starting five.

Perth Wildcats will host the winner of the other Semi-Finals Series on Friday night, followed by Game Two on Sunday night, as the remainder of the fixture is yet to be decided pending border restrictions.

Picture credit: Paul Kane / Getty Images

Second half flurry sees Hawks upset reigning champs in opening semi-final clash

ILLAWARRA Hawks are just one win away from reaching the 2021 National Basketball League (NBL) Grand Final series after last year’s wooden spooners toppled the reigning premiers Perth Wildcats by two points (74-72) at RAC Arena last night. In front of 7662 fans, the Hawks had to fight back from a six-point quarter time deficit to then hit the front for only the second time in the match late in the final term and steal the game to move 1-0 up in the series ahead of tomorrow night’s home fixture between the sides at WIN Entertainment Centre.

The big talking point regarding the second placed Wildcats who have been the most dominant team in the past decade, was whether or not they could win the NBL Championship title without star guard and reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP), Bryce Cotton. With the standout shooter on the sidelines, the Wildcats still went to work early, racing out to a 22-16 lead against the Hawks. The second term saw a tale of two halves as the Wildcats advanced to as much as 13 points at one stage, before some late baskets in favour of the visitors reduced the deficit back to the six points at the main break.

Illawarra managed to keep touch with the Wildcats after half-time, even hitting the front late in the term, only for the Wildcats to steady and ensure the the margin stayed at two plays (four points). The final term was a trading of baskets for the most part, with the Wildcats back out to a six-point advantage with 4:24 on the clock. Five straight points to the Hawks’ Justinian Jessup had the deficit cut to just one with 1:56 remaining. When Mitch Norton only secured one of his two free throws 10 seconds later, Jessup made him pay with a long-range jump shot for the Hawks to hit the front for only the second time in the match.

Justin Simon slammed home a dunk with 20 seconds in the match and the lead was out to three points, and the Hawks suddenly in the box seat for the win. Former Hawk, Todd Blanchfield had other ideas as his layup with 13 seconds remaining cut the deficit back to one, but the Wildcats still needed to find another basket. It was fitting that Jessup was able to put up the final point of the match via a free throw, but a second free thrown missed, and John Mooney picked up the defensive board. With four seconds on the clock and a three-point deficit, the Wildcats opted for the win rather than the draw and extra time, and Blanchfield was trusted with the shot. Unfortunately it missed, and the buzzer sounded with the Hawks winning 74-72.

Perth was more efficient from the field with the key difference coming in the two-point efficiency with a 58 to 45 per cent split, but aside from that, the assists (17-15) and points in the paint (30-28), the stats all went the way of Illawarra. The Hawks won the steals (8-4), blocks (3-1), second chance points (15-11), points from turnovers (12-2) and bench points (21-14), with the rebounds even (41-40), and the Hawks clever with ball-in-hand only committing six turnovers to the Wildcats’ 12.

Simon won Player of the Match for the Hawks with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals, whilst Jessup’s impact late lead the back court star to 17 points – three of seven from long-range – and four rebounds. Sam Froling (10 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) did a bit of everything, while Tyler Harvey (10 points, three rebounds) and Tim Coenraad (10 points, three rebounds) also hit the double-figure points.

Blanchfield stood up in the absence of Cotton, shooting six of 12 from long-range for a total of 24 points, three rebounds and two assists. Meanwhile Mooney (13 points, 16 rebounds) produced a massive double-double including 14 of those rebounds defensive, and Luke Travers (12 points, six rebounds and two assists) both finished with double-digit points. Norton (seven points, three assists and two rebounds) and Jesse Wagstaff (six points, three rebounds and two assists) also contributed strongly.

Tomorrow night’s second game at the WIN Entertainment Centre starts at 5:30pm AEST with the Hawks able to close out the series, or the Wildcats responding with a win and forcing a third game back at RAC Arena on Monday.

Picture credit: NBL Media

2021 NBL Semi-finals preview: Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks

THE first game of the National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals is set to kick off on Thursday night when Perth Wildcats take on Illawarra Hawks.

It has been a rapid rise for Illawarra Hawks in season 2021 with the side rocketing from last place to third while the reigning premiers in Perth Wildcats will be hoping to use their finals experience to topple their opponents. Looking at the numbers and the Hawks finished the season with 20 wins and 16 losses while Perth racked up 25 wins and only suffered 11 losses for the season making for an enthralling battle.

Having only met last round, the Wildcats will be eager to reverse the fortunes and get the chocolates over Illawarra who well and truly found their groove and composure to grind out a two point win. Prior to that encounter the Wildcats were three from three with the smallest winning margin 11 points making this contest all the more exciting. But the Hawks will have their work cut out for them up against the Wildcats who will be hoping to take advantage of their home crowd in Game 1 with the match set to be played at RAC Arena. Perth have made the stadium a fortress of sorts and will be hoping to make the most of their chances to get their playoffs campaign under way in style and put their Round 21 jitters to bed. Not only will the Wildcats be keen to pounce back from their loss against the Hawks but so too the top of the table Melbourne United but they are not reigning premiers for no reason with their ability to dig deep and grind out games second to none. Meanwhile the Hawks have a chequered history with a win and a loss in Round 21 to close out the home and away season. Game 2 will be played at WIN Entertainment Centre with the Hawks playing host to the Wildcats three days later.

The Wildcats are oozing star players and none bigger than Bryce Cotton with the star guard impressing with an average of 23.47 points a game. Cotton is just about unstoppable when he gets going and is renowned for his ability to single handily change the course of a game with his dish off game just as impressive averaging 5.69 assists and 2.91 rebounds. Partner in crime, John Mooney is another standout for the Wildcats producing a handy double-double thanks to his 17.33 points and 11.42 rebounds. There is no denying that Perth have a plethora of other key role players with Todd Blanchfield, Mitchell Norton and Jesse Wagstaff all viable options. In fact the trio have all played 35 games this season showcasing their high level of endurance and ability to contribute with Blanchfield averaging 17.33 points a game plus 3.69 rebounds making him an integral cog in the Wildcats unit.

It will be up to Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup to lead the way for their side with duo renowned for their crafty court play and ability to score. Harvey averages 20.44 points a game, 3.68 rebounds, 3.24 assists and 1.38 steals. Teammate Jessup is also handy credit to his 13.26 points each time he steps out on court along with his 3.69 rebounds and 1.38 assists. But if the Hawks are to win they will need additional support from the likes of Sam Froling and Justin Simon to get the job done. Froling has proven to be a solid contributor both on the scoring and rebounding front with an average of 11.53 points and a team-high 7.06 rebounds.

Perth Wildcats vs. Illawarra Hawks
Thursday, June 10 @9:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Perth Wildcats 
Saturday, June 12 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

United take out minor premiership

MELBOURNE United secured top spot on the National Basketball League (NBL) ladder with a win over rivals Perth Wildcats (78-64). The win gifts United the privileges of a home court advantage but will hoping that fans are allowed into the stadium given the current COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria. Nevertheless first place has long been Melbourne’s this season and this victory sealed the deal.

Although Perth were without two of their key contributors in Bryce Cotton and Mitch Norton that should not discount the magnitude of the win, with confidence key heading into finals. the loss marks Perth’s second straight loss while United managed their second win in a row to go with a full head of steam heading into the playoffs.

The Wildcats came out with a point to prove nailing the first five points of the game. The experienced head of Todd Blanchfield stepped up to the plate early, applying some strong scoreboard pressure. But that is where is stopped as the visitors upped the ante in both offence and defence to stop the Wildcats in their tracks and go on the attack themselves. The bench players in Yudai Baba and David Barlow were able to make their presence felt from down town landing a couple of handy threes. But the most impressive rally was when United piled on 10 points straight to round out the term as Jo Lual-Acuil carried the weight of the world on his shoulders credit to his six points. United established a commanding 12 point lead by the end of the first quarter and did not look like giving it up.

But the class of the Wildcats started to come to the fore as the reigning premiers proved they were not going to go down without a fight. Clint Steindl lent a hand in attack sinking a triple while Blanchfield also continued to do damage from beyond the arc. With their tails well and truly up the Wildcats were able to plug away at the margin using their smarts and skill to go on a points scoring spree of their own. Nailing six points straight to close out the term Perth were able to reduce the deficit to just seven points and give them a fighting chance heading into the second half.

The third term tightened up with both sides still trying to assert their dominance. However it was United that still had the upper hand as Sam McDaniel and Jock Landale played their part in keeping their sides noses in-front. After a quiet start to the game, Chris Goulding finally got his time to shine landing his first points of the game but the spirit of the Wildcats was still profound. Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff finished the term with a hot hand as the duo worked in overdrive to cull the margin to eight at the final change.

With the game on the line it was United that controlled proceedings, digging deep to keep the game on their terms and secure the win. The key figures inBarlow and Landale chimed in at the right time for United to keep Perth at bay and win the game by 14-points.

The contest between Landale and John Mooney was enthralling with the two barometers for their respective sides going head to head. However it is fair to say that Landale had the upper hand and was a key reason for United’s success as he produced 14 points and five rebounds. Lual-Acuil led all-comers with his 16 points and two assists off the bench while Mitch McCarron also had a point to prove draining 11 points and picking up six rebounds and five assists in the win. Goulding was down on his productivity recording six points and four rebounds as Barlow got busy in his 20  minutes on court with nine points and four rebounds to his name. Blanchfield was the most dominant scorer for the Wildcats finishing with 15 points at 35 per cent from the field. Luke Travers was a handy option for Perth recording 10 points and eight rebounds while Will Magnay also sunk 10 points and collected two rebounds and two assists.

Photo credit: Paul Kane

Hawks lock in top four spot with a scintillating victory over Wildcats

PLAYING back in front of their home crowd, the Illawarra Hawks produced a miracle win to topple the Perth Wildcats and secure a finals berth. After being bottom of the table last year the Hawks reversed their fortunes this season and this game was no different taking on the juggernaut that is Perth and coming up big with a narrow two point win, 81-79. Not only was it a fairytale performance for the Hawks playing unit, but so too for coach Brian Goorjian who is set to take lead his side into his 21st consecutive appearance.

It was always going to be a hot battle with the two sides jostling for prime position when it comes to the ladder. But it was the Hawks that made all the running early as they got busy on the scoreboard. Star, Tyler Harvey was on song early commanding the ball and doing his best job to apply scoreboard pressure opening the match with a triple to indicate the type of form he was in. Justinian Jessup also lent a hand with a jump shot of his own as the Hawks started to motor and hold the Wildcats up in offence. This momentum continued for much of the term as Illawarra controlled proceedings to create a handy four-point lead heading into the break.

Holding both the lead and momentum from the first term, Illawarra looked to capitalise but it was Perth that struck first as Clint Steindl landed a timely three to get his side back to within one point. With the pressure on them Illawarra managed to find a way to keep the scoreboard ticking over as Tim Coenraad hit a jump shot of his own to extend the margin back to four points. It was tit for tat for much of the term as neither team could really gain the ascendancy with the scores level midway through the term before the Wildcats pulled away thanks to John Mooney and his scoring prowess. With the tables now reversed as Perth held a four point buffer the Hawks needed to find a way to get back into the match. The answer proved to be bench points as Isaac White and Deng Deng found their rhythm as Harvey continued to be a thorn in the Wildcats side. their increased output saw the lead change hands once again as Illawarra clinched a narrow six point upper hand at the half.

The Wildcats came out firing in the third term with their increased pressure making it hard for the Hawks to find easy access to the rim. Todd Blanchfield and Jarred Bairstow worked their way into the match to reel in the deficit and give the Wildcats a chance to overcome their opponents. But the Hawks were unwilling to relinquish their lead despite scores being tied up at the nine minute mark at 44 apiece. Justin Simon saw the opportunity to inflict some scoreboard pain and that he did with a driving layup to reclaim the lead and most importantly some composure for the home side. Sam Froling also chimed in with a powerful dunk as the Hawks pushed out to a five point lead but the Wildcats continued to linger as Steindl landed a handy shot right on the buzzer.

A mere five points separated the two sides heading into the final break. Tensions were high with a win securing the Hawks a definite spot in finals and for the Wildcats a chance at stealing top spot. Neither side were willing to take a backwards step as Jesse Wagstaff ate into the deficit almost instantaneously. Wagstaff along with Mooney came to play in the final term as they spurred their side on to steal the lead with a tick over two minutes to play. but somehow the Hawks dug even deeper as the usual suspects in Harvey and Jessup stepped up to the plate to convert. It all came down to the final play of the game with Mooney unleashing a hail Mary three but missing as the Hawks run out victorious.

Harvey topscored for the Hawks thanks to his 27 points at 36 per cent from the field. He was relatively accurate from down town sinking five triples while he also picked up four rebounds and three assists. Froling produced 14 points and two rebounds as Jessup was down on his points scoring load with 12 but still managed to have an impact off the boards with four rebounds. Deng was another handy contributor thanks to his 11 points and while Andrew Ogilvy did not score he managed seven rebounds. For the Wildcats it was Steindl that led the way thanks to his 15 points as Mooney racked up another double-double credit to his 14 points and 15 rebounds, 11 of which were defensive. Wagstaff was strong off the bench for his 12 points as Will Magnay also plied his trade racking up seven points and five rebounds.

Photo credit: Mark Kolbe

2021 NBL Round 19: New Zealand play first game on home soil

WITH finals just around the corner, Round 19 of the National Basketball League is set to be a blockbuster as teams jostle for prime position. Melbourne United will be out to hold onto top spot while the New Zealand Breakers will play their first game in New Zealand for the 2021 season, after spending the past six months in Australia.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Melbourne United
Tuesday, May 18 @7:30pm

A top four battle between Illawarra Hawks and Melbourne United kicks off Round 18 proceedings with the top of the table United looking to keep it that way after a shock loss to the Phoenix last round. Still sitting two games clear at the top of the ladder, United will be eager to get back to their winning ways and re-establish their dominance with a classy performance against the Hawks who have proven they can find that next gear when challenged.

Boasting the likes of Chris Goulding and Jock Landale, Melbourne United have some incredibly strong scoring and rebounding options that the Hawks will need to shut down if they are a chance to topple the ladder leaders. Landale leads the way with an average of 16.24 points while Goulding produces 15.96. Throw in the likes of Scotty Hopson and Mitch McCarron and United have a multi-pronged attack capable of defeating the Hawks who can be hit and miss. However in saying that, Illawarra have some key cogs of their own with Justinian Jessup and Tyler Harvey capable of dominating. Harvey is coming off a stellar performance and will be eager to replicate those feats against United given he has a season average of 20.18 points. Cameron Bairstow is consistent while Justin Simon has proven to be a game-=changer in recent weeks and should not be underestimated in this clash.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Wednesday, May 19 @7:30pm

Perth Wildcats currently hold second spot on the ladder and while the Bullets sit just outside the top four in sixth they are still a chance of making finals if everything goes to plan. Brisbane are just two games shy of fourth spot and will be wanting to throw everything they have at the Wildcats when they go head to head on Wednesday night.

There is no denying that the combination between John Mooney and Bryce Cotton has been one of the most impressive to watch all season with the duo able to light up the court with their signature flair. Cotton leads the way with an impressive average of 24.07 points to his name along with 5.79 assists as Mooney boasts a double-double thanks to his 11.72 rebounds and 18.07 points. Teammates, Todd Blanchfield, Mitch Norton and Jesse Wagstaff often fly under the radar but are more than able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and effectively ply their trade for the Wildcats. With this in mind, it will be up to the likes of Nathan Sobey and Matthew Hodgson to lead the way. Sobey has been a workhorse for the Bullets this season as shown through his average of 22.36 points and will need a big performance if his side is to worry the Wildcats. Jason Cadee and Harry Froling are the other two to keep a watchful eye on in this clash.

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 20 @5:30pm

Playing their first game in front of a home crowd for close to six months, the Breakers will have everything to play for. It has been an incredibly difficult season for New Zealand both on and off the court and it will not get any easier when they take on the Sydney Kings who are knocking on the door of the top four.

The Kings rely heavily on Jarrell Martin and Casper Ware, and rightly so given their high work rate and impressive output to keep the Kings in business in 2021. Ware averages 18.67 points and 4.53 assists while Martin is also influential credit to his 16.91 and 6.86 rebounds. With those two at the helm expect Jordan Hunter, Brad Newley and Daniel Kickert to chime in and throw their weight around against the Breakers as they hunt for another win. New Zealand will be chomping at the bit to get out on court with Finn Delany in ripping form. Delany starred last round, topscoring and will be wanting to continue his merry way in this outing against the Kings. There will be questions about the return of Levi Randolph and Tom Abercrombie meaning all eyes will turn to Tai Webster and Corey Webster who have been prolific throughout the season. Since joining the fray, William McDowell-White has been a revelation averaging 8.15 points, 4.85 rebounds and 5.46 assists.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Illawarra Hawks
Friday, May 21 @7:30pm

The Hawks will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while it will be the 36ers first of three appearances. With finals just out of reach for Adelaide, expect them to still put Illawarra through the wringer as they look to disrupt the finals landscape.

Adelaide will see this as a real opportunity to have an influence on the finals and will be hoping their key figures such as Daniel Johnson and Brandon Paul are able to have an impact. Johnson is a real lynchpin for the 36ers boasting an average of 20.32 points while Paul is a commanding presence thanks to his 14.8 points and 4.47 rebound average. Isaac Humphries is still on the mend while Tony Crocker is another excitement machine for the 36ers and will need to be on song if his side is to knock off the Hawks. Unfortunately the side will be without the services of Josh Giddey as he is preparing for the NBA draft after a stellar campaign leaving a large hole to fill against a top side this round.

Perth Wildcats vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 21 @9:30pm

Perth will be fronting up for their second match while the lowly Cairns Taipans will be hoping for a miracle on Friday night. They have struggled all season, with only seven wins to their name and would love nothing more than to throw a spanner in the works and steal a win off their much higher ranked opposition. But Perth are in strong form and have a plethora of players able to step up to the plate while the Taipans have not been the same since the departure of Cameron Oliver.

The Taipans will once again be looking to Scott Machado to lead the way and get busy on the scoring front. He will need a wealth of support from the likes of Majok Deng, Kouat Noi and the like if he is to generate some real concern. Veteran Nate Jawai will need a big game as will New Zealander Jordan Ngatai for when they take on the rampaging Wildcats.

Brisbane Bullets vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Saturday, May 22 @8:00pm

This is the sole outing for South East Melbourne Phoenix as they look to solidify their standings inside the top four. On the other hand, Brisbane will be taking the court for the second time in the round and will be hoping that fatigue is not a factor as they look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Phoenix are littered with A-grade talent including Mitch Creek, Keifer Sykes and Ryan Broekhoff who are all more than capable of tearing a game apart with their proficiency. Creek tops the table with an average of 18.45 points a game along with 6.59 rebounds while Sykes is reliable thanks to his 13.95 points. Kyle Adnam has stepped up the ante in season 2021 and his season averages reflect that boasting 12.68 points and 3.74 assists a game. Ben Moore, Yannick Wetzell and Cameron Gliddon are other viable options for the Phoenix who will need to fire to ensure they keep the Bullets at bay.

Other games:

New Zealand Breakers vs. Sydney Kings
Saturday, May 22 @5:30pm

Adelaide 36ers vs. Perth Wildcats
Sunday, May 23 @3:00pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. Cairns Taipans
Sunday, May 23 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Melbourne United
Monday, May 24 @7:30pm

New Zealand Breakers vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 25 @5:30pm

Photo credit: Anna Warr

Wildcats claw back win in dominant final term

PERTH Wildcats always find a way, and the reigning back-to-back National Basketball League (NBL) premiers did it again on the road against a plucky Brisbane Bullets outfit at Nissan Arena last night. The Bullets led at the final break, but a 65-point final term had fans on the edge of their seats, with the Wildcats piling on 41 points – two thirds of their score from the first three quarters – in just one term to win by 12 points, 102-90.

The Wildcats did take control early with a 28-18 opening quarter to race out to a 10-point lead at the first break. The Bullets were not going to let them get away that easy though, answering with a 26-17 second term to reduce the deficit to just a point at the main break. A 22-16 third quarter saw Brisbane continue that momentum into the second half and lead by five at the final break, before Perth’s scoring bonanza lit up the game with a massive 41-24 term to see them run out victors and remain in contention for top spot on the NBL ladder.

Both teams had almost identical shooting percentages from the field, but the Wildcats were the better outside team, with more than half (51 per cent) of their triples going in, whilst the Bullets had a higher efficiency from inside the arc (48 to 42 per cent). The winners lead the rebounds (41-39), blocks (3-0), second chance points (18-16) and points from turnovers (11-9), of which the latter was fairly even given the Bullets had one extra turnover (as well as six extra personal fouls). The Bullets easily had the Wildcats’ measure in the paint, with 44 points to 30, as well as 24-20 assists and 6-5 steals. The contribution off the bench was also far greater with 30 points to 10.

It was a triple threat for the Wildcats, with Todd Blanchfield leading the way, dropping five of nine from long-range and 10 of 16 from the field overall, to finish with 31 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Bryce Cotton (24 points including four of nine from long-range, three rebounds and two assists) and Mitch Norton (24 points, eight rebounds and three assists) also had big nights out. John Mooney had the 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks, while Will Magnay made his debut against his former side, only putting up the two points in 15 minutes, but having four rebounds and two assists in the process. Jesse Wagstaff (five points, five rebounds and two assists) was impactful off the bench.

For the Bullets, Nathan Sobey was the standout shooter, putting up 24 points, five assists and two rebounds, while Lamar Patterson (10 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) and Matt Hodgson (10 points, nine rebounds and four assists) also looked impressive throughout the night. Anthony Drmic (11 points) hit double figures starting and playing 21 minutes, whilst Jason Cadee had 14 points, four assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.

Perth Wildcats travel further north to take on Cairns Taipans on Monday, whilst the Brisbane Bullets get a longer break until Wednesday where they host the Wildcats back at Nissan Arena to try and seek revenge on their conquerors from tonight.

Picture credit: Jono Searle/Getty Images

2021 NBL Round 18 preview

ROUND 18 of the National Basketball League (NBL) kicks off tonight with Illawarra and Adelaide getting things underway. The ladder is starting to well and truly shape up as Melbourne United sit two games clear at the top while South East Melbourne Phoenix will have plenty of opportunities to retain their hunting position on the ladder with three games for the round.

Illawarra Hawks vs. Adelaide 36ers
Tuesday, May 11 @7:30pm

Illawarra sit one game outside of the top four and will be knocking at the door if they are able to get a win here and defeat Adelaide. On the other hand the 36ers will be hoping to throw everything they have at Hawks in hope to keep their slim finals chances alive.

The 36ers have returned to full strength with Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries both putting in the hard yards and able to score with relative ease averaging 20.62 and 13.61 points a game. The influence of Brandon Paul and youngster Josh Giddey will be important throughout their clash with the Hawks if they are to get over the top while Sunday Dech is a helping hand off the boards. The issue however for the 36ers lies with the power duo in Tyler Harvey and Justinian Jessup. Their ability to score rapidly and create something out of nothing is second to none with Harvey boasting an average of 19.92 points and Jessup with 14.42. They are not alone with Cameron Bairstow, Sam Froling and Justin Simon more than capable of worrying opposition teams with their capacity to hit the scoreboard and get busy in defence to reel in the rebounds.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. New Zealand Breakers
Wednesday, May 12 @7:30pm

Holding onto fourth spot on the ladder, the Phoenix need a win here to solidify their standings in the competition and generate some momentum heading into the back half of the season. It has been a tricky season for the Breakers who have shown glimpses of magic but have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries to key players, something the Phoenix will be hoping to capitalise on this game.

Expect Tai Webster to lead the troops for the Breakers while Finn Delany is the other player that can turn the game on its head with his explosiveness. New Zealand will be hoping that new recruit Levi Randolph will be able to take the court once more given his ability to find the basket credit to his 13.5 point average across his eight games. They will likely be without captain Tom Abercrombie which will be a huge blow meaning the likes of William McDowell-White and Lamar Patterson will have to shoulder the load. The Phoenix will be eager to bounce back from their loss, in particular Mitch Creek who had a poor showing by his lofty standards last round. South East Melbourne have no shortage of playmakers with Ryan Broekhoff able to light the court up as can Keifer Sykes while Kyle Adnam has come into his own this season making for an enthralling battle.

Brisbane Bullets vs. Sydney Kings
Thursday, May 13 @7:30pm

It is going to be an intriguing battle when the Bullets play host to the Kings as Brisbane look to keep their season alive. Sydney are in good stead with 14 wins under their belts but are on the prowl for their 15th, while if the Bullets can notch up a victory it will go a long way to putting them in a competitive position to make finals.

The Bullets will be hoping that their reliable players such as Nathan Sobey and Jason Cadee are able to once again step up to the plate and deliver the goods. Sobey leads all-comers with 20.42 points a game and is not afraid to pass the ball around as shown through his 4.38 dimes. Matthew Hodgson will be in need of a big game as will Harry Froling with the pair more than capable of imposing themselves off the boards. Boasting the likes of Casper Ware who averages 19.41 points, 3.48 rebounds and 4.22 assists and teammate Jarell Martin who has proven to be a revelation in season 2021, the Kings will be hoping they have an added edge in attack. Brad Newley is a consistent figure for Sydney while Jordan Hunter is capable of getting his hands dirty.

Perth Wildcats vs. Melbourne United
Thursday, May 13 @9:30pm

Arguably the game of the round, as the top of the table United travel to take on the second placed Perth Wildcats. It is set to be a thriller as the two sides prepare for the finals series with United eager to exact their revenge and claim a win against their old foe. Both teams are in ripping form and have a plethora of stars across the court that can change the course of a game in a heartbeat meaning it will be high calibre and high intensity match.

With Jock Landale back in full swing and Chris Goulding continuing his merry way United are poised nicely to challenge the Wildcats who are hot on their heels. Landale leads the side in points with 16.04 and is a commanding presence off the boards thanks to his 8.04 average. He will need support from Scotty Hopson, Mitch McCarron and Jo Lual-Acuil if United are to generate enough scoring momentum and pile on the defensive pressure to nullify the fast scoring Wildcats. There is no denying that the combination of John Mooney and Bryce Cotton is the one that sparks concern for United because if the two are let off the leash early then it will be hard to come back from. Todd Blanchfield, Jesse Wagstaff and Mitch Norton are all capable of hitting the scoreboard and running amuck meaning that Perth have a wealth of options if one of their two main scorers is shut down.

South East Melbourne Phoenix vs. Cairns Taipans
Friday, May 14 @7:30pm

The Taipans will take the court for the first time on Friday while the Phoenix will be gearing up for their second of the round. Cairns have struggled for form this season and now without the services of Cameron Oliver rely heavily on Scott Machado to be the driving force. Machado can impact the contest himself as shown through his production levels of 15.74 points and 7.11 assists but will need support from the likes of Kouat Noi, Jordan Ngatai and veteran Nate Jawai if they are to mount any sort of pressure on their higher placed opponents. If they are able to capitalise on their fresh legs, now would be the time.

Other games:

Sydney Kings vs. Adelaide 36ers
Sunday, May 16 @5:00pm

Brisbane Bullets vs. Perth Wildcats
Saturday, May 15 @5:30pm

Illawarra Hawks vs. New Zealand Breakers
Saturday, May 15 @8:00pm

Melbourne United vs. South East Melbourne Phoenix
Sunday, May 16 @3:00pm

Cairns Taipans vs. Perth Wildcats
Monday, May 17 @7:30pm

Perth defeat New Zealand for first time in 2021

THE final game of Round 17 went the way of Perth Wildcats as they toppled the lowly New Zealand Breakers by 14-points (98-84). But it was no easy feat as the Wildcats were forced to work in overdrive as the Breakers dug deep to compete hard and give themselves a chance to cause yet another upset, having won their past two encounters.

The Breakers were the only side that the Wildcats were yet to win against in season 2021 but now that feat has been ticked off  putting them in greater stead for finals. The loss unfortunately hinders the chances of New Zealand making finals, even though it was a long shot to begin with, while they were further hurt as captain Tom Abercrombie left the court injured with a suspected hamstring injury.

Both sides came out with a point to prove in the first quarter as the two main cogs in Bryce Cotton for the Wildcats and Abercrombie for New Zealand led the charge. The two engaged in a bit of give and take as they looked to generate some momentum for their respective side. Neither player had an issue sinking them from range with scores level midway through the term at 12 apiece. Cotton had a hot hand shooting at 80 per cent and before you knew it the American import had a whopping 16 points to his name in the first quarter alone while teammate John Mooney also got involved in the action. The Wildcats stretched out to a 10-point lead as they looked to run away with the game before the ever-reliable Finn Delany chimed in with consecutive triple to restore some respectability to the scoreline.

Only four points separated the two sides at quarter time and having wrestled momentum back the Breakers came out with strong intentions. William McDowell-White asserted himself quickly into the thick of things with a handy triple to cull the margin to a mere point. Perth once again rallied, this time through the services of Jesse Wagstaff while Cotton also chimed in, continuing his impressive start. Both sides traded blows throughout the second quarter with neither team able to break away from the other as sloppiness and an inability to finish plays crept into the game.

The third quarter favoured the home side as the Wildcats showcased their class and smarts to play the ball around and not rush. They managed to withstand the assaults that the Breakers threw at them to just grind out the game as Todd Blanchfield stood up to the task. Blanchfield got a feel for things early in the term and was a real barometer for the side as he looked to create some much needed scoreboard separation. Perth piled on 20 points to 13 to establish a nine point lead heading into the final change.

Scoring the first six points of the term it looked like the game was won and done but some magic from the Breakers saw them back within contention. Nailing consecutive triples enabled New Zealand to cut the margin to single digits with Tai Webster getting busy but quickly fouled out of the game. He was not alone on the bench as Delany joined him moments later and then of course injury struck with Abercrombie hobbling off. All in all, Perth showed their grit and determination to hustle hard and impose themselves on the competition once more.

Cotton took centre stage in the win posting another double-double thanks to his game-high 32 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. Mooney was hot on his heels draining 27 points at an impressive 84 per cent while also recording eight rebounds and four assists. Mitch Norton was the only other player to reach double-digits posting 10 points for the game. Wagstaff worked tirelessly for his five points and eight rebounds, seven of which were defensive. Delany was once again the standout for the Breakers walking away with 21 points, three rebounds and three assists as Webster got busy with 20 points and seven rebounds of his own. Abercrombie was reliable as per usual nailing 12 points while Rasmus Bach also produced 11 points and four assists in the loss.