Tag: Paul Rogers

Classic Contest: Perth win fourth title in come-from-behind effort

EVERYONE is missing the National Basketball League (NBL). You are not alone. Fortunately, Draft Central is providing content with or without live games. In today’s classic contest, we look at the 2000s Perth Wildcats side for the second time in seven days. Why? Because they made history to start the millennium by becoming the first team in NBL history to win four NBL titles. So it is only right we look at the last night of their monumental championship season. 

The Victoria Titans had lost a thrilling Game 1 by just six points, so with their backs against the wall, they found themselves trying to tie the series in enemy territory. There was a great sense of weight and urgency all the way from when the clock started counting. Actually, even during the pre-game warm ups, when the teams were trying to calm themselves down in the lay up line, a mob of Perth fans seemingly heckled the Titan players. No doubt there was a Grand Final atmosphere that night that was unable to be matched by any other game held that season.  

With all of this clear in both teams’ minds, it made it tougher for Victoria when they came out with a crowd silencing dunk to start the ball game. The Wildcats took a little longer to put a dent on the scoreboard, and while they were dominating the Titans on the glass early, they failed to put the ball through the net. This was unsurprising with all the chips in their lap – higher on the ladder, a lead in the series, home court advantage – and clearly the expectation was for the Titans to win the game. Any added pressure put on top of just participating in a Grand Final, whether positive or not, can make be very nerve wracking, leading to easy misses and silly turnovers. 

That’s exactly how the Wildcats played for the first period, not even able to reach double digits as they trailed 9-15, but leading the game in rebounds. With only two veterans scoring for the Wildcats, this was their lowest scoring quarter of the season. 

The Wildcats came out in the second with a clear game plan: attack the rim and get to the line. A pretty smart way of slowing down momentum for an escalating team while also allowing the shooters to get in their rhythm. In Game 1 they shot 10 from 13 and looked to implement the same game plan this quarter to try and wrestle back some momentum. 

But there was one problem. The Wildcats failed to score even at the charity stripe and went zero for two in their first attempts all game. As you can imagine, the Wildcats ran back into transition feeling very cold. The Titans capitalised, scoring seven straight points to push the lead 18-9. Finally, Marcus Timmons would break the drought for Perth with a corner three. This was just the spark they needed, and like the Titans in the first, Perth went on a run that saw them score eight straight points before the Titans could find the net once more. 

With a little less than three minutes left in the half, the Wildcats led by a point. But by the end of the half, they led by eight. This is why Perth were a championship team, able to produce a remarkable turnaround in such a short amount of time. Even when the shots were not working, they never took their foot off the pedal, and in large thanks to Timmons’ 16 points, they now had the momentum in a closing game. 

Not long before, it had looked like Perth were doomed to play in an elimination Game 3. Now the Titans, who had seven less rebounds and five less assists, were unable to gain an edge in the third and now trailing by ten. 

The truth is, when watching this game back, the Titans never had a chance. The Wildcats carried off the momentum of the crowd and Timmons’ historic shooting from the bench – 7 of 12 from the three. They looked confident, united and unfazed, all characteristics of a championship team. That is exactly what they became that night, winning the game 83-76 and becoming the 1999-2000 NBL Champions.

The Wildcats of this era should be remembered as one of the best teams of their time. Led by players like Anthony Stewart who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds, or of course Paul Rogers, who hit some big time shots to go with his nine points and eight rebounds. The Wildcats would never have been able to function like they did without a player like Ricky Grace, who dropped an impressive 13 points while dishing eight assists and clobbering seven rebounds.

Classic Contests: Stewart wins season defining 1999/2000 NBL game

IT has been 158 days since the last National Basketball League (NBL) game. However, Draft Central are diving back into some basketball content to provide highlights that even the most die hard NBL fans may have never come across. In today’s classic, we look at a jaw dropping game that likely altered the course of an entire NBL season. But first, we need to take it all the way back to the 1999-2000 season. The Perth Wildcats were struggling to find continuity both on and off the court, with new owners and inconsistencies on court as fans reminisced about the glory days of the mid nineties. But things started to slowly change this season with the side rallying after coming off four injury plagued seasons and four early finals exits. 

But in Round 22 of a tough fought NBL season, things were beginning to look up for the Wildcats. But taking on the top seeded Adelaide 36ers, a team who just came off back to back titles, was no easy challenge. The game kicked off with a deep three from Anthony Stewart, to set the tone of the game early. That shot would be the beginning of a competitive battle with no predictable winner in sight. But that was made very clear by the back and forth nature of the first quarter which saw the 36ers finish with a lead of 32-29. 

The Wildcats’ decision to play through Paul Rogers for the majority of the second quarter seemed to be their only working weapon, as the big man was making the perfect play on every possession, unlike the rest of the starters. However, the 36ers utilised a more up beat strategy, relying on transition baskets and catch and shoot jumpers, which was a massive success. This mix of style ensured there was never a stale moment all game. This attraction only elevated when David Stiff dunked over Rogers through a put-back. A revenge moment for Rogers’ poster at the end of the first period. 

The half ended with the Wildcats trailing by 16 points, but with only one loss all season at home, the home crowd’s energy never dispersed. It was fortunate that this was in front of a sell out crowd, because the Wildcats were able to cut the lead to eight heading into a nail-biter final quarter. The lead continued to lessen from 11 to five to two until finally with two minutes remaining, the Wildcats led by a point. But Brett Maher was able to drop some big time points down the stretch for the 36ers, to regain some composure for his side and be a calming presence in attack. 

Down one point with 20 seconds left on the clock, a potential overtime period was looking very slim. This was a win it or lose it play for the Wildcats. The play collapsed, as Ricky Grace was swarmed by defenders left and right, leading to him dishing it out to an open Stewart. After a pump fake, one dribble pull in, Stewart threw up the last shot of the game while an entire sold out crowd gasped at the same time. Nothing but net. The Wildcats clenched a staggering two-point victory 88-86. 

After the celebrations, Stewart walked up to a fan made poster with all the teams left to beat and crossed out the last one, the 36ers. A surreal moment for the season. This comeback win rallied the Wildcats into the next gear – they would only lose two more games for the entire season, including finals. Safe to say, this acted as a momentum booster for them to go on and win their fourth championship in franchise history.