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.