Tag: trevor gleeson

Perth Wildcats season summary

WITH the National Basketball League (NBL) season done and dusted we take a look at the performance of each team and how they fared in season 2021. The next team under the microscope is Perth Wildcats who had another outstanding season.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Another great season for the Wildcats as they made the Grand Final for the third successive season and the sixth time in Trevor Gleeson’s eight-year reign as coach. Unfortunately, for the now departing Gleeson (who is set for a coaching role in the NBA) they could not overcome Melbourne United, losing 3-0 in the Grand Final Series.

The Wildcats ended the regular season in second position recording 25 wins and 11 losses in what was another consistent season for the club. Luckily (or unluckily) they were able to maintain a healthy roster for most of the season until an end of season blow, which saw reigning MVP Bryce Cotton year prematurely ended after having surgery to relieve pressure from a haematoma in his left quadriceps.

The injury to Cotton ultimately had a big impact with the rest of the squad unable to overcome United. John Mooney and Todd Blanchfield were left to carry a much bigger load come finals, but it was a bridge too far for the pair and their fellow teammates.

HOW IT UNFOLDED:

The Wildcats started the season losing three of their first five games (twice to SEM Phoenix and once to United), before they got back into their winning rhythm with a five-game streak. After a sole loss, the Wildcats then had an even better run, winning nine straight games. In a 17-game stretch around those streaks, they only lost twice.

The semi-final series against Illawarra was going to be intriguing, a top-quality opposition without their star man, however Trevor Gleeson got his team playing some good quality basketball, and they were too strong defeating the Hawks 2-1 in the series.

When they met Melbourne in the final, unfortunately, the loss of Cotton was too big for the class of the first placed Melbourne outfit. The Wildcats lost twice in Perth, by three points in game one, and nine points in game two, before Melbourne won the final game at John Cain Arena 81-76.   

WHAT WORKED WELL:

The combination of Cotton and Mooney this season was fantastic they averaged 23.5 and 17.3 points respectively, while Cotton won the league MVP and led the league in points, it was Mooney who dominated the glass across the NBL (11.4 per game). Both players made the All NBL First Team to cap off a great season. On another individual note, Mitch Norton finished third in the league Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The defence was a strong aspect of the Perth outfit this season, conceding the least points in the league with 2900 for the season (80.6 per game), while they were also ranked fourth in steals (6.3 per game).

Offensively, the team was solid, but not a league leader. They were ranked fifth for points per game (85.3) and were fifth for three pointers made 9.2 per game. From the field they were not great, but they were the league leaders in getting to the free throw line and converting (16.1 per game on 79.7 per cent shooting). They also showed that they were able to create shots for each other with the best assist numbers (18.8 per game) and creating second chance points (11.2 offensive rebounds per game – ranked second). The Wildcats also had the least turnovers out of any team only averaging 10.3 per game.

WHAT WENT WRONG:

As mentioned, the Wildcats did not perform fantastically from the field, they were ranked eighth for field goals made (30.0 per game) and their shooting percentage of 43.4 per cent was also second worst in the NBL. Strangely, they only managed 1.9 blocks per game which was the worst by any team despite conceding the fewest points and having a strong defensive season. Apart from this, there was not a lot that went wrong with the Wildcats season, the Cotton injury was far from ideal, but it was unavoidable.

MVP CONVERSATION:

After winning his third NBL MVP, being selected in the All-NBL First Team for the fourth time and winning the Members MVP (voted by the “Red Army”) for the fourth consecutive season, it would take a brave person to back against Bryce Cotton.

Cotton had another stellar season, but unfortunately missed out on the chance to help his team win the Grand Final Series due to injury. Across 32 games Cotton averaged 23.5 points (up 0.6 compared to last season), 5.7 assists (increase of 1.7 from last season) and 1.5 steals (equal third this season), showing his class on the offensive and defensive ends.

John Mooney was a great asset to Perth this season. The big man was a double-double machine, with his averages of 17.3 points and11.4 rebounds as well as three assists. He shot 55 per cent from the field and was an important part of the teaming making the Grand Final without Cotton in the line-up.

Mooney had a great season but expect Cotton to take home the Gordon Ellis Medal for the fourth straight season.

ROSTER NEWS:

There’s been plenty happening with the team since the Grand Final defeat with Clint Steindl, Jarred Bairstow, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk all departing, alongside Will Magnay who has signed with new franchise Tasmania JackJumpers.

In a big blow for the team, John Mooney has reportedly signed with the Milwaukee Bucks on a Summer League contract after one season in the NBL.

In better news, league MVP Bryce Cotton remains contracted for next season, with Todd Blanchfield and Luke Travers also locked in. Corey Shervill (two years), Majok Majok (two years), Jesse Wagstaff (one year), and Mitch Norton (three years) have all signed new deals with the club that will see them remain in Perth.

As mentioned, Trevor Gleeson is departing the club after eight successful seasons, joining Jacob Chance as departing coaching staff.

LOOKING TOWARDS NEXT SEASON:

With Gleeson departing, the Wildcats will be on the hunt for a new head coach in the next few weeks, but don’t expect the new boss to have any troubles making the playoffs in their first season. This is a club with a rich history and with guys like Cotton, Blanchfield and Norton already on the list, a couple smart additions could make a championship calibre roster very quickly, if it isn’t already one. Expect Perth to be right up there again regardless of who is in charge.

 

Picture credit: AAP

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

Melbourne return the favour, clinch postseason berth against Perth

EXACTING a bit of revenge and returning the favour from their last encounter, Melbourne United went to RAC Arena last night and defeated a red-hot Perth Wildcats, 99-91, extending their lead at the top of the NBL ladder in their pursuit of the minor premiership and home court advantage in the finals, as well as being the first team in the NBL to clinch a postseason position.

In a first quarter filled with drama and controversial calls, Chris Goulding lit up RAC Arena to get things underway. Nailing three three-pointers in the opening three minutes, Goulding helped United to an advantageous 19-9 lead causing Trevor Gleeson to call a quick timeout to try and settle his team’s nerves.

Before the visitors could run off with the game in the opening term, a big knock-down three from Bryce Cotton balanced out the scales a bit and after 10 minutes the Wildcats were only down 21-28 to begin the second.

It took a little longer than expected, but Perth’s duo of Cotton and John Mooney started to make an impact. The game briefly became tied with three minutes remaining in the half, before Shea Ili weaved his way in for a layup and Yudai Baba converted his own And-One.

Melbourne went into the main break with a modest 51-46 lead after a brief scare in the second, making 54 per cent of their shots and fighting their way to a 18-12 lead on the glass in rebounds. For Perth, they took care of the ball well in the initial two periods and made most of their damage down low in the paint on the offensive end, putting 24 of their points on the board in the key.

To best describe the third quarter, you would call it a slug fest as both sides swung momentum either way prior to the fourth. Mitch McCarron and Jock Landale gave all the additional support that United could handle, as Perth tried their best to stay calm and chip away at their deficit.

The visitors were momentarily reassured with an eight-point lead at the final break (76-68), but if there was a team to make the lead change happen at the death, it was the Wildcats by a mile. Goulding had 21 big points leading up to this stage in the game and Dean Vickerman needed to make sure his star shooter continued his good shooting into the fourth and final quarter.

Perth’s faithful continued to hold out for a fourth quarter run, however unfortunately it did not come before the final buzzer with Melbourne holding their heads high in enemy territory as eight-point winners and with 99 points next to their name, the most ever scored by United at RAC Arena.

Somehow Melbourne could not quite figure out how to contain Perth near the rim, giving up 48 points in the paint and allowing the Wildcats to convert on 58 per cent of their two-point opportunities. On the flip side, the visitors were big in their outside shooting, knocking down 40 per cent of their three-point opportunities, as well as being superior in areas such as second chance points (11-9), points from turnovers (20-15) and points off the bench (34-14).

There were no doubts that Goulding had a mission in mind prior to tip off and his numbers showed this last night, as the marquee player put up 26 points and four rebounds along with four threes. Landale finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists while McCarron strung together 14 points and six assists. Baba also made his mark with 11 points.

If the combination of both Cotton and Mooney is a power couple, then the pair’s numbers last night proved just how true that notion is. Cotton’s 24 points and three assists were nothing to sneeze at last night despite the loss, but Mooney’s 24 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three steals were purely awesome for those in attendance. Mitchell Norton played well in the starting role with 12 points and three rebounds, meanwhile Todd Blanchfield was relatively absent with only nine points under his belt.

Perth can jump back into contention for top spot given the limited time left in the season if they can topple the Brisbane Bullets in Queensland tomorrow afternoon and possibly cement their top two position if results fall favourably across the league this weekend. For United, they look to make their crosstown rival South East Melbourne Phoenix’s path to the postseason a little bit more difficult, when the Throwdown takes place at John Cain Arena on Sunday.

Perth rally hard in the second half, bully Kings by 24

PROVIDING the Sydney Kings with their lowest final score of the season, the Perth Wildcats are once again setting the benchmark for the other eight NBL teams, trouncing their long-time rivals with a superb second half and earning themselves the 89-65 victory away at Qudos Bank Arena.

Sydney’s efficiency from the field in the opening term was the only reason why the Kings trailed by just two points at the first intermission. Perth’s sheer number of attempts was the reason for the Wildcats’ 21-19 lead, despite an abhorrent 32 per cent success rate from the field in the opening 10 minutes and Luke Travers nailing a couple triples in the opening term.

Bryce Cotton started to terrorise the opponents defence early in the second quarter putting his side up by eight points, however Sydney’s Jarell Martin answered back with some dominant actions later on with Jordan Hunter finding some foul trouble early on.

Continuing to hang around, the Kings were able to stay within earshot of their western counterparts and drew even closer following a corner three to end the first half from Thomas Vodanovich, bringing the score line to 46-44 and maintaining the side’s shooting percentage to 51 per cent, while Cotton brought his points total to 14 at the main break and Martin bringing his to 11.

Cotton went into his bag coming out of the half-time break with three straight triples to extend his side’s lead back out to six points, threatening to take over the contest like Perth has done on some many occasions following the long break.

After winning the third quarter 19-9, Trevor Gleeson’s side led by double-digits at the conclusion of three periods and the home crowd was stunned as the reigning league-MVP almost doubled the number of points he had after two quarters in the third alone. Furthermore, Todd Blanchfield started to get in on the action as Perth held a commanding 65-53 advantage with 10 minutes left on the clock.

Kicking off the fourth with a 9-2 run, the Wildcats showed off the damage that they could do late in-game. Perth showed no mercy throughout the remainder of the contest, distancing themselves from the Kings even further expanding their final margin of victory to 24 points and securing themselves the top seed in the NBL standings in the process.

After a strong start shooting-wise for the Kings, a gradual slump from the field through the next three quarters saw their field goal percentage drop to 37 per cent (two per cent lower than Perth’s 39 per cent) which encapsulated the purple and gold’s inability to remain disciplined on the offensive end, also giving up four more turnovers that their opponents (11-7) and allowing 16 second chance points at the other end.

Scorching Sydney’s lacklustre defence, Cotton was awarded man of the match honours with 29 points, four assists and three rebounds, while youngster Travers played sensationally off the bench with 16 points. John Mooney accounted for a third of his team’s total rebounds as the big man finished with 13 points and 17 boards, and Blanchfield’s 11 points was enough to tag a good performance onto his 300th career game.

18 points and just three rebounds were logged next to Martin’s name, as well as Casper Ware contributing just six points yesterday afternoon. Sydney’s lowest scoring performance of the season only saw two other individuals account for double digits with Dejan Vasiljevic providing 13 points and four rebounds, and Hunter supplying 10 points and six rebounds of his own.

Perhaps Sydney can bounce back on Thursday when the team faces the Illawarra’s Hawks, as both sides are vying for the coveted four-spot in the NBL standings. Meanwhile, Perth’s recent run of dominance returns back home when the league leaders square off with a struggling New Zealand Breakers outfit to conclude Thursday’s double-header.

A tale of two halves as Cotton’s 34 leads to remarkable 26-point comeback

THE Perth Wildcats have completed the biggest comeback win this season after overcoming a 26-point deficit to beat the Adelaide 36ers 97-88. An incredible second half display left fans stunned as the usual suspect in Bryce Cotton dropped 34 points to lead the way for his side. After being completely outplayed in the first-half, Trevor Gleeson rallied his players into providing that energy and aggression we have known Perth to ooze night in and night out.

It was the final game of the NBL Cup which Perth had already sewn up, but valuable season points were still up for grabs in what was the first meeting of the two sides this season, and the first game in which the highly anticipated Brandon Paul was suited up for.

After an evenly poised start, the Wildcats found themselves in early foul trouble and after gifting five shots from the charity stripe to Paul, the 36ers were on their way to a 12-0 run to close out the quarter.

Adelaide hit 10 free throws in the first quarter alone, and with Josh Giddey facilitating and players knocking down their shots, they would have secured a handy enough lead as it was. The 28-15 quarter time score line, however, was largely due to Perth shooting 5-20 including 2-11 from deep.

A big lift early was what they needed, and after a Cotton four-point play and a John Mooney three for his first field goal of the game, the lead was back to eight. The deep ball then became a weapon for the 36ers as Sunday Dech and Jack McVeigh found success multiple times from deep after Paul knocked one down earlier.

Things started to snowball for Perth from here as Daniel Johnson crashed the offensive glass, Paul caught a lob pass and stuffed, and then knocked down a couple of threes which made it the game-high 26-point margin. Paul had 16 first-half points in 11 minutes, Giddey notched up assist number 10, and the 36ers had 60 points in 20 minutes of play.

They had four players in double digits scoring, they shot 27 per cent better than Perth, had 28 bench points to five, and had a 21-point lead against an in-form Wildcats side. But that was where it stopped.

The energy from Perth at both ends was different from the start of the second half and they had five contributors at both ends. High activity and intent led them to a staggering 17-0 start to the third quarter as Adelaide was turning the ball over unlike the first half and shot 0-6 before a Giddey three stemmed the bleeding.

They finished the quarter outscored 8-25 on the back of 3-13 from the field and seven turnovers as Perth even won back the lead at one point with ease.

The final quarter was the Cotton show as he made his way to 34 points and completed the 30-point second-half turnaround. They still finished the game shooting at 38 per cent, but their 19-5 offensive rebounding advantage gave them 13 more shots. They tidied up their ball use in the second half (six turnovers to 10) and benefited from Adelaide’s misuse with 20 points from turnovers to four.

Perth also conceded just two more free throws after quarter time which came with a minute left in the game, managing to shoot 23-25 from the line themselves.

Cotton had assistance from Mooney (17 points, 15 rebounds) and Todd Blanchfield (20 points, five rebounds) but credited the squad’s mindset and attitude for their turnaround.

“We just played with a lot of heart,” he said. “We got some stuff off our chest in the locker room, coach gave us an earful as well, but we came out and we played Wildcats basketball.”

Adelaide enjoyed a good spread of scorers for particularly the first half but dropped off in the second. Paul put up big numbers on debut with 25 points on 50 per cent shooting, while Giddey had another double-double with 14 points and 13 assists to go with eight boards. Johnson (14 points, seven rebounds, and Dech (12 points) were serviceable, while McVeigh continued to provide that spark off the bench with 12 points.

The Wildcats return home to face the Taipans at RAC Arena on Friday night, while the 36ers stay in Melbourne to play the red-hot Phoenix on Saturday.

Watch out, the Wildcats are coming!

BEFORE their opening NBL Cup matchup on February 20 against Melbourne United, the Perth Wildcats had a rather unremarkable record of two wins and three losses. With this average start, the West Australian side sat as low as seventh up until the beginning of Round 6 and were in desperate need of positive results.

Today, the Wildcats sit second on both the NBL season ladder (six wins and three losses) and first on the NBL Cup ladder (four wins and zero losses), as Trevor Gleeson and his squad have re-emerged from the depths of the NBL’s bottom end and are looking to continue their dominance over the course of the season leading into finals.

Looking back at the Wildcats’ last four outings and performances in the NBL Cup, we first take a glance at their statement win over the league leading Melbourne side that was unbeaten in eight games to begin their campaign.

It was a major upset to United, given that many would not have pegged Perth to bounce back and beat the top side in the NBL after having suffered their worst defeat in three years. But Perth managed to do just that, setting in motion their exemplary form leading up to this point, thanks primarily to MVP Bryce Cotton’s 22 points and seven assists (22 points in the second half).

Having just earned his 250th win, Perth’s head coach was ready to keep the momentum going and quickly got ahead of the franchise’s worst start in eight years, sitting at .500 with three wins from six contests.

Three days later and next up on the agenda for Perth were their Grand Final opponents from last season, the Sydney Kings. To make things more dire for the defending champions prior to their contest, was the fact that Cotton was not guaranteed to participate as a result of an illness earlier in the week.

Thankfully for Perth fans, their leader made a last-minute recovery just in time as he strolled his way to a mammoth 30 points and nine assists, with Perth assuming control of the contest in the third quarter off the back of a 32-17 run. Meanwhile, John Mooney continued to do what he had been doing all season with 30 points and 16 rebounds, and Todd Blanchfield was proving to be a player that the Wildcats could rely on to play well if they were to topple a high-quality side like the Kings.

Perth continued their impressive list of accomplishments in their quest for the NBL Cup and their fight back to the top of the regular season standings by knocking off the final team from last season’s semi-finals, the Cairns Taipans, holding the Queensland side to their lowest scoring total of NBL21.

Led once again by the trio of Cotton, Mooney and Blanchfield, Perth’s 89 to 69 win over the Taipans extended their winning streak to three games and in that same amount of time the Wildcats had not only improved to a record of five wins and three losses, but they had also now risen up the standings to a commanding second seed and were now hot on the heels of the formidable Melbourne United roster.

To end the recap of this new-look Wildcats side over their last four encounters, it was a nail-biter to put it lightly last night, with South East Melbourne unable to slow the roll of the red and black. Simon Mitchell and his outfit went down to Perth by a single point following a buzzer beating attempt by Kyle Adnam that failed go down.

In hindsight it was a gallant performance by the Phoenix, but Perth’s dominance in the paint was too assertive at the State Basketball Centre, winning the category 40 to 26 and allowing the defending champions to put themselves in the driver’s seat. A common trend that the Wildcats have utilised in their recent run of victories and also a trend they will need to continue into the foreseeable future.

Suiting up again tonight with four outings remaining in Melbourne for the NBL Cup, Perth’s major challenge coming up against the Brisbane Bullets will most likely occur in the backcourt when they face off with the one-two punch combination of Nathan Sobey and Vic Law. Sobey, who ranks second in the NBL amongst top scorers (23.4 points per game) and Law who ranks seventh (19.7 points per game), will be Brisbane’s best hope for an upset win over the Wildcats. However, if Cotton and his supporting cast of guards and wings including the likes of Mitchell Norton and Luke Travers can play a consistent brand of basketball, then the Bullets may find themselves in a bit of strife and become the latest victim in Perth’s mid-season rampage.

The remainder of Perth’s NBL Cup fixture reads as follows:
vs Brisbane Bullets – Friday March 5
vs Illawarra Hawks – Sunday March 7
vs New Zealand Breakers – Friday March 12
vs Adelaide 36ers – Sunday March 14

While it took a while for the Wildcats to hit the ground running in comparison to other sides, they are certainly doing so now. Furthermore, they now sit in the upper echelon when it comes to being championship favourites and the broader NBL fan supporter base is excited to see just how much of a realisation Perth’s quest for a three-peat really is.

Perth claims a clinical victory over Taipans to secure second spot

PERTH Wildcats have recaptured their 2020 National Basketball League (NBL) form which saw the side crowned premiers, romping home a 20-point win against Cairns Taipans (89-69). After a sluggish start to their 2021 campaign, the Wildcats have really started to kick into gear and flexed their muscles against the Taipans to leapfrog up the ladder into second spot.

In their first meeting since the semi-final last year, Perth wasted no time getting on the scoreboard and showcasing its intentions as John Mooney led from the front, wowing fans with his 10 points and four rebounds in the first term. The Wildcats skipped out to an eight point lead credit to their 25 point to 17 point effort, before the Taipans hit back in the second quarter of play. Working in overdrive to eat into the deficit, Cairns toiled away sharing the rock around and attacking the rim to heap on the points and send the Wildcats into a panic despite holding a slim two-point lead.

Beaten in the second quarter of play, the Wildcats flipped the switch in the third to cause all sorts of havoc for the Taipans limiting them to a mere nine points. They simply stifled the Taipans every movement while having a field day up the other end, piling on the points with great ease to establish an 11-point lead. Although Mooney quietened down after his scintillating start, the Wildcats did not, as they continued to mount pressure with their attacking style of play which flowed into the last quarter producing 28 points to 18. It was nothing short of a comprehensive win from the Wildcats who led at each change and impressed with their ball movement and flair to rekindle their status as a powerhouse club in the NBL.

“I thought it was outstanding, I think we were on point with our scout and how we wanted to defend them. We made some errors early in the game, but we adjusted at half time,” Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said in relation to the defensive effort his side put in.

Perth led in almost every statistical area showcasing their overall dominance on the game. Boasting a higher shooting percentage from the field at 44 per cent Perth highlighted their scoring ability while also outclassing their opponents from beyond the arc nailing 12 shots from 40 attempts at 40 per cent while the Taipans managed a lowly 21 per cent. The Wildcats were fractionally stronger off the boards reeling in 41 rebounds to 40. They also amassed more assists (21-15), steals (5-4), blocks (3-2) and less turnovers (10-12).

In a trying encounter for the Taipans it was Cameron Oliver that stepped up to the challenge producing a double-double thanks to his 19 points and 14 rebounds. Oliver was involved in just about everything, throwing his weight around to have an influence while Fabijan Krslovic also chimed in with a handy 10 points and six rebounds in the loss. Captain Scott Machado was down on his usual output only recording eight points but did still dish off eight dimes while Kouat Noi had somewhat of an impact with eight points, five rebounds and an assist.

Bryce Cotton once again proved to have the ball on a string for the Wildcats with the guard running amuck. Cotton posted a game-high 23 points albeit at a lowly 29 per cent from the field while also recording eight assists and a steal. Mooney was a key cog for the Perth side producing 17 points and 12 rebounds adding another double-double to his season total. Todd Blanchfield contributed 15 points to the win while Jesse Wagstaff kept the good times rolling for the Wildcats knocking back eight points to accompany his seven rebounds. Although Mitch Norton may have not produced the biggest stats of the night with four points, four rebounds and six assists it was his overall defensive pressure on Machado that made him such a key figure in the side’s win.

Cotton and Mooney star in Perth’s grand final rematch

IT was a scoring fiasco for Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats however it was the latter that walked away with the “W” (113-106). Both sides came to play with their intensity up from the first few minutes of basketball as they looked to attack the rim and claim some much needed ascendancy to close out Round 6 of the National Basketball League (NBL).

In their first meeting since the 2020 grand final the rivalry well and truly came to the fore as the two sides battled bragging rights with the Kings coming up big in the opening term of play. Although Perth slotted the first points of the game Sydney seemed to have the game on their terms as the quarter went on with Casper Ware putting on a vintage performance and inspiring the Kings each step of the way. Holding a six-point lead at quarter time, Perth worked in overdrive to cut the deficit and get back in the game piling on 30 points while limiting the Kings to 26. Shutting down their movement and looking to attack the basket more regularly Perth were able to generate some strong momentum with Bryce Cotton stepping up to the plate.

With only two points separating the two sides, it was clear that this game was going to go down to the wire and while neither the Wildcats or Kings have had the same dominance they did last year they were eager to recapture some form. An excellent term of basketball from Perth was all they needed to not only steal the lead but create a handy buffer. John Mooney was the key instigator of change for the Wildcats nailing a layup to commence play and maintained that level of intensity throughout the term. Letting loose with 32 points to 17 Perth went into the final change up by 13 points and did not look like letting go despite Ware making his presence felt for the Kings. Sydney worked their way back into the contest playing with a sense of freedom and determination but could not do enough to topple the Wildcats who had built a strong foundation in the third to run out victorious.

Statistically speaking it was hard to split the two sides with Sydney sitting at 51 per cent from the field and Perth at 50 per cent and while they both boasted a 40 per cent accuracy from beyond the arc the Wildcats managed 15 triples compared to 14. Perth showcased their strength off the boards outmuscling their opponents to collect 46 rebounds to 32 while their natural game plan of sharing the ball around was also on display amassing 26 assists to 14. Although they fell short of the win the Kings proved to be more cautious with ball in hand only recording six turnovers to eight and also registered one more block (4-3). Majority of Sydney’s points came from in the paint knocking back 42 while the Wildcats put up 34.

It was the Casper Ware show for Sydney with the guard running amuck and posting a team-high 34 points going at 100 per cent from the charity stripe and 52 per cent from the field. Ware was involved in just about everything for the Kings picking up five rebounds and four assists. Didi Louzada was the next biggest contributor for Sydney piling on 19 points and making his presence felt from down town with five triples. Dejan Vasiljevic and Thomas Vodanovich also proved to be handy figures collecting 13 and 10 points respectively while also dragging down four rebounds apiece.

With Ware doing it up one end for the Kings, Cotton flexed his muscles with 30 points and fell just short of a double-double credit to his nine assists. But teammate, Mooney did manage to reach this feat with a staggering 18 rebounds and 30 points to well and truly wow the opposition. Mooney was virtually unstoppable in defence with 16 of his 18 rebounds defensive while also coming up with two blocks. Todd Blanchfield was a consistent figure throughout the match producing 17 points, three rebounds and two assists as Mitchell Norton did not muck around thanks to his 10 points and eight rebounds.

Overcoming a half time deficit is never easy as Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson pointed out post-match, touting the impressive effort the side put in to flip the script.

“I thought it was a really gutsy win especially with how well they were shooting the ball in the first half. We had to wrestle that momentum back and I thought we did that just before half time I think about five minutes to go then we got it back to two points at half time so we built some momentum for the third quarter,” Gleeson said.

NBL21 mid-season summaries: Bottom 5

YESTERDAY Draft Central summarised the seasons of each of the top four teams to this point in the fixture. Today we look at the summaries of the five teams that are aiming to displace them for a postseason finals spot in just over a month’s time.

5th – Sydney Kings
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

Sitting less than a game out of the top four, Sydney’s desire to rise up in the rankings will only intensify as Adam Forde’s talented roster will need not dwell on past failures given they share the same record as the Brisbane Bullets.

It was a sombre conclusion for the Kings after their first game ended, going down to Cairns by a single point. Remembering their sorrow from a week prior, Sydney answered back in the return fixture against the Taipans with a 99-91 win to even up their season record.

Two straight losses against the Bullets and the 36ers preceded two consecutive wins against Adelaide again and New Zealand, making up the bulk of their first seven games, before Illawarra edged out an 85-82 win in the battle of the two NSW clubs.

Prepping themselves for an important Round 6 where they will host both the Sixers and the defending champion Perth Wildcats for what will be a rematch of last year’s Grand Final.

Someone who will be an integral part of getting Sydney more positive results going forward will be Casper Ware, as the 31-year-old is averaging 20 points and three rebounds in his second season at the Kings. Import forward Jarell Martin is also proving that he is very valuable to his team averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, all while maintaining a 53 per cent conversion rate from the field. Last but not least, many punters have 23-year-old Dejan Vasiljevic as the top performing rookie of the year so far due to his 17 points and 3.3 rebounds per game averages – these numbers indicating a promising future for the former NCAA athlete.

 

6th – Brisbane Bullets
Record: 3 wins, 4 losses, % – 0.429

While the Brisbane Bullets only missed out on the finals due to percentage last season, the sense of urgency to chase down a top-four spot has yet to quite kick in, as they sit a win behind a .500 record and half a game behind the Phoenix who sit in fourth.

After being the unexpected first victim of the new and improved Illawarra Hawks side throughout rounds One and Two, the Bullets found themselves shocked and with no wins after two games (both losses were at home). But narrow victories against the Kings (90-87) and the Taipans (105-103) quickly allowed Brisbane to earn themselves a blank check after four games.

Brisbane would then fall to a red-hot Melbourne United in Round 4, which was further compounded at the start of Round Five falling to the Adelaide 36ers. Luckily for the Bullets, they would save face in the reverse fixture at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre toppling Adelaide by a solid 19-point margin, bringing us to today.

In terms of scoring output, it has been a two-man band between captain Nathan Sobey and newly signed import Vic Law, with the pair accounting for a combined 45 points per game as Sobey sports a league-leading average in scoring with 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game with Law boasting 20.7 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds per game. If the additional efforts of Jason Cadee, Tyrell Harrison and Orlando Johnson can become substantial for the remainder of the campaign, then Andrej Lemanis’s squad will pose a serious problem for the rest of the NBL.

 

7th – Perth Wildcats
Record: 2 wins, 3 losses, % – 0.400

Despite being one of two teams to have only played five game to this point in the fixture, many have been left to wonder how Trevor Gleeson’s side have taken as many defeats as they have so far this early on.

Things looked promising following a win in their first encounter with the South East Melbourne Phoenix (88-76), but after being snubbed the double in the Round Three rematch by one point it slowed the roll of the champions. Round Four was also a week to forget after losing out to the league frontrunners United by four points, but were able to salvage another win over the Phoenix a week after. The Wildcats and the Phoenix most recently faced each other for a fourth time, where South East Melbourne demolished Perth by a mammoth 25 points, deflating the reigning premiers morale prior to their contest this coming week.

It is hardly a surprise that the current league MVP Bryce Cotton is leading the side in putting the ball in the net with 22.6 points per game, while also averaging seven assists and over two steals. Second import John Mooney is also a primary producer with his 16.8-point, 11.4-rebound stat line, whereas former Hawks forward Todd Blanchfield is fitting in well at his new side with 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and two assists per game next to his name.

 

8th – Cairns Taipans
Record: 2 wins, 6 losses, % – 0.250

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments this season, the Cairns Taipans have been struggling since mid-January ever since they were trounced by Illawarra at the tail end of Round One. Prior to that game, they were in relatively good spirits after a one-point victory over the Kings to begin the season.

Ever since then, the Taipans have run out of form with one of the worst success rates throughout the league after also losing to Sydney, Melbourne, Illawarra for a second time, Brisbane and New Zealand, enduring a streak of losses that would span five games. More importantly, four out of the five losses occurred in front of their home fans.

As of most recently, however, Cairns has since ended their five-game skid after defeating the Breakers in the second of the two teams’ matches, 84-71, and are now looking to continue some good form when they face off with both the Hawks and United in Round Six.

With DJ Newbill no longer a part of the side, both Scott Machado and Cameron Oliver have had to increase their production. Machado is operating at an impressive level averaging 17 points, 9.9 assists (again leading the league in this category) and four rebounds, whereas Oliver continues to do what he does best rebounding at an exorbitant rate, ranking second in the NBL with 10.6 per game and 17.5 points to tag onto that number.

While Mike Kelly has a solid core unit, individuals such as Kouat Noi (12.4 points per game), Majok Deng (11.6 points per game) and Mirko Djeric (11.5 points per game) need the extra support of their bench if they are to pull through with more victories to their name, especially as the number of games remaining continues to dwindle down.

 

9th – New Zealand Breakers
Record: 1 win, 4 losses, % – 0.200

The second of two teams to have only played five games, the New Zealand Breakers have performed the worst out of any team at this point in NBL21. But that could still change if Dan Shamir’s side can find some cohesion in the second half of the season.

Two losses to the 36ers in Rounds 2 and 3 were the first hiccups of the season for the Breakers, but some hope was reignited in the side when they defeated the Taipans away in Queensland to commence Round Four (85-79).

Unfortunately, that would be the extent of the side’s success, as not only would Cairns get the drop on New Zealand in the rematch two days later, but the Sydney Kings also handed the Breakers their fourth loss of the season in Round Five.

The positives have been few and far between to this point for New Zealand, although players like Tai Webster and Finn Delany have been having respectable seasons so far. Leading the team in points, rebounds and assists per game, Webster is having himself a campaign to remember averaging 20 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

While Delany is contributing 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on a consistent basis, others like Corey Webster (13.3 points) and former Bullet Lamar Patterson (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds) are also doing their best to make the defence’s job more difficult each encounter. Nevertheless, there needs to major shift in tactics if the New Zealand side is going to climb off the bottom of the standings.

 

Catch the start of the NBL Cup tomorrow night when all nine teams will be competing for $150,000 and more wins to their name, as we kick off coverage for the second half of the NBL21 season.

Wildcats start slow then finish strong, outclass Phoenix by 31

THINGS seemed relatively even following a quarter of play in last night’s clash between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the Perth Wildcats. But, it was the visitors that ran away with the contest in the subsequent 30 minutes, as the reigning premiers convincingly handled matters, 106-75.

Promising signs early on came by way of the Phoenix, as Mitch Creek continued to attack Luke Travers on the offensive end. This led to yesterday’s hosts taking the immediate lead early on the first period, while Todd Blanchfield found his range with a three pointer four minutes in, beginning his night.

Despite the low scoring from both sides after 10 minutes of play it was South East Melbourne that trailed the Wildcats, with Blanchfield and John Mooney leading the way for Perth on 40 per cent shooting from the field, leading South East Melbourne 21-16 in the early stage.

Two quick baskets from Perth quickly extended their lead to nine points before Keifer Sykes answered back with his first triple of the night, bucking the trend of horrendous long-range shooting in the first half from both teams.

Scoring 14 of the first 19 points in the second, Perth had a firm grip on the match heading into half-time. Furthermore, with Trevor Gleeson and League-MVP Bryce Cotton’s roster leading in every single category, it was no surprise that the Wildcats had a comfortable 21-point lead rounding off a 25-11 quarter, and a 48-27 scoreline heading into the third quarter.

Blanchfield’s impressive initial two terms had Simon Mitchell’s side struggling to cope, as the former Illawarra Hawk worked for 10 points in 13 and a half minutes of work, while Mooney compounded his efforts with nine points and eight rebounds. Meanwhile Kyle Adnam led his side in scoring at half time with seven points.

The second half began just as the first had ended with the Phoenix being outgunned and outclassed by their opponents at both ends. A 9-2 run from Perth made the deficit seem almost insurmountable, but threes from both Sykes and Adnam reduced the lead back to 20, igniting some hope for the home crowd as their team trailed 52-73 at three-quarter time.

But unfortunately for the home team, nothing was able to stop the continual onslaught of Perth’s 33-point final quarter, capping off what would be eventual rout of last season’s newest NBL team.

Going down by 31 points at the State Basketball Centre, Mitchell is now scratching his head as for how to bounce back from last night’s horrid performance against the defending champions.

After shooting just 41 per cent on the night and losing out in the rebounding category 33-46, there was no doubting which team was more dominant. The only category South East Melbourne won was points scored off the bench – a hollow victory given Mitchell saw fit to give his secondary unit more minutes than usual due to the lopsided meeting.

Perth’s 53 per cent conversion rate, their plus-13 in rebounding and their 52 points in the paint was more than enough to get over the line in Melbourne last night.

Additionally, the statement victory has accordingly placed the Wildcats back into the top four on the standings and the side will now look to pursue the three other teams that currently sit above them.

Blanchfield finished the game with perhaps one of his best individual performances to date, racking up a team-high 22 points coupled with five assists. Next up on the docket was Mooney, who collected an 18-point and 13-rebound double-double, while Cotton (15 points and seven assists) and Jesse Wagstaff (12 points and three rebounds) were each double-digit contributors.

Out of the five starters from the Phoenix, just two managed to score 10 points or more. The first being Creek, who was able to string together a decent 16 points and 11 rebounds, whereas Sykes had a quiet 10 points and four rebounds in just under 29 minutes. Most noticeably, however, was Adnam’s 24 points and Ben Moore’s 18 points off the bench, as the two individuals were the side’s top producers on the night.

The second of the two games between the two squads will be played on Sunday with Perth looking to get their record above .500 with possibly their third win of the season. Meanwhile South East Melbourne look to get theirs back to even, as they dropped to fifth yesterday with loss number four to date.