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'Cats shut down United for first away win

Perth Wildcats dug deep and pulled out a stirring 72-69 away win over Melbourne United at Hisense Arena on Sunday. After changing imports earlier in the week and finding themselves caught in a late surge from Melbourne, the Wildcats' steady heads of Damian Martin, Shawn Redhage and Matt Knight made sure they took home an invaluable 72-69 win in front of 8,655 supporters. The Wildcats’ defence was strong inside, while they rode their luck with the home side’s outside shooting with United missing many makeable attempts, shooting just 5/24 three-point attempts. Wildcats import Casey Prather was the game high scorer, with six of his 16 points in the last term, while Knight’s 14 points and nine rebounds and Martin’s seven points, 13 rebounds and seven assists were decisive. After the game, Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson praised his players who were tiring late after playing in Perth on Friday night. “We just talked about that desire, really wanting it and having that burning desire inside,” he said. “We had to clean up our rebounding, 'Damo' was just outstanding in that area. "We had Jarrod Kenny go down in the first five minutes so we didn’t have a backup point guard. “For him to step up to get 13 rebounds, that just shows you leadership out there and I’m proud of the guys.” Without star Chris Goulding, Melbourne struggled for weapons but had small contributions from much of their roster. Majok Majok was leading scorer with 12 points and Tai Wesley added 10. They did have a chance to force overtime with Cedric Jackson’s three-point attempt drawing air on the buzzer. Melbourne United coach Dean Demopoulos said his side didn’t get the shot they desired and struggled to run effective offence all game. “A better shot,” Demopoulos said when asked what he wanted on the last play. “We didn’t run what I thought we could, but that’s the way it goes. “That was just the last shot and there were a number of [bad] shots. I don’t think we ran particularly effective offence throughout the course of the game.” Gleeson said his side would have struggled to get through overtime with their depleted bench, with the combination of foul-outs, injures and the absence of veteran Greg Hire who stayed home with his partner following the birth of their son overnight. “There was one time there I looked down the bench and we had so many injuries with Kenny and some other niggling injuries plus Casey [Prather] cramping up,” Gleeson said. “We were running out of gas big time, it was a case of, 'can we get to the finish line?'" "Dre [Ingram] fouling out didn’t help, but Casey made some big buckets underneath and our defence has been rock solid and held it firm.” Melbourne looked to go inside early and they had Majok offering a big target inside. A late flurry from the home side, including an acrobatic three-point play, from Owen Odigie saw them lead 15-10 at quarter time. Kyle Adnam looked to make the most of his extra minutes with a three to start the second term and inside Majok continued to find the basket with 12 points for the half. But Perth had plenty of contributors too, with Melbourne raised guard Dexter Kernich-Drew knocking down two three-pointers to stop United from building a bigger lead as they went up 38-34 at half-time. The third term was again tight until Martin, Andre Ingram and Prather fired late to put the visitors up 56-52 at the final break. The Wildcats made their move to start the final term with a 9-2 run taking their lead past 10 points as Jesse Wagstaff and Martin made key baskets while the home side struggled to convert. Bench players Nate Tomlinson and Wesley found eight late points, but their good work was countered by another Ingram three-pointer, although the new Wildcat fouled out soon after. Tomlinson and Jackson forced late steals to give their side a chance and with nine seconds left they could have forced the extra period, but Jackson’s forced effort was always falling short. Melbourne United play Cairns Taipans up north on Thursday night and Perth visit Illawarra on Friday night.   PERTH WILDCATS 72 (Prather 16, Knight 14, McKay 8, Ingram 8) MELBOURNE UNITED 69 (Majok 12, Wesley 10, Andersen 9, Moore 9) BOX SCORE
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