Cotton delivers late despite Ware's best efforts

Casper Ware did all he could to will the Sydney Kings out west to victory but Bryce Cotton delivered again when it mattered most as the Perth Wildcats made it eight straight wins, prevailing 95-89 on Thursday night.

The Wildcats and Kings resumed hostilities after locking horns in Sydney on Sunday with Perth handing the home team an 89-65 loss, and that set the stage for yet another chapter in the storied Cotton-Ware rivalry.

Cotton got the better of things on Sunday in Sydney but Ware is as proud a competitor as there is in the NBL, and he was always going to hit back hard at RAC Arena on Thursday night.

Ware produced some stifling defence on Cotton for just about 35 minutes of the game and it was working. Cotton was struggling to have much impact and Ware was able to turn it into a strong scoring night up the other end.

But the game turned when Ware was called for a couple of fouls while guarding Cotton in the fourth quarter. When Ware collected a fourth foul, he was moved off Cotton and the Wildcats gun closed the deal.

Cotton only had 10 points to three quarter-time, but he scored 12 in the fourth and ultimately it was a big three with 2:15 remaining that put Perth up seven and proved the match-winner.

The Kings kept fighting but couldn’t get closer than four as the 'Cats made it eight wins on the trot to improve to a 14-4 record on the season. Sydney is now 9-10 despite the strong showing out west.

Ware did as well as anyone could hounding Cotton into a tough night, but he still delivered 22 points and six assists for Perth despite going 6/16 from the field.

John Mooney was outstanding again with 20 points and 11 rebounds with Todd Blanchfield continuing to shine as that third option for 18 points.

Captain Jesse Wagstaff added 11 points, five rebounds and three assists, and vice-captain Mitch Norton seven points, eight boards, seven assists and two steals.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson didn’t feel his team played overly well but was proud of the fight to find a way to win.

"I thought it was a tough, physical game and I didn’t think that we played real well but it was obviously great to get a win when you're not playing that well," Gleeson said.

"I thought that they came out pretty strong and physical, and we were probably a little bit slower on the step and just weren’t as sharp as we have been the last couple of weeks. It turned into a really good physical game in the last quarter.

There was a big play with Todd getting the unsportsmanlike foul and hitting the foul shots, and then Bryce went to work to drop some threes to get some separation. We were then able to knock down some foul shots to get the job done."

Ware was tremendous for Sydney finishing with 27 points, five rebounds and three assists on 12/19 shooting while Jarell Martin had stretches of being unstoppable with 25 points and 11 boards.

Craig Moller continued his terrific form with 12 points and five rebounds while Didi Louzada started on fire but couldn’t maintain it with all 10 of his points coming in the first quarter.

Sydney coach Adam Forde was a frustrated man post-match despite his pride in the effort of his players.

"I'm definitely happy with the guys' effort after that last performance back at home last time we played Perth," Forde said. 

"That wasn’t great especially the second half, but there are some frustrations there."

Sydney came out determined to atone for Sunday's big loss at home and it was firstly Jarell Martin that made a statement early and then Didi Louzada put together one of the best quarters of his NBL career with 10 points to give the Kings a 22-19 lead by quarter-time.

Martin knocked down a couple of threes in the second quarter to keep the Kings on top and then Casper Ware hit his own three ball to keep the visitors up five. But the Wildcats finished the half strongly with triples to Bryce Cotton and Todd Blanchfield to go in leading 44-43.

It was a see-saw battle right throughout the third quarter and Craig Moller's three gave the Kings a 68-66 three quarter-time edge.

But Cotton being able to draw a couple of fouls on Ware in the fourth quarter changed the whole complexion of the game. 

Cotton got his eye in at the foul line and then hit two triples in the space of a minute with Ware no longer guarding him, and that proved enough for the 'Cats to secure the win in front of 10,123 screaming Red Army fans.

The Kings now are straight back home to host the Brisbane Bullets on Saturday while the Wildcats have until a return clash in Sydney next Thursday before playing again.


PERTH WILDCATS 95 (Cotton 22, Mooney 20, Blanchfield 18)

SYDNEY KINGS 89 (Ware 27, Martin 25, Moller 12) 



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