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Johnson, clutch Cats down Taipans in OT

Five threes in the fourth quarter and overtime saw Jaron Johnson become an instant Perth Wildcats favourite in a thrilling 84-74 overtime win over a tenacious Cairns Taipans at Perth Arena. Johnson had a first seven quarters to his NBL career to forget going back to Thursday's loss to the Bullets in Brisbane and then in front of 12,701 in his home debut. But he delivered a stunning fourth term nailing four triples and then another dagger in overtime as Perth overcame a six-point deficit to firstly force overtime, and dominate the extra period. Johnson shot the Wildcats into overtime with a three with under one second left, while he along with fellow imports Casey Prather and Jameel McKay dominated in overtime to see off the gutsy Snakes. "I’m just soaking it in right now. The crowd was loud and helped us with our energy so they had a big part in our win," Johnson said post-game. "It helps with my confidence but my teammates have already been helping me with that. It’s just a boost on top of that to perform like that in front of that crowd. "That last shot to go into overtime would be one of the top five biggest shots I’ve ever hit. I always want to be that type of player to be put in that position so it’s a good feeling." The Taipans arrived missing former Wildcats championship pair Nate Jawai and Stephen Weigh and did trail by 14 midway through the second quarter. But with five minutes left in the game they looked home until the 'Cats imports fired. Johnson was the star finishing with 26 points on the back of 5-of-6 from three-point range. Prather added 23 points, six assists and five rebounds while McKay was a force inside with 14 points. Wildcats captain Damian Martin was also outstanding with six points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. His opposition skipper Cam Gliddon was terrific with 20 points, four boards and four assists. Jarrad Weeks added 11 points and Mark Worthington 10 to go with six boards. Fuquan Edwin had a scoreless first half but finished with 10 points and six rebounds with big man Nnanna Egwu contributing 14 points. "I’m pretty pissed off right now," Cairns coach Aaron Fearne said. "We let it go. We lacked some discipline on what we’re doing and I’m disappointed we didn’t stay aggressive. "We came out very tentative and were on the back foot because we weren’t very aggressive. Then obviously we broke down in that last play when Johnson hit the three and we couldn’t regather ourselves and let it go on in overtime." The Snakes started promisingly with the first two scores from Egwu and Gliddon but the 'Cats hit the next eight points. The Wildcats were in control leading 25-11 but eventually Weeks hit Cairns' first three after 12 attempts and the Snakes ended up with 10 of the last 14 points of the half to trail by just eight. The Taipans continued that momentum into the second half with Edwin coming out inspired. He delivered a three-point play, a finish at the rim and a triple in four minutes. With Weeks hitting a pair of threes the visitors hit the front and still led 48-47 at three quarter-time. Worthington was 1-of-10 before hitting a three to give Cairns a 66-62 lead with under two minutes left before Johnson answered for Perth. But the Taipans forced a crucial turnover with 10 seconds left and Worthington eventually hit two free-throws with 2.8 seconds remaining to make the lead three. The Wildcats had one last chance and Johnson nailed a monster three. Edwin missed his game-winner attempt with 0.8 seconds left and we went to overtime. It was all Perth in the extra time and by the time Johnson found Prather for an alley-oop the Wildcats were up by eight and that was soon 11 when Johnson iced the win with another three.   PERTH WILDCATS 84 (Jaron Johnson 26, Casey Prather 23, Jameel McKay 14) CAIRNS TAIPANS 74 (Cameron Gliddon 20, Nnanna Egwu 14, Jarrad Weeks 11) BOX SCORE
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