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Prather, Perth claim another Jungle nail-biter

Jerome Randle came ever so close to delivering a stunning Adelaide 36ers win at Perth Arena, without Daniel Johnson and Mitch Creek, but the Perth Wildcats just held on for a frantic 106-103 win. Jaron Johnson's remarkable first half in his first game back at home since being reactivated looked enough to set up a big win for the Wildcats. He hit five threes in the opening half including a stunner from half-court following a steal on the buzzer for a 16-point lead. But while Johnson was hot, Randle was only just getting started. Once returning Wildcats skipper Damian Martin went off with a lower leg injury, he took over with 11 of his 40 points coming in the fourth quarter. Three triples in a two-minute patch got the Sixers back within a point and scores were level with a Brendan Teys corner three with two minutes left. Adelaide even hit the front with 23 seconds left but Casey Prather iced the game at the foul line for Perth either side of a controversial charge call on Randle's drive to the cup against Matt Knight. Prather had 28 points and eight assists while also defending Randle late. Johnson hit 20 points with 15 in the opening half while Jesse Wagstaff added 13 points for Perth, Knight 11 (seven rebounds, six assists). Jameel McKay had 10 rebounds with seven points. Johnson enjoyed the chance to really feel part of the Wildcats again after originally being replaced by Andre Ingram, and then returning last week. “They’ve always made me feel part of the team and tonight helped, but overall I’ve always felt part of the team,” Johnson said after the game. “I am making sure I come out more aggressive now so I don’t just fade into the background out there. I want to stand out and be aggressive which is how I approached this game.” Randle was remarkable for the Sixers finishing with 40 points and nine assists. One short of his NBL career-high 41-point haul last season. With captain Creek still recovering from a broken leg and Johnson nursing a hamstring complaint, it was more than a brave showing by the Sixers. Highly credentialled young Aussie Anthony Drmic had six points in total this season so far but came up huge with 17 points on 4/8 from three-point range – and finally shook his foul line demons – before fouling out. Eric Jacobsen battled manfully with 14 points and nine rebounds in the absence of Johnson and with Matt Hodgson battling foul trouble. Nathan Sobey also had 14 points for the 36ers. Randle might have been remarkable but he put the loss on his shoulders. “I’m just trying to figure out a way to try to help my team win, that’s my job as a leader," Randle said. "I didn’t know how many points I had and it really doesn’t matter. I just want to help my team win and that’s all I came out to do. “We were shorthanded and Eric wasn’t even 50 per cent today but he played and that shows the toughness of this team. "Like I said last year, don’t count us out. It ain’t over. Don’t look at these games like it means something, because it don’t mean nothing.” It looked a long road back for Adelaide at half-time with Perth leading by 16 on the back of a 10-0 run punctuated by Johnson's half-court three after a turnover by Randle. But when Drmic hit his fourth triple and Randle nailed three in the space of two minutes, suddenly it was a one-point game with four minutes to go. When Teys nailed another bomb via Randle with two minutes left scores were tied at 94-apiece prior to a strong three-point play by Knight for Perth. But Sobey answered with a three, and McKay got a score inside before the Sixers took the lead thanks to strong efforts down low from Jacobsen and Sobey. Prather's finishing touches at the foul line and some stops on Randle at the other saw the Wildcats scrape home.   PERTH WILDCATS 106 (Prather 28, Johnson 20, Wagstaff 13) ADELAIDE 36ERS 103 (Randle 40, Drmic 17, Jacobsen 14, Sobey 14) BOX SCORE
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