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R17 Report: Role players stand up as Wildcats go top

The Perth Wildcats have surged to the top of the NBL and it was the role players who stepped up in the absence of Casey Prather to beat the Cairns Taipans 84-74 at Perth Arena on Monday night. The 10-point victory sees the Wildcats join Melbourne United with a 16-8 record. They take top spot but only until Friday night when the two teams do battle for that first position back at Perth Arena. The Snakes were themselves playing to keep their Finals hopes alive in the middle of a stretch of three games within a week. They did well to beat New Zealand at home on Saturday, but the trip west to play two days later proved a step too far with the home side having too many weapons even without swingman Prather. Prather missed with hamstring tightness and while fellow import Jermaine Beal top-scored with 15 points, it was the help he received that was behind the win. Greg Hire played his best game of the season for Perth with a career-high 14 points while hitting 3-of-4 from three-point range. Captain Damian Martin had 11 points, six assists and four rebounds with Nate Jawai adding 13 points and Matt Knight 11 points to go with 11 boards. Shawn Redhage earned the start in his 350th NBL game and ended up hitting two dagger three-pointers to celebrate the occasion. Hire was proud to answer the call from coach Trevor Gleeson to step up with Prather out. "I was obviously really happy with the win but Trev reminds us consistently that you have to be ready to step up," Hire said. "Casey has been our most consistent and damaging player over the last month so it gave myself and Shawn an opportunity to step up. You want to grasp it and take advantage of it, and I think that's what happened tonight." The Taipans fought hard but fatigue played a factor after beating the Breakers in Cairns 48 hours previous. Captain Cameron Gliddon delivered 16 points and seven rebounds with Markel Starks adding 15 points, Cam Tragardh nine, Mark Worthington eight (seven rebounds) and Matt Burston six (eight boards, three assists, two steals). "It was a pretty good effort by the guys I thought. It is what it is, but when you have to travel from Cairns to Perth and get in at midnight, it's a challenge, Taipans coach Aaron Fearne said. "We've been a pretty ordinary road team and this was definitely our best road performance when we've had to play two nights before. "I'm happy for the guys because of that and it shows the mental side is a big part of it. We haven’t shot the ball well as a group all season and just didn’t make enough." The Wildcats threatened to break the game open either side of quarter-time with a run of three bombs from outside by Martin and Hire. They did lead 34-23 heading towards the half, but the Snakes fought back with an 11-0 run to be only two down at the break. The 'Cats again came out hot to start the second half with seven straight points and while the Taipans did close to within three before three quarter-time, they didn’t get closer as the home team closed it out. The Wildcats next face Melbourne at home on Friday while the Taipans return home to host the Sydney Kings also on Friday. PERTH WILDCATS 84 (Beal 15, Hire 14, Jawai 13) CAIRNS TAIPANS 74 (Gliddon 16, Starks 15, Tragardh 9) BOX SCORE
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