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R3 Report: Wildcats clip Hawks

Less than 48 hours after a shock home loss to Townsville, the Perth Wildcats showed their famous fighting spirit in a thrilling 106-99 victory over the Illawarra Hawks on Sunday at WIN Entertainment Centre. Down by nine midway through the fourth quarter and playing without injured stars Damian Martin and Casey Prather, the Wildcats outlasted the Hawks in a classic shootout, improving their record to 3-1 ahead of next Thursday’s top of the table showdown with unbeaten leaders Melbourne United. American guard Jermaine Beal was brilliant with a game-high 25 points and seven assists for Perth, while forwards Matt Knight (22 points, 10 rebounds), Jesse Wagstaff (18 points, nine rebounds) and Greg Hire (13 points, 11 rebounds) played crucial roles in the courageous win. “It was one of the best games I’ve been involved with,” Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said. “We let the Wildcats brand down on Friday and we challenged a few of the guys, and during the course of this game I noticed we were playing Wildcats basketball, which is unselfish and being aggressive, and the tide turned in the end.” Making an impressive comeback for Illawarra was guard Kevin Lisch, who finished with 15 points and seven assists after missing the past three games with a knee injury. Hawks centre AJ Ogilvy posted a team-high 21 points, Oscar Forman added 16, while Jarrad Weeks finished with 15. The Hawks slipped to 2-3 and will be aiming to bounce back in next Wednesday’s road duel with the Townsville Crocodiles. Lisch made his presence felt on the first possession, shaking off his defender and driving in for a lay-up. Beal quickly found his groove at the other end, nailing a couple of threes to ensure the visitors got away to a positive start. Both teams were executing their offences well and the lead changed hands four times in the opening quarter. The Wildcats had their noses in front before Weeks and Tyson Demos made back to back threes to put the Hawks up 28-26 at the end of the period. Ogilvy became Illawarra’s primary offensive target in the second quarter, scoring twice on crowd-pleasing dunks as the margin swelled to nine. Beal stayed hot and Knight hurt the Hawks with his strength inside, helping the Cats to pull within 52-49 at half-time. Illawarra had a tidy four turnovers to their name but the Cats stayed close by out-rebounding the home team 23-15. By the end of the night they had demolished their opponents 43-25 under the boards. Perth looked confident in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring seven straight points for a 63-61 lead. Lisch’s basket in heavy traffic broke the drought, while Kirk Penney’s three and Ogilvy’s fourth dunk of the night put the Hawks up by five. The Cats didn’t even blink, regaining the lead on Wagstaff’s consecutive threes. Illawarra clawed their way back in front, as Weeks brought the crowd to its feet with a steal and dunk. Up by five after three periods, the Hawks pushed the margin back up to nine before the defiant Cats cut it to one on Knight’s free throws with three minutes remaining. The Hawks struggled to execute in crunch time and were ultimately outscored 29-17 in the final period. “We’ve been working on how to close games out and we absolutely 100 per cent blew it,” Illawarra coach Rob everidge said. “We played a hell of a game and then we got out-scored 22-7 in the last five minutes. “We’re going to learn from this experience.” Perth Wildcats 106 (Beal 25, Knight 22, Wagstaff 18) Illawarra Hawks 99 (Ogilvy 21, Forman 16, Lisch 15) BOX SCORE
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