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GAME REPORT

White, Kay Step Up to Lead Wildcats to Grand Final

Bryce Cotton won Game 1 for the Perth Wildcats and then it was the rest of the Big 3 delivering in Game 3 on Thursday with Terrico White and Nick Kay ending the remarkable season of the Cairns Taipans with the 93-82 victory.


All season long the fortunes of the Wildcats have ridden with Cotton, White and Kay.


Cotton delivered 42 points in a one-point overtime win in Game 1 for the Wildcats and Kay had been terrific both first two games, but for the 'Cats to win their way into the Grand Final over the never-say-die Taipans, it was time for White to deliver.


And deliver he did with last year's Grand Final MVP finishing with 26 points including the last seven of the game as the Wildcats won the series and advanced to yet another championship decider against the Sydney Kings.


The 'Cats are shooting for a 10th championship and to go back-to-back with Game 1 in Sydney on Sunday.


While the Taipans did a brilliant job restricting Cotton to five points on 2/16 shooting, he did have eight assists and Kay once again proved the difference with 24 points, 12 boards and four assists.


The possession game was again pivotal with the Wildcats collecting 16 offensive rebounds to 10 and taking seven more shots for the game than the Snakes.


Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was most proud of how so many players stepped up to get his team back to the Grand Final.


"I'm just so proud of the guys for how well they performed as a team. We had multiple guys step up who haven’t played well in the first two games and Terrico especially outstanding," Gleeson said.


"I thought Mitch Norton was huge out there getting some really big rebounds down the stretch, and his defence.


"And our workhorse, Nick Kay is unbelievable. I'm really happy with how we play, the level that we played at with the high intensity, having each other's back, sharing the ball and doing it against a pretty damned good opposition."


Cairns never said die the entire night despite Cam Oliver and DJ Newbill combining for just one point in the first half, and the fact they fell down by 18 through the third quarter.


Oliver came to life with 20 second half points and dragged Cairns within five, but Perth had the answers on their home floor. Scott Machado had another 19 points and six assists and Mirko Djeric 12 points on four threes in the space of four minutes in the second period.


Coming from last a season ago to have gone ever so close against the defending champions without home court advantage in the semi final is something Taipans coach Mike Kelly and everyone involved should be immensely proud of.


Kelly was full of pride in his group after the game and rightfully so.


"When I look back I'm just going to be able to reflect and see the big picture of what this group did led by DJ and Nate, and how special this season was while it was still going," Kelly said.


"It's hard to look at that big picture now, this one hurts, Perth was very good and we responded, but didn’t respond well enough."


It was the Snakes with the hot start as Scott Machado and Majok Deng gave them an 8-2 opening. Perth looked shaky, but not for long thanks to two Terrico White threes and a strong take to the rack from Mitch Norton.


Both teams then traded a bevy of threes with Jesse Wagstaff and Clint Steindl coming on to hit for Perth as did Machado and Kouat Noi for Cairns.


Machado kept rolling for five more points to give him 12 for the first term, but Cam Oliver stayed scoreless after missing a wide open breakaway dunk to give him a 0/3 shooting, two turnover start.


Perth went into quarter-time up 25-24 thanks to a Steindl triple on the buzzer and then the 'Cats threatened to pull away through much of the second. They went on 7-0 run including another Steindl three and then five straight Nick Kay points had them up nine.


But enter Mirko Djeric. After a quiet two games offensively, the Serbian sharpshooter got on one hell of a roll nailing four threes in the space of four minutes to make it a three-point game. Perth still led 52-44 at the half after a Kay and-one to give him 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.


Remarkably for the second straight game after going for 42 in Game 1, Bryce Cotton was scoreless having missed all six shots.


Field goalless trio Oliver, Newbill and Cotton all scored in the opening stages of the second half and then Perth broke the game wide open with a 9-0 run to lead by 18.


Oliver wasn’t done and converted a three-point play, threw down another dunk and then he hit a three also on three quarter-time to give the snakes a sniff down 10.


The Taipans kept coming in the fourth period. A Machado basket brought it back to seven and then when Oliver scored seven straight Cairns points of his own, it was a five-point game with 3:45 left.


That's when White responded. He scored in the mid-range and then sealed the deal with the last five points of the game to send the Wildcats back to the Grand Final.


NBL SEMI FINALS GAME 3


PERTH WILDCATS 93 (White 26, Kay 24, Steindl 11)

 

CAIRNS TAIPANS 82 (Oliver 20, Machado 19, Djeric 12)


Perth win best-of-three series 2-1


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