Hungry Jack's NBL
Wildcats Bounce Back at Home Over Breakers
The Perth Wildcats were facing an uncharacteristic fourth loss at home on Thursday night, something that hasn’t occurred since 1998. However, Vic Law, Bryce Cotton and company swept aside their slump with a solid 89-80 win over the New Zealand Breakers.
The Wildcats were given a golden opportunity to solidify their position in the NBL’s top four following the South East Melbourne Phoenix’s loss to Melbourne United, and Cotton and these Wildcats have a long history of taking their chances.
This was no exception, as the Wildcats reversed a recent spate of bad form to sneak by the Breakers who slumped to a sixth consecutive loss in the process.
The 'Cats came into the game having lost three straight for the first ever time in RAC Arena, but the win despite the continued absence of Mitch Norton and Todd Blanchfield inched them closer to a 36th straight playoff appearance.
While Cotton missed his first seven shots, his veteran running mate Todd Blanchfield scored seven of his 13 points in the first quarter.
Wildcats coach Scott Morrison was happy to get the win but know his team still has work to do.
"Just that we needed it. I thought the guys put in a good week under some tough circumstances," Morrison said.
"We've got a lot of work to do and improvement to make still if we want to make a run at this post-season, but we needed to get a win and it was a hard fought battle by the end of it.
"We needed to get it just to keep pace with the other top teams in the league in the standings so I would say the monkey's still on the back, but maybe he's only hanging by one arm maybe."
For the Breakers, Yanni Wetzell continued his standout season, scoring 12 points on 6/7 shooting in the first half alone. He added six of his 10 rebounds by that stage and would finish with a game-high 22 points.
Both Hugo Besson (15 points, four assists) and Ousmane Dieng (11 points, three rebounds) started on the bench, as coach Dan Shamir tried to give his Breakers a different look.
Breakers coach Dan Shamir obviously would never be satisfied with a loss but did like the effort in a lot of ways from his team.
"We went to the half-time down eight and that happens and obviously to win a game we need to be just a little bit better on a few things," Shamir said.
"Maybe we need a few less turnovers, pass up a few more shots and get to the paint some more, step up on the out of bounds a little bit less and walk with the ball a little bit less. But overall we played a decent game, we executed and we were good with a lot of the details.
"The attitude was correct and I think it was a good basketball game. We gave it everything we had and that's something that I hope we'll do for the rest of the season in every game regardless of the result."
NBA scouts from both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks at RAC Arena were on hand to watch the pair and got some good insight, while Perth's Luke Travers was also out to impress. He showed his pace in transition on his way to 11 points and eight rebounds.
Cotton hit his second three-pointer late in the second to finish with 10 points through the first half. When Vic Law made a three of his own seconds later, the Wildcats quickly established some breathing room with an eight-point lead (44-36) at the main break.
At the beginning of the second half, the Wildcats reeled off the first six points to race to a 14-point lead, which left the Breakers in a hole few recover from at RAC Arena.
Matt Hodgson was a rock inside for Perth, scoring 10 points and adding five rebounds, as his role is increasing with Scott Morrison’s side as we head to the business end of the season.
While the Breakers fought back in the third quarter thanks to Wetzell’s persistence and Peyton Siva’s play, Cotton stepped into a familiar role as a late shot-clock killer to earn a pair of last-second free throws that he duly converted.
It was a back-breaking play that prompted an animated Shamir to rise from the bench, and extinguished much of the Breakers’ good work, ensuring it was a 10-point margin heading into the final quarter.
It was the first time the Wildcats had won the first three quarters of a match since December 19 when they defeated the JackJumpers.
The Wildcats were forced to work to keep the Breakers at bay in the fourth, but a sweet assist from Cotton that set up a Law three-pointer with 1:42 to go effectively ended this game.
It was Law’s second three-pointer, who finished with a team-high 18 points for the Wildcats.
It's the lone game in Round 19 for the Wildcats while the Breakers have some travelling and work to do heading to Bendigo to take on the South East Melbourne Phoenix on Sunday and the Sydney Kings on Tuesday.
HUNGRY JACK'S NBL ROUND 19
PERTH WILDCATS 89 (Law 18, Cotton 16, Blanchfield 13)
NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 80 (Wetzell 22, Besson 15, Siva 12)