Hungry Jack's NBL
Wildcats happy with tough preparation for Grand Final
Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was delighted with his team's response to win Semi-Final Game 3 and now captain Damian Martin can't wait for another crack at the New Zealand Breakers in the Grand Final Series. The Wildcats hit back from a disappointing Game 2 loss to the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong on Sunday to win Game 3 back at Perth Arena 89-74 on Friday night to set up a third Grand Final Series against the Breakers of the past five NBL seasons. The 'Cats were angry at themselves after Sunday's Game 2 and that went from Gleeson and his coaching staff right down to the playing group. But Gleeson couldn’t have been happier with the response on Friday night and the fact that he had so many strong contributors. Jermaine Beal had 17 points, Jesse Wagstaff 17 (seven rebounds), Casey Prather 15, Matt Knight 15 (nine rebounds) and Martin seven (four boards, four blocks, four assists, three steals). Even Nate Jawai and Tom Jervis contributed strongly in limited minutes. "We had to make some adjustments and as a coaching staff we didn’t do a good job on Sunday. We decided if we were going to get beat, we were going to get beat a certain way and the guys did a great job of staying to the game plan," Gleeson said. "There was a bit of personal pride on and team pride on, and I was real pleased that everyone contributed from Nate to get through a lack of preparation to play like he did to Jesse coming on and playing outstanding, to Greg (Hire) not playing the first 15 minutes and coming on to show that toughness. It's pleasing to have that depth on the bench at the right time of the year." Jawai again played just 14 minutes for four points and three rebounds as he continues to be battling physically, but Gleeson expects more from him against the Breakers in the Grand Final Series. "He will play more, without question. In the second half there was a seven-point split and they went small ball," he said. "I thought Matt was doing a really good job rebounding for us and I know they were trying to speed the game up, but from where Nate came from that performance was fantastic. "He was engaged and showed some toughness, and AJ (Ogilvy) got six turnovers and I daresay most of those were against Nate. He will now be ready for Wednesday night." Gleeson isn’t concerned about the Breakers having a greater break ahead of the Grand Final after they wrapped up their series with Melbourne United last Saturday. In fact, he thinks being match hardened with two hard Finals games since the Breakers last played is an advantage. "This game here even though it was Game 3 is great preparation for us. You can't simulate that at practice and you can't simulate the atmosphere and tempo of the game, and you can't get that physicality at practice," Gleeson said. "This game has got us cherry ripe for the Grand Final. The guys want to play before they practice and they have been sitting there for 10 days ready to go. We have a lot of respect for New Zealand and there's great history between the two clubs so it's going to be great fun on Wednesday night." The Wildcats have not lost an NBL Grand Final Series against any team except the Breakers since the Sydney Kings in 2003. The 'Cats with Martin as the starting point guard won the Championship in 2010 before New Zealand won the next three, then Perth won again in 2014 with the Breakers not making the Finals at all with Cedric Jackson absent. The Wildcats have played the Breakers in the 2011 Semi Finals, 2012 Grand Final and 2013 Grand Final, and lost all three, but they have been among the hardest fought, toughest and at times most thrilling Championship deciders in NBL history. Martin has had his injury troubles through that history against the Breakers, including missing all of the 2013 decider, but he isn’t focused on the past and is just turning his attention to helping lead Perth to a seven NBL Championship, and his third since arriving for the 2009/10 season. "Obviously we've matched up with New Zealand in Semi Finals and Grand Finals quite a few times over the past seven years I've been at the Wildcats, and they just go up a gear in the Finals," Martin said. "You look at them last week against Melbourne and they were just fantastic, in particular at the defensive end and Cedric really stepped up. He is knocking down threes now and he is the ultimate competitor and loves to win, and at times he can carry the team. I'm looking forward to matching up with him but the game's a lot bigger than the two of us. "Corey's (Webster) fantastic, Mika's (Vukona) gone to another level and Thomas Abercrombie is playing his best basketball this season. "It's got everything you want for a Grand Final Series but we have a few days to try and prepare. If we come out switched and execute our game plan, I'm confident we can beat them but it's going to be tough that's for sure."