February 03, 2014

Article at SportsNewsFirst

Wildcats hammer Tigers in NBL

THE Perth Wildcats reconfirmed its status as NBL title favourites thumping the Tigers in Melbourne on Sunday after Cairns missed a golden chance to make their impression on Saturday night.

For the first time since starting to play inside the Perth Arena in 2012, the Wildcats came into their clash at Hisense Arena against Melbourne on Sunday on the back of two straight home losses, but nobody told them that.

Despite falling 10 points behind in the first quarter, the Wildcats then dominated the third-placed Tigers from there to end up winning 81-57 to improve to a 16-5 record on the season to be well clear still of the 13-6 Adelaide 36ers.

Meanwhile, Cairns missed a huge chance to enter the top-four on Saturday night.

The Taipans ended the weekend with a nightmare Doomsday Double of facing the NBL's top-two teams, but they got things off to a rollicking start with a 99-94 win in Perth over the Wildcats in overtime on Thursday night.

Cairns then gave itself a chance of coming away with a double, but some Gary Ervin brilliance in the last seconds was enough for Adelaide to prevail 89-87 to hold on to second spot for the 36ers and keep the Taipans outside of the top-four in the process.

At the end of 16 rounds of the 2013/14 NBL season, Perth is on top of the standings at 16-5 followed by Adelaide (13-6), Melbourne (12-9) and Sydney (9-9).

Outside the top-four are Cairns (9-12), New Zealand (8-11), Wollongong (6-13) and Townsville (5-13).

Sunday's clash at Hisense Arena was a hotly-anticipated contest with the Tigers coming off a thrilling win in Perth last Friday night thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Mark Worthington.

Melbourne was looking to continue to show it was a genuine championship threat in the return encounter in what doubled as the Tigers' first home game at Hisense Arena for the season.

A crowd of over 6000 people turned up as well and the home side gave them what they were after early on racing to a 18-8 lead in the first quarter, but they were simply shut completely down by the Wildcats' defence from that point on.

The Wildcats outscored the Tigers 73-39 for the rest of the game to end up winning by 24 points and making quite a statement.

Coach Trevor Gleeson, up against his former team, mixed around with his starting line-up for Perth following the two home losses with Greg Hire and Jesse Wagstaff starting at the expense of Jermaine Beal and Tom Jervis.

If anything, it only served to fire up Beal as well and he ended up still playing over 32 minutes while top-scoring for the Wildcats with 21 points to go with six assists on the back of shooting 5-of-8 from three-point territory.

Wagstaff enjoyed his starting role for Perth finishing with 18 points and four rebounds while James Ennis added 16 points, 12 rebounds, five steals and three assists in a strong all-round game.

Jervis also finished with 12 points and five rebounds for Perth coming off the bench and in the continued absence of fellow big man Matt Knight.

Only two players for Melbourne managed to score in double-figures with Worthington finishing in 14 points and eight rebounds while import guard Mustapha Farrakhan had 12 points.

The league's leading scorer Chris Goulding had a night to forget with just six points on 2-of-9 shooting from the field.

Import centre worked hard, though, finishing with eight points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Meanwhile, on Saturday night Adelaide and Cairns played out on the games of the season at the Adelaide Arena with Ervin coming up huge in the dying seconds for the Sixers leading them to the 89-87 victory.

While Ervin was the star at the finish, it was a career-best night for Adelaide big man Daniel Johnson who finished with 33 points and eight rebounds on the back of a superb 14-of-18 shooting from the field.

Ervin also finished with 17 points, six assists and four rebounds for the 36ers with Mitch Creek adding 13 points, four rebounds and three assists, and Adam Gibson 10 points, eight assists and six boards.

Alex Loughton top-scored for the Taipans with 18 points and six rebounds while Jamar Wilson added 17 points, Clint Steindl 15, Stephen Weigh 13 and Cameron Gliddon 11.

Round 17 of the NBL begins in Townsville on Friday night with the Crocodiles hosting the Wildcats before on Saturday night, Sydney hosts New Zealand and Cairns takes on Townsville in a Reptile Rumble.

The final game of the round will take place on Sunday with the second-last placed Wollongong hosting the second-placed Adelaide.