April 01, 2013

Article at SportsNewsFirst

Wildcats into grand final, Martin injured

THE Perth Wildcats have done as expected qualifying for the NBL grand final with an overtime win over Wollongong on Sunday, but they face a nervous wait on star point guard Damian Martin.

The Wildcats closed out their semi-final battle against the Hawks with a 85-81 overtime win in Wollongong to claim the series 2-0, but Martin was perhaps the player they could least afford to lose ahead of the expected upcoming grand final with minor premiers New Zealand.

The Breakers have won the last two NBL championships and lost just four games throughout the entire 2012/13 campaign before winning the first semi-final game against the Sydney Kings on Thursday with the second game on Easter Monday in Sydney.

New Zealand possesses the league's Most Valuable Player Cedric Jackson and he would be the man that Martin would be given the job on in a grand final series.

As the winner of the last three NBL Best Defensive Player awards, Martin is the best chance of Perth being able to put the clamps on Jackson, but with the way he was helped off the court on Sunday that now looks decidedly unlikely.

The Wildcats championship-winning point guard from 2010, regular Australian Boomers representative and the 'Cats co-captain came into the finals campaign with an Achilles complaint, but it was his calf he hurt in the first half of Sunday's win against Wollongong.

He took no further part in the game but Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge won't rule him out of the grand final series just yet despite acknowledging that it is looking decidedly unlikely that he will be anywhere near 100 per cent.

"It's not looking good at all," Beveridge said.

"It's going to be a busy week for our physio, but the good thing about it is we do have a bit of time until the grand final.

"Damo is one of these people that recovers quick. He's got the biggest heart so I wouldn't be writing him off just yet."

Following Perth's thumping 93-65 Game 1 win at the Perth Arena on Thursday, Wollongong came out a desperate and much different unit in front of its vocal home fans on Sunday.

The Hawks raced to a handy lead in the first quarter, but by half-time the Wildcats had closed the gap to just two points.

The 'Cats maintained the momentum in the third quarter to appear heading for the series-sealing win throughout much of the second half, but the Hawks eventually forced it into overtime.

They did have the chance to win but it was a poor last play before the end of regulation ending up with a low-percentage shot from Tim Coenraad.

Then in the extra period, it was all Perth as the Wildcats ending up winning 85-81 to qualify for a second straight grand final as they shoot for a record-extending sixth NBL championship.

Shawn Redhage top-scored for the Wildcats with 27 points with Kevin Lisch hitting 20 to go with six assists and four rebounds. They were the only two Perth players in double-figures, but Greg Hire pulled in 12 rebounds in an influential performance.

Coenraad finished with 16 points for Wollongong to go with nine rebounds with Oscar Forman adding 14 and 10.

Malcolm Grant scored 11 points and had five assists and four rebounds, but influential point guard Adris Deleon managed just five points and one assist in only 13 minutes after he battled though a cork suffered early in the game.

Perth now waits to find out its grand final opponent from the New Zealand-Sydney series, but it would take something remarkable for the Kings to pull off wins in the last two games.

The Breakers finished the season with a 24-4 record while Sydney managed just 12-16.

Providing New Zealand gets through, it will be the third straight season that the Breakers and Perth have met in the playoffs with New Zealand having home court advantage in both the 2010/11 semi finals and the 2011/12 grand final, which they prevailed in both by winning Game 3 in Auckland.

The Breakers would again have the home-court advantage with two of the three games at home if they make it.