Brilliant Cotton sparks crucial Wildcats win
The Perth Wildcats had no choice but to take care of business against the Illawarra Hawks on Friday night at RAC Arena and while they trailed at half-time, Bryce Cotton's 40 points ensured they ended up winning 106-86.
The Wildcats are locked in a fight over a top six position coming into the second last round of the NBL season and on the back of Sunday's road loss to the South East Melbourne Phoenix, needed to bounce back at home on Friday.
The Hawks might be anchored to bottom spot and lost another key player during the week with the departure of Mangok Mathiang, but were never going to make it easy.
Illawarra opened up a double-digit lead during the second quarter and were still leading 55-50 by half-time with Tyler Harvey leading the way with 18 points.
However, Cotton had already delivered 23 points to half-time for the Wildcats in a stunning performance. He just needed more of his teammates to come along for the ride with him.
That happened in the second half with the 'Cats opening up the third quarter with a 14-4 run. They then closed the period with another 13-6 run and throughout the fourth term took further control over the tired and shorthanded Hawks to cruise to the crucial 20-point win.
The result improves Perth to a 14-11 record on the season to remain in the top six with games to finish now away to the Tasmania JackJumpers, and at home to the top two teams next week, the Cairns Taipans and Sydney Kings.
Cotton finished the night with 40 points for Perth on the back of 11/21 shooting from the floor, 7/11 from deep and 11/11 at the stripe to go with seven rebounds and four assists.
Corey Webster added 15 points and seven rebounds, Brady Manek 16 points and seven boards including a monster dunk late, Luke Travers 11 points, seven boards and three assists, and TaShawn Thomas 10 points and six rebounds.
Wildcats coach John Rillie was delighted to get the important win and for his superstar to show the way.
"Coming into the game we did what we needed to do. We can say the first half wasn’t up to our liking or speed, but the second half we gave great effort on both ends of the floor," Rillie said.
"(Cotton) makes coaching look easy. That was a phenomenal performance and he understands the urgency and the point of the season we're at. So in my shoes when you can rely and know what a guy's mindset is for the big occasion, it really helps.
"I think it gives our team confidence too when they see him perform at that level."
The Wildcats have a short turnaround for a massive game in Hobart with the Tasmania JackJumpers on Sunday.
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