Phoenix snatch thriller over Wildcats
New Perth Wildcats captain Jesse Wagstaff missed the perfect opportunity to make himself a hero in the final seconds against South East Melbourne Phoenix, missing an uncontested lay-up on the buzzer that saw the visitors triumphant by a point at RAC Arena on Friday night.
With only time for one more play on the night and the Phoenix leading by one point after a pulsating final quarter, Wagstaff was fed the ball under the post by John Mooney only to squander what appeared a simple layup, costing his side victory by missing the shot uncontested as the final buzzer sounded.
It came after Phoenix import Keifer Sykes turned around his poor game against the same opponent on Sunday with the basket that put his side in front just moments before, Kyle Adnam having delivered a clutch three pointer after Bryce Cotton had given Perth a four point lead just seconds earlier with his own long range effort, in what was Trevor Gleeson's side's biggest lead of the contest they largely trailed in all night.
The Phoenix largely controlled the game courtesy of star big man Mitch Creek (24 points and 7 rebounds) but were never able to shrug a Wildcats team that struggled to find their best basketball.
South East Melbourne lead by six points at quarter time after Sykes came out with a point to prove in the first quarter, with six points and two assists to his name by quarter time as all of the Phoenix's starters put up points in the first stanza.
The lead extended to as much as ten points in the second term before big man John Mooney got things moving for the Wildcats, young gun Luke Travers with an inspired stretch before half time to reduce the margin to one point.
Creek taught Travers a lesson after the half time break, dominating the quarter with ten points including two from beyond the arc as the Phoenix put up 29 points for the term, only some magic from Cotton and Mooney keeping the home side at arms reach with a quarter to play.
A technical foul on Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell appeared to be a decisive moment early in the last as the home side capitalised at the foul line, a huge Cotton three with less than a minute left seemingly the decisive play of the night.
Enter Adnam, in foul trouble who found space at the top of the key and fired from outside the arc, Sykes with a cut to the rim and clutch finish to return the lead to his side with only one play left in the match.
It's that play that will be remembered from the contest, as Wagstaff missed an uncontested layup to hand the Phoenix their second win of the season, and first ever against the Wildcats.
Cotton was magnificent with 32 points and six assists, Mooney with his second double double in as many matches as he posted 19 points and 13 rebounds in just his second game in red.
Captain Creek led the way for the visitors with his 24 points, Sykes with 19 while Adnam made a telling late contribution with 14 points.
Both teams suit up again on Sunday, the Wildcats against the New Zealand Breakers at RAC Arena and the Phoenix with a Throwdown in Bendigo against Melbourne United.
IMAGE: The West Australian.