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  • Writer's pictureChris Pike

Tired Wildcats dominated by Phoenix

The combination of a short turnaround from Friday night to being dominated on the boards and inside by a physical South East Melbourne Phoenix caught up with the Perth Wildcats on Sunday in Melbourne.

The Wildcats arrived at the State Basketball Centre on the back of a terrific win at home over the league-leading Sydney Kings on Friday night.

That gave Perth three straight wins and to be sitting in fourth position on the table with the chance to further consolidate a top four position on Sunday against a desperate Phoenix team, but their opponents simply wouldn’t be denied.

The Wildcats offence has been on fire putting up 105.3 points a game over the last three wins against the Breakers, 36ers and Kings, and again that end of things wasn’t too much of a problem against the Phoenix.

However, the tone was set in the first couple of possessions of the game with the Phoenix scoring on a handful of offensive rebounds. While Perth's offence still gave them a chance until the late blowout, the South East Melbourne dominance inside was the difference.

In fairness to the Wildcats, it was the highest paced game of the NBL season they took part in to beat the Kings at RAC Arena 111-104. However, the short turnaround to get to Melbourne and play on Sunday afternoon was a challenge.

Throw in a plane delay and the Wildcats didn’t get to their hotel until the early hours of Sunday morning, but there were no excuses coach John Rillie would accept for being beaten in the effort areas.

By the end of the game, not only did the Phoenix win the game 112-91 but they dominated the glass with 49 rebounds to 25 including 19 at the offensive end to seven which led to 27 second chance points to 11.

South East Melbourne also piled on 62 points in the paint to 34 from the Wildcats to see them win and return to sixth position on the NBL table with just two games in their season remaining.

The Wildcats didn’t produce a bad offensive performance and still put up 91 points. Bryce Cotton had 25, five rebounds and four assists, Corey Webster 21 points, Luke Travers 13 points, five boards and five assists and Tai Webster nine points.

They just couldn’t do anything to stop the Phoenix up the other end and the rebounding woes were again significant.

Alan Wiliams dominated for South East Melbourne with 27 points, 14 rebounds and six assists with Ryan Broekhoff adding 26 points with six first half three-pointers but he did leave the game late with a groin injury.

Wildcats coach John Rillie just felt what he saw from his team to start the game meant it was always going to be a challenge.

"With that quick turnaround, two things I wanted to emphasise and that was communication and rebounding," Rillie said.

"So for us to have a possession where they were playing volleyball, they just showed me where our mind was at for the start of the game. Two things we were worried about were d-trans and rebounding and we showed where we were at from the start of the game.

"We had a great game Friday night, very emotional and then our flight got cancelled so we didn’t get to the hotel until early this morning.

"Those things can go one or two ways, you can come out with great energy and spirit or play really well but that first possession really showed where we were at. We did a great job in the second quarter to fight back, we just could never get over that hump."

The Wildcats are back home to the bottom placed Illawarra Hawks on Friday.

IMAGE: Getty Images


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