United stay undefeated in NBL21
A late error from Wildcats star Bryce Cotton proved decisive in their round four contest against Melbourne United in Bendigo on Sunday, the home side hanging on for a four point win that has them outright clear on top of the table.
With under a minute remaining and Melbourne leading by two points Cotton seemed certain to either draw his team level or put Perth ahead with a three point shot, only to fumble the ball behind the half court line to gift possession back to United and subsequently the match, 75-71.
It was a bitter pill to swallow for Cotton and the Wildcats, the reigning NBL MVP keeping his side afloat in the last quarter with 24 points for the match to go with seven rebounds and six assists, not enough to stop Perth from slumping to their second consecutive loss of the season in captain Jesse Wagstaff's 350th game.
It was a scrappy start to the contest with both teams flunking shots from the field in the first quarter, Perth taking a 14-13 lead in to the first break with Cotton scoring eight points himself in a strong start.
Japanese young gun Yudai Baba started the second quarter with consecutive baskets to give his side momentum, before John Mooney joined Cotton in getting things rolling in a high octane second term.
Australian star Jock Landale was having an impact to, but Perth broke away late in the term to lead by five points at the half.
Perth extended their lead to double figures midway through the third as United coach Dean Vickerman called a timeout, Melbourne having lost star shooting guard Chris Goulding with a calf injury.
Baba and Landale got moving for the home side, veteran David Barlow with a late three point right on the buzzer to level the scores 56-56 at the final change, confirmed after a video review.
Some ill discipline cost Trevor Gleeson's side dearly early in the last as Melbourne claimed the lead and pushed away from their tiring opponents, leading at one stage by ten points with four minutes to play.
Cotton then sprung to life having been well guarded by Baba for most of the afternoon, putting up seven points in the space of three inspired minutes to set up a grandstand finish.
Then came the final slip up, Melbourne able to hang on as Clint Steindl's final shot of the afternoon rung out as the final buzzer sounded, United now outright top of the NBL ladder as the only undefeated team in the competition.
Perth will face South East Melbourne twice in round five, the first of those matches on Thursday afternoon at the State Basketball Centre.
IMAGE: The West Australian.