Wildcats book finals berth
The Perth Wildcats incredible post season run will continue in NBL21, booking a remarkable 35th consecutive playoffs appearance with a 89-78 victory over bottom placed Cairns Taipans on Monday night.
Scores were tied at 65-65 at three quarter time before the reigning champions broke free of their opponents at Cairns Pop Up Arena, their third match in five days producing the result that booked yet another finals appearance for one of Australia's greatest sporting organisations.
The berth was secured with six regular season games still to play after cruising to a 22-8 win-loss tally with their eighth victory in 11 games, remaining in sight of ladder leaders Melbourne United (23-7).
Reigning NBL MVP Bryce Cotton stood tall down the stretch with a game high 24 points including 4-5 three point shooting as the hosts suffered their fifth straight loss.
"It is a great effort to do that with six games to go," Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said after their finals campaign was confirmed.
"We have had a lot of change from last year, hats off to the guys to put the team in front of their self interest.
"I am really happy to be able to tick that box and be in the playoffs for another year.
"If you look at our group I think we have one starter from last year in Bryce, I think we have lost everyone else.
"It is a totally new group. The guys have really done a good job buying in, hopefully we can keep on improving."
John Mooney added a double-double, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Todd Blanchfield had 11 points and Mitch Norton 10 points.
Perth are in the middle of a challenging stretch, playing their third game in five days with a game against the Brisbane Bullets in Brisbane on Wednesday still to come but Gleeson said his side would keep their eyes on the prize.
"We are always looking at top two, we want that home court advantage," he said.
"If it presents itself we would like to challenge for it but there are still six games to go.
"We don't want to get in front of ourselves too much. We just want to keep getting better and the ladder will work itself out."
Cairns threw caution to the wind and came out swinging against the Wildcats in a desperate bid to claim their first win since April 23 and first victory over Perth since game two of last season's semi-final series.
But the Taipans were blown away in the final quarter despite the efforts of big man Nate Jawai (20 points, nine rebounds) and classy import Scott Machado (17 points, eight assists).
IMAGE: Cairns Post.