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  • Writer's pictureChris Pike

Wildcats stay alive after huge final quarter

The Perth Wildcats produced the best quarter by any team this NBL season and it was inspired by Bryce Cotton and offensive rebounding as they surged home to beat the South East Melbourne Phoenix 106-99.

The Play-In Qualifier opened the NBL Finals at John Cain Arena on Thursday night and it was the Phoenix in control most of the way in the elimination battle with the Wildcats.

The Phoenix were up by 13 when Mitch Creek scored to start the fourth quarter and the Wildcats needed something special. That's exactly what they got and it all started with three-time MVP Cotton.

After his nine points and 2/20 shooting performance on Sunday against Sydney, he had a two-point, 1/9 shooting first half and his team needed him to fire. That's exactly what he did.

Cotton hit three three-pointers for 12 quick points to start the fourth quarter to will the Wildcats back into the contest.

Then ultimately, despite it being their great weakness all season and even in the first half, three huge offensive rebounds proved crucial down the stretch.

Two of them went to Luke Travers who finished off both with two-handed slams, the other went to TaShawn Thomas on his own missed shot, and he scored on the second chance.

That helped the Wildcats to outscore the Phoenix 41 points to 23 in the fourth quarter and to come back from 13 points down to win by seven.

The season is now over for South East Melbourne as a result while Perth will head to Cairns on Sunday to take on the Taipans with a spot in the semi finals against the Sydney Kings on the line.

After 11 points and 3/29 shooting going back to Sunday and the first half of this game, Cotton delivered a stunning fourth quarter for Perth and finished the night with 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals with 4/8 three-point shooting.

Brady Manek was huge for Perth with 19 points in the first half and 24 for the game with 6/11 from deep while TaShawn Thomas added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Corey Webster 12 points and three boards.

Travers was huge too with 11 points and nine rebounds while Mitch Norton made a significant impact in his 19 minutes with 10 points.

Wildcats coach John Rillie liked the way his team played most of the night, it was just a matter of waiting to catch fire and that happened with a 41-point fourth quarter – the best quarter of any team all season.

"I felt we came out with a great aura about ourselves, I thought we had great intent and purpose," Rillie said.

"The scoreboard does not dictate how you play, the game was going fine and we just weren’t playing at our best offensively. The guys were competing and rebounding hard, and then they just stuck with it.

"They were dialled in and then we had that explosion for 41 points. I think we've been showing that we're an explosive offensive team when we find a good rhythm. We just didn’t find our rhythm until that fourth quarter."


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