Brilliant Prather takes ‘Cats to post-season
Perth Wildcats had the wrong side of history staring them in the face against Melbourne United on Sunday before a supreme fourth-quarter performance made sure of their 31st consecutive NBL Finals appearance.
It was finals or burst for the Wildcats in the final game of the regular season and Casper Ware’s four points early in the final term had the scores tied and Perth looking in trouble.
But the visitors lifted as Casey Prather – who may have played his best ever NBL game – scored a road career-high 26 points and dished a career-high 11 assists, making several contested shots down the stretch.
Jesse Wagstaff nailed two threes and Jameel McKay (14 points, 10 rebounds) pulled down big rebounds and hammered in a one-handed fast-break dunk on a helpless Chris Goulding (21 points).
Although they had an 11-point lead with three minutes remaining, Ware (27 points, 7 assists) and Josh Boone (27 points, 11 rebounds) spearheaded a late comeback to get within three points after Goulding’s two with 12.3 seconds to play.
After the Wildcats’ split the free throws, Melbourne took the ball and Ware’s pull-up three – which would have tied the scores – missed as the Wildcats’ hung on for a 96-94 to secure fourth place.
Goulding looked locked in from the tip off and it took him just seconds to nail his first three-pointer and soon after he had another as Melbourne led early.
Matt Knight and Prather were finding their baskets too but another Goulding three and then a put back from Boone on the buzzer saw Melbourne up 29-21 at quarter-time.
Goulding continued to threaten as Melbourne’s lead went out to 33-26, but Perth came roaring back behind nine points from Prather.
Only Andersen’s offensive rebound and dish to Boone gave Melbourne the edge at half-time, leading 47-46.
The Wildcats left it until late in the third term but with their season on the line Prather, Bryce Cotton and Knight all made big baskets to hold a 69-65 lead at three-quarter time.
McKay’s powerful hammer dunk on Goulding late in the final term was a snapshot of the entire period as Perth dominated every key moment of the last 10 minutes, with Prather, Damian Martin and Wagstaff all making huge shots to push the lead to double figures.
Perth Wildcats 96 (Prather 26, Cotton 19, Knight 15)
Melbourne United 94 (Boone 27, Ware 27, Goulding 21)
News Source: NBL Media