Cotton masterclass destroys Taipans
He may not have been with the group for long, but Bryce Cotton showed he has Wildcat genes with a 34-point masterclass as Perth ambushed the Snakes to take Game 1 of their semi-final series 91-69 on Friday.
After going a scintillating 5/5 from downtown in his only other visit to the Cairns Convention Centre, Cotton had his deadly jumpshot on full display again to rain on Cairns’ parade and declare their championship prospects are as good as any.
The Snakes, winners of six of their past seven games coming into the night, were simply shell-shocked by American stars Cotton – who scored the most points by a Wildcat in a finals game since 2008 – and Casey Prather (22 points), who was near unstoppable in the pick-and-roll.
Cairns fought gallantly throughout the night, but the group’s entire performance was exemplified in star centre Nathan Jawai’s frustrating throughout the night.
Lapses in concentration cruelled the home side, as a switched-on ‘Cats put forward probably their best game of the season. Trice led the Snakes with 15 points.
The ‘Cats sprung out of the blocks with a 31-21 first term on the back of a jumpshooting masterclass from Prather and Cotton.
The dynamic duo, and undoubtedly the keys to an eighth Wildcats championship, netted a combined 21 points in the first frame alone with deep jumpers – three whistled for contact – while the Snakes got theirs from backup centre Nnanna Egwu.
Egwu has quietly been a revelation in recent games with Bamaga banger Jawai finding foul trouble, and continued his hot streak with seven first-quarter points as Jawai sat with two fouls 3:43 into the first half and didn’t return.
After a 15-foul first quarter, the screws tightened further in the second as neither team took a backward step physically.
The combination of stoppages of play and Cotton’s shot-making (21 first-half points) dominated proceedings.
Cairns pegged it back to four points before Cotton spearheaded a 13-6 run to end the half at 48-37.
Cotton, in tandem with Prather, came out of the main break looking to stomp on the Snakes early, and the margin hit 20 points before the home side started to chip away.
The Snakes got the margin back to seven on the back of a 13-0 run, but Cotton steadied the defending champions’ ship as the ‘Cats took a comfortable 1-0 lead heading into Game 2 at Perth Arena on Monday.
Perth Wildcats 91 (Cotton 34, Prather 22, Knight 14)
Cairns Taipans 69 (Trice 15, Worthington 11, Egwu 9)
News Source: NBL Media