Perth sweep Cairns, advance to Grand Final
The career of the great Mark Worthington is over and the Cairns Taipans have to wait another year for that elusive championship after the Perth Wildcats advanced to the NBL Grand Final with a 74-66 win at Perth Arena on Monday.
Perth claimed Game 2 of the NBL semi-final series by eight points after winning the opener in Cairns 91-69 on Friday.
The Taipans came out a vastly different outfit in enemy territory and put in a strong showing defensively, but offensive execution cruelled them as they posted their third-lowest score of the season.
Cairns simply couldn’t put the ball in the hole, and despite Bryce Cotton being held to just nine points after his Game One heroics, the Wildcats found enough weapons to win and advance.
The Wildcats now await the winner of the Adelaide 36ers-Illawarra Hawks semi-final decider to find out their Grand Final opponents as they chase an eighth championship, and their second back-to-back.
Cairns’ season is over and so is the career of one of Australian basketball’s greats, Worthington.
Fittingly, he played the last of his 335 NBL games in his home state with the 2009 championship winner and dual Olympian moving into retirement.
Jesse Wagstaff came up huge for the Wildcats with an equal season-high 20 points including 5/11 from downtown.
Casey Prather continued his hot form with 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, with Matt Knight dropping a pivotal 12 points.
Captain Damian Martin was strong with six points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Travis Trice had 14 of Cairns’ 22 first half points and ended up with 22 for the game along with five assists. Tony Mitchell had some bright moments as well for 17 points and five boards.
Nnanna Egwu started ahead of Nate Jawai and had a good impact with nine points and five rebounds.
Worthington worked tirelessly for 30 minutes and had three points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists.
While the Snakes were doing well limiting Perth early, compared to Game 1, they just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.
The result was an eight-point quarter for the visitors and two threes from Wagstaff helped the Wildcats find 16.
Wagstaff nailed a third triple to start the second quarter as the ‘Cats lead grew to 19-8 before Trice again kept his team in touch with four points at the line and a triple.
Despite another three for Trice to give him 14 of the half, his team managed just 22 and a 9-0 run helped Perth to a 15-point half-time lead.
That was capped off when Knight scored after once again being left wide open for a mid-range jumper.
Cairns knew the season was on the line coming back for the second half and the visitors delivered the first nine points, capped by a Worthington three – his only points.
A big alley-oop slam and rare triple from Egwu further sparked the Taipans before the home side steadied with two more Wagstaff threes following two from captain Martin.
The Taipans had a sniff and a strong and-one and then three-pointer late in the term from Mitchell had them within eight.
Five quick Wagstaff points continued to make Cairns’ life tough and every time the Snakes would score and try to grab momentum, the ‘Cats responded.
Cairns still kept coming and managed an 8-1 run, all at the line, to get as close as five. But when Cotton hit a tough layup after a quiet night with 1:30 left, it signalled the end.
Perth Wildcats 74 (Prather 24, Wagstaff 20, Knight 12)
Cairns Taipans 66 (Trice 22, Mitchell 17, Egwu 9)
News Source: NBL Media