The Perth Wildcats used round 14 to complete a three game win streak and maintain the top spot on the NBL ladder.
Led by Shawn Redhage’s 19 points and seven rebounds, the Cats pulled out a narrow 72-67 victory against the Melbourne Tigers.
In what can only be described as an ugly first half which featured an astounding 25 turnovers, star guard Kevin Lisch put the team on his back and turned a halftime deficit into a third quarter lead. The Wildcats never looked back.
Lisch, the league’s third leading scorer, used his hot shooting and penetrating ability to notch 16 points and hand out four assists while big men Redhage and Matthew Knight controlled the boards. Point guard Damien Martin played a typical all round game, creating havoc on defense and attacking the glass to the tune of five points, 10 rebounds and five steals.
For the Tigers, it was the beginning of what would be an awful weekend for the club. Sitting third on the ladder, Melbourne had a chance at stealing Perth’s top position, but went in without Captain Tommy Greer and solid big man Matt Burston. As if that wasn’t enough, the Tigers had the nightmare draw of a two game weekend and would face second placed New Zealand less than 48 hours later.
Even with a halftime lead and their captain back in the mix, the Tigers were outscored 50-34 in the second half and went down by 11 to the Breakers, last season’s champs.
It was a critical home loss for Melbourne and it saw them fall to fifth spot of the league ladder with the third and fourth ranked teams having played a combined six less games. One can’t help but to feel that their poor showing on the weekend will be detrimental down the line to their chances of regaining a top four spot and a place in the playoffs.
Former cat Liam Rush, as well as Cameron Tragardh were about the only positives for the Tigers. Rush collected totals of 17 and 16 points respectively while Tragardh had 17 and 22 on the second night.
The Breakers received big performances from Thomas Abercrombie (18 points) and veteran point CJ Bruton who had 14 points (3-5 three point shooting) off the bench.
This season has been an adjustment period for the champs as NBA talent Kirk Penney bolted for Europe in July. Nevertheless, the Breakers are obviously here to stay and feature enough talent, veteran leadership and athleticism to repeat in 2012.
The Wildcats and Breakers, winners of the past two NBL Championships are looking at another potential NBL Finals matchup. Perth has the top spot on percentage points but both sides have an unbeaten 11-5 record.