The Perth Wildcats might hope for more scoreless first halves from MVP Bryce Cotton after he delivered 24 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime in Sunday’s come-from-behind 95-86 win over Sydney Kings.
The biggest crowd of the season, 13,520, turned out at RAC Arena to watch the Wildcats and Kings battle over finishing Round 17 in top spot, but to also move a stop closer to an all-important top two finish.
Coming off Friday’s home win over Melbourne, Sydney started full of confidence having already won in Perth this season. They started with the first seven points and led by as much as 14, and for over 35 minutes.
Stifling Kevin Lisch defence also saw Cotton go scoreless on 0/7 shooting for the first half. He missed his first 10 shots before a three late in the third term.
The Grand Final MVP of 2017 and league MVP of 2018 then put in a stunning display with 10 quick points to start the fourth term.
Damian Martin stepped up to nail a three to send the game into overtime where Cotton went up another gear. He started with back-to-back three-point plays before nailing a three-pointer.
By the time he hit another three with 1:30 left, Perth led by six and he slammed the door on them at the stripe.
It was one of the more remarkable 27-point games in NBL history with Cotton hitting 10 of them in the fourth quarter, and 14 in overtime to move Perth back to top spot.
There was plenty to like from the Kings but it does drop them to third and needing to beat Cairns at home to remain any hope of a top two finish.
Angus Brandt had a fascinating battle with Andrew Bogut inside and had a third quarter purple patch on his way to 19 points and nine rebounds. Damian Martin was tremendous too with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson didn’t undersell the result afterwards.
“That’s got to be one of the best wins that we’ve for the year, just showing that grit and determination,” Gleeson said.
“Things weren’t going right for us especially at the start of the game and we missed some easy ones, and could have easily just said it wasn’t our night.
“But the fight we had and spirit we played with to stay close enough until the last quarter when we got on a bit of a roll was pretty impressive.”
Jerome Randle had 25 points and nine assists for the Kings with Bogut finishing with 16 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Lisch had 14 points and six assists.
Kings coach Andrew Gaze liked a lot of what his team did despite the loss.
“We have been trying to run people off the three-point line and in the first half we did a great job with them going 1/13. But once they started getting going the game changed,” Gaze said.
“Even with that, fortunately for us we were still scoring. When you’re three points up with 20 seconds to go with fouls to give, bugger me if it’s not Damian Martin who knocks down a three to send it into overtime.
“Unfortunately in overtime we had a couple of turnovers and perhaps the long weekend took its toll, but we feel there’s some really good positives there we can build on as extremely disappointed as we are.”
It was quite the first quarter from the Kings and it all stemmed from a dominant Bogut inside. The Wildcats tried to go to Brandt without reward early and with Bogut producing four points, seven rebounds, an assist and steal and block, the Kings got rolling.
They started with a 7-0 run and by the time David Wear knocked down his second three to give him eight points, Sydney was up 16-4 forcing Trevor Gleeson into a timeout.
He got a brief response with Martin and Jesse Wagstaff combining for a 6-0 run with Andrew Gaze then calling for him. He, too, got a response with Sydney finished the quarter with a 10-2 to run to lead 26-12 after one.
It was slow going to start the second quarter with only eight points scored in almost five minutes, but all eight went Perth’s way as they closed the deficit to six before a left-handed little hook from Bogut.
Randle and Lisch then hit triples to help the Kings go back up 12 and they still led 38-28 at half-time.
Lisch backed up his first half defence with a couple of big buckets to start the second half to keep Sydney on top, but Perth was working back into it thanks to some good work inside by Brandt.
He scored 13 straight points for the ‘Cats and by the time Cotton scored his first points of the game on a triple, and Clint Steindl knocked one down too, suddenly the Kings lead was just four by three quarter-time.
Cotton got rolling in the fourth. He hit two threes and another jumper in just over two minutes to put the Wildcats up and to have all the momentum for the first time.
The MVP made another triple to put the home team up four but Sydney wasn’t going anywhere. Randle responded with nine quick points of his own to put the Kings back up five with 2:45 remaining.
There were big plays galore down the stretch and Lisch’s triple put the Kings up three before Bogut kept the margin there with 35 seconds left. Sydney produced an impressive defensive set but the ‘Cats found an open Martin who knocked down the three that ended up forcing overtime.
After Randle scored to open the extra period, Cotton produced successive and-one plays and then nailed a triple, made the more frustrating for the Kings that Lisch came off the floor in that time after a knock to his head from Terrico White.
Cotton put on a show like rarely seen before in overtime as he brought the Red Army to their feet and took them one step closer to another top two finish.
NBL ROUND 17
PERTH WILDCATS 95 (Cotton 27, Brandt 19, Martin 15)
SYDNEY KINGS 86 (Randle 25, Bogut 16, Lisch 14)