Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santamaria
Bryce Cotton is a gift from the Basketball Gods and Damian Martin is the hero we all deserve.
Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)
What Bryce Cotton did across the final 16 minutes yesterday was one hundred percent pure basketball brilliance.
As Perth’s clash with Sydney approached three-quarter time, and with the Wildcats trailing by 8, Cotton was 0-for-10 and had not scored a single point for the afternoon.
That’s before a backcourt steal by Clint Steindl gifted him a rare open look, sparking a scintillating scoring explosion.
Cotton completely lost his mind during the fourth quarter and OT as he stuck a series of pull-up threes and scored on a bunch of tough finishes at the rim.
His most spectacular moment was, of course, the drag-back crossover that completely floored Kings star Jerome Randle – a dazzling move that was featured on SportsCenter and, with a well-timed little push, had plenty of Game 6 in Utah about it.
Cotton’s 14 overtime points were the second-most in NBL history and set a brand new franchise record.
“When Bryce gets going you can see the look in his eye,” Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said.
“He just looked over and said, ‘Give me the ball.’ I was like, ‘Damo give him the ball and get out of the way.’
“When he’s on that kind of roll it really doesn’t matter if there’s a double-team or a triple-team, he finds different ways to score.
“That’s why we love him and that’s why we signed him up for three years and hopefully he’ll play here for a lot longer.”
Shouts also to Angus Brandt (19 points, 9 rebounds) for his big contribution against The Bogey Man as well as …
Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats)
Martin was heroic late in regulation on Sunday – knocking down a massive triple to force OT – but the man was just getting started.
Later that night Martin … wait for it … saved a man and his dog from a burning house fire.
I mean, this guy is unbelievable!
According to Martin, who told the story on Perth radio station Hit 92.9 this morning, the Wildcats skipper spotted the fire while driving home from picking up fish & chips and pulled over to help out.
Minutes later ‘Damo’ was standing on the roof of the house trying to put the fire out with a garden hose!
The resident apparently walked out to safety while Martin entered the property to rescue the bloke’s dog.
After getting the pooch out, Martin’s defensive instincts kicked in to keep it outside, before heading back into the house to do some more heroing.
“I’d spent 30-odd minutes guarding Jerome Randle and Kevin Lisch and here I was, no word of a lie, in a defensive stance trying to make sure this dog doesn’t get past (me) and back into the house,” Martin explained.
“I went inside and grabbed his computer … he might want to save the memories of photos … but it was a desktop so here I am unplugging things trying to get his desktop out and then it turns out the desktop was attached to a TV screen, so I’m grabbing the TV as well.”
Shawn Long (New Zealand Breakers)
The Breakers had their finals hopes extinguished over the weekend but Shawn Long’s two monstrous performances deserve a mention nonetheless.
Long had 28 and 12 in New Zealand’s loss to Adelaide and then rolled into Wollongong and put 24 and 11 on the Hawks.
Mr Double Double also swatted 5 shots on Sunday and finished the round shooting a combined 21-of-28 from the field.
“Long is an NBA guy, he’ll go back to the NBA,” Hawks head coach Rob Beveridge said postgame.
“He’s gifted with the way he plays. No pun intended but he’s long, he’s athletic… he’s the real deal.”
He’s also fifth in scoring, second in rebounding, second in blocks, eighth in field goal percentage and twelfth in three-point percentage. Beast.
Alex Loughton (Cairns Taipans)
In his final game in Cairns, ‘Loughzy’ inspired the Taipans to an upset win over the Bullets – serving as a fitting farewell to the much-loved number forty.
On an emotional night, Loughton produced 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, twenty solid seconds of fist-pumping, muscle-flexing, standing-ovation-savouring goodness and 1 unforgettable mic drop.
“I just enjoyed the moment, it was a great way to finish my time in Cairns,” Loughton said.
“I felt I was doing some good things out there, I was just trying to be ‘Loughzy’ out there, I felt good.
“Coach put me in late in the game and I was able to get it done.”
Enjoy your last couple of NBL games, big fella.
Anthony Drmic (Adelaide 36ers)
Drmic was quiet in Adelaide’s emphatic win in Auckland, but he came up large in multiple ways on Sunday.
Locked into helping the 36ers secure a place in the finals, Drmic was also playing to help his sixteen-year-old niece, Bella, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder.
Bella is currently preparing for a second round of brain surgery to remove a tumour caused by a little-known condition, Von Hippel-Linau (VHL) syndrome.
Using his platform as a pro baller to provide assistance, Drmic flew Bella to Adelaide’s final regular season home game to raise awareness of VHL as well as vital funds to help her family cover future medical costs.
Drmic set up a Gofundme page to help Bella and the VHL Alliance and with Distinctive Homes and Mitch Creek combining to donate $150 for each made 36ers triple, Drmic stepped on court and made it rain, dropping 4-of-5 from downtown.
When all was said and done, the 26-year-old had put up a career-high 20 points and 9 rebounds as he dropped #ThreesForBella and did all he could to drag the Sixers into the playoffs.
His squad didn’t get the W, but Adelaide head coach Joey Wright was full of praise for Drmic postgame nonetheless.
“I thought he did a great job. He really found the bucket early and kept us in it,” Wright said.
“He played really well – it was great that he could do that for his niece.”
Jerome Randle (Sydney Kings)
Yes, Cotton put him on the deck. Yes, the Kings went down to Perth. But don’t get it twisted: Jerome Randle was a stud throughout Round 17.
On Friday, Randle led Sydney over Melbourne with 21 points and 6 assists – both game-highs.
He then backed up and had 25 and 9 in the loss to the Wildcats, his 100th NBL game, as he battled through what looked to be a hip injury down the stretch.
Randle seems to have found a comfort zone within Sydney’s offence right now, resulting in a great mix of playmaking and scoring from the classy PG.
Bryce put Jerome on skates yesterday… best believe that will not be OK with Randle. Will he have the last laugh?
The Bullets deserve major credit for getting past the Hawks but, man, they really let themselves down two days later up in Cairns.
Needing a win against the league’s bottom side to keep stepping towards the playoffs, Brisbane badly tightened up and let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.
The Bullets, who are loaded with veteran experience and offensive firepower, were just unable to get anything going at the offensive end. Especially early, when Andrej Lemanis’ men missed a whole bunch of easy, open looks.
“Perhaps there was some anxiousness about us tonight,” Lemanis commented postgame.
“Understanding the magnitude of the game and what the result was. I’ve never seen us miss so many lay-ups.
“In the first half we were able to create some opportunities but we just weren’t able to capitalise with finishes and makes and that built over the course of the game.”
Of course, even had the Bullets won that game against Cairns – and this week’s match-up with New Zealand – they still needed an Adelaide loss to either Melbourne or Perth to lock themselves in.
But that was always a genuine possibility and in fact came to fruition on Sunday afternoon.
Brisbane now need another loss from Adelaide this Friday to keep them alive.
If that happens, the challenge will be to stay loose enough to take care of business against the Breakers – something they weren’t able to do in Cairns.
Illawarra’s overtime loss to Brisbane during Round 17 was an almost perfect microcosm of their season.
It was a good effort, Rob Beveridge implemented a savvy game plan and their youngsters impressed but ultimately a lack of chemistry at the offensive end cost them the win.
The lack of harmony between imports Brian Conklin and Cedric Jackson – a disconnect that has plagued the Hawks all season – bubbled to the surface midway through the third quarter.
Then, with just 31 seconds remaining in regulation and the Hawks up 2, AJ Ogilvy and Jordair Jett clashed – right before Jett missed two free throws that could’ve potentially sealed the game for the visitors and kept their playoff dreams alive.
On Saturday the Hawks just didn’t have it against the Breakers, going down by 15 in what was essentially a dead rubber.
“It was really deflating after the loss in Brisbane,” Beveridge explained.
“We’d been fighting the whole season and when the reality hits you that you can’t make the playoffs, it really hit hard.
“With such a tight turnaround I think it was just difficult, particularly mentally, to get up.”
Here’s hoping the Hawks can get up for Thursday’s rematch in Auckland, a game that will ultimately determine sixth and seventh spot.
You know Shawn Long will be up for it.