Perth defeats Melbourne 97-84 to win Grand Final

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The Perth Wildcats are again the toast of the NBL winning their ninth championship on Sunday in front of 10,007 fans at Melbourne Arena.

The Wildcats have won their record-extending ninth NBL championship but have clinched it on the road for the first time in 29 years beating Melbourne 97-84 in Game 4 making the statement on the road.

The Grand Final Series began with strong home victories for both teams in the opening two games, but it was quite the statement Perth made on Friday night at RAC Arena winning 96-67.

It was always going to be a significant job for Melbourne to respond to that and force a Game 5 even with the comforts of home.

The Wildcats were just feeling too good about themselves with their defence too stifling and offence fluent enough to win Game 4 by 15 points and secure their ninth championship.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson praised his side’s defence and tenacity in the win after winning his fourth title at the helm of the club.

“We peaked at the right time and the guys were playing everything for each other and it was telling out there with how we played a team,” Gleeson said.

The Wildcats faced speculation for much of the season about needing a third import and Gleeson said the decision to keep their side as it was turned the campaign.

“We didn’t see results straight away but at that stage there was a lot of speculation, lot of doubt so it was putting it on the table that we would stay with two imports and we don’t care the consequences because we believe in each other,” he said.

“To go through that adversity galvanised us together then in the last month that belief was there. We had that knowing feeling in the locker room that we were going to win a championship together.”

Wildcats captain Damian Martin said he took special pride in claiming the title on the road.

“It’s the icing on the cake if you can win on the road as then people can’t say that you won because of home court advantage,” Martin said.

It is a fifth title for the Wildcats in the past decade and for the first time since 1990 when they won their maiden championship in Brisbane, they celebrated their triumph in an opposition venue.

Their past seven titles were either secured at Perth Entertainment Centre, Challenge Stadium or RAC Arena.

Bryce Cotton had been a master distributor so far this Finals series but stepped up for a game-high 28 points on Sunday while Terrico White had another 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists to secure the Larry Sengstock Medal as the Grand Final MVP.

When White and Gleeson first met at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, the import told his new coach he would bring him a title.

“I told him I would bring him a championship and that’s what I did,” White said.

“Pretty much the whole playoffs I’ve been shooting with confidence, in the season I was rushing those same shots. I knew it was playoff time so I had to settle down, play my game.”

Cotton showed he is still the best import in the NBL with 18 of his 28 points in the first half while White capped off a brilliant Finals series despite battling foul trouble in the first half.

Casper Ware led Melbourne United with 18 points while Chris Goulding and David Barlow had 15 points each.

Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said his side battled manfully but were beaten by a better side.

He also revealed Casper Ware was carrying a knee problem over the last two games.

“We fought in that fourth quarter and never gave up but the extra possessions they got from those o-boards, the way they shot the three-ball over the series and then they got good at handling our on-ball coverage and making some sneaky out-of-bounds plays,” Vickerman said.

“Their commitment to get Bryce, get Terrico open looks showed. They take pride in being great screeners and I thought at times that was a little bit of the difference in the series.”

Melbourne had first points through Barlow who set a new record for NBL Grand Final appearances in his 26th game but Perth launched a 13-0 run to take the lead behind White and Cotton.

But Melbourne rode the energy of Mitch McCarron’s shot-blocking and the scoring of Barlow, Ware and Goulding to a 28-26 lead at quarter-time with Goulding’s late four-play a highlight.

Foul trouble had Perth nervous as White and captain Damian Martin both picked up three fouls but it mattered not as Cotton took charge of the second term in the most resounding of fashion.

Cotton couldn’t be stopped as he reeled off baskets and assists to have Perth in front by double-figures with Mitch Norton’s three-pointer putting Perth up 12 late in the term before Goulding and Ware’s layups cut the lead to 53-45 at half-time.

Cotton had 18 points and four assists at the main break.

The Wildcats made their move in the third term, just as they had all series, and had a 68-57 lead at three quarter-time before making sure of the title in the final term.

The championship triumph means that Martin and Jesse Wagstaff have shared in all five titles this decade to become the only players in NBL to do with five championships at the one club.

Greg Hire bows out a four-time championship winner while it was a third title for Tom Jervis, and a second for Cotton, Angus Brandt and Rhys Vague.


PERTH WILDCATS 97 (Cotton 28, White 20, Kay 12)

MELBOURNE UNITED 84 (Ware 18, Goulding 15, Barlow 15)

Perth wins series 3-1

Larry Sengstock Medal (Grand Final MVP) – Terrico White (Perth Wildcats)


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