Perth defeats SE Melbourne 97-91 in Bryce Cotton’s 100th NBL game

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The Perth Wildcats have shown the South East Melbourne Phoenix no mercy on their second trip to RAC Arena putting on a clinic in the second half to celebrate Bryce Cotton’s 100th NBL appearance with the 97-71 win.

The Wildcats were back at RAC Arena for their first home game of 2020 and while the first half didn’t reach any great heights, the home team still led by 10 at the main break.

Then following a brief flurry from the Phoenix early in the second half, the Wildcats responded in remarkable fashion scoring 22 of the next 27 points in the space of four minutes to put the result beyond doubt.

It was bringing back memories of South East Melbourne’s first visit to Perth, a 31-point loss on their first ever road game, but at least the Phoenix avoided that and ended up only losing by 26 in the finish.

The win keeps the Wildcats right in the hunt for top spot at 15-8 just behind the Sydney Kings who are now 15-7. The ‘Cats finish the season with four of their last five games in front of the Red Army.

The result is another dagger to the Phoenix’s finals prospects as they now slip to 9-12 having lost five of their last seven and with four of their remaining seven games away.

Bryce Cotton marked his 100th NBL appearance with 25 points and seven assists with his mother in town for the first time along with his wife and newborn daughter.

Mitch Norton continues to thrive in the absence of captain Damian Martin with 18 points, three assists and three steals while Terrico White added 15 points, Clint Steindl 11 and Nick Kay 10 to go with five rebounds and four assists.

And with foul trouble limiting Miles Plumlee to 16 minutes for two points and five rebounds, Majok Majok was superb with eight points and 10 boards.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson didn’t find much to like by the end of the night.

“We got better as the game went on obviously. At about the five-minute mark of the second quarter we kind of got into a rhythm with each other, and we finished the half well,” Gleeson said.

“Then in the third quarter we were rolling. Even at the start of the game, our defence was outstanding and to hold that team to 71 points is outstanding.

“Mitch did a terrific job on Roberson and guys were really locked in. We got some rhythm then going offensively in the third quarter.”

New signing Devondrick Walker was a significant positive for South East Melbourne hitting two threes on his way to 16 points. John Roberson finished with 11 points and six assists, Kendall Stephens nine points and Dane Pineau nine points and eight rebounds.

Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell was most unhappy with his team’s finishing around the rim but tried to take some positives out of it ahead of a short turnaround to playing in Sydney.

“Perth’s a really good team and we played poorly. I thought there was some things we could take away from that game, particularly early with some of our defensive efforts,” Mitchell said.

“But offensively Perth were able to stifle us again and our finishing around the rim was disgusting, it was just embarrassing really to give those looks up. We have to be stronger around the rim and finish.

“Other than that, Perth did a great job of slowing us down and keeping us in the half court where we were unable to execute to the level that’s NBL standard.”

Mitch Norton once again came out hot for Perth with the game’s first five points and then Bryce Cotton opened his 100th game with a triple to make it an 8-2 start.

It’s fair to say the first term didn’t reach any great heights but the ‘Cats went on a 7-0 through t heir big three of Cotton, Nick Kay and Terrico White, and were up 19-10 after one.

Things didn’t quite get any prettier in the second term as the whistles took over the game. It didn’t take long for both teams to get into the bonus and in the end there were 15 fouls called in the period for a combined 21 free-throws.

The end result was a 44-33 lead for Perth at the main break.

After Perth’s lead grew to 15, it was a clean-looking Miles Plumlee block from behind on Dane Pineau, also giving him a fourth foul, that ended up sparking the Phoenix into an 8-0 run and causing Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson into a timeout with the lead cut to seven.

That sparked a 14-2 Perth run in response including triples from Cotton and Norton. Then after Devondrick Walker drained a three for the Phoenix, the ‘Cats scored another eight straight with threes from Nick Kay and Clint Steindl to blow it out by 24.

Cotton then pulled out the party tricks for his 100th game to put Perth up 74-48 by three quarter-time before Steindl hit a pair of threes to open the fourth. White added a dunk and triple of his own as the lead ballooned to 34 with the ‘Cats from there cruising to win by 26.

The Wildcats now have eight days before hosting the New Zealand Breakers next Saturday while the Phoenix are straight to Sydney to play the Kings on Sunday.


PERTH WILDCATS 97 (Cotton 25, Norton 18, White 15)

SOUTH EAST MELBOURNE PHOENIX 71 (Walker 16, Roberson 11, Stephens 9, Pineau 9)


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