Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson has refused to lay the blame for tonight’s one-point loss to South East Melbourne at the feet of Jesse Wagstaff despite the captain missing a wide open lay-up on the buzzer.
The Wildcats lost 90-89 after an extraordinary finish where Wagstaff received a pass from John Mooney and stormed straight to the basket unchallenged. But the ball refused to drop.
Gleeson said there was no way the team should have been trailing with four seconds remaining after Bryce Cotton gave Perth a four-point lead inside the final minute.
He said the team lacked consistency.
“It’s not that play. It’s all the other plays beforehand,” he said.
“We started the third quarter with an 0-9 run against us. There wasn’t urgency, we weren’t playing team basketball or team defence that we’re known for. We shouldn’t have been in that situation.
“I’m really disappointed with our efforts on the defensive end. Sykes was going to his right hand all night. That was in the scout. We weren’t able to do that.
“Our energy levels weren’t up at the start of the game and the start of the quarters where we need to be. As soon as we got down by 10, we thought we’d better be tough here. You can’t win games like that.
“He’s obviously disappointed. Without a question. He’s got a process. Jesse has been around long enough.
“He’s a 12 year vet. He’s been around. We’ll let him process it. The good thing is we’ve got a game on Sunday.”
Wagstaff was playing his 349th game and moved to equal fourth on the Wildcats’ games tally alongside Andrew Vlahov.
Cotton dominated with 32 points and six assists, John Mooney had his second double-double in a row with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Todd Blanchfield scored 11 points.
But the Phoenix had a more even spread with Mitch Creek (24), Keifer Sykes (19), Kyle Adam (14) and Yanni Wetzell (14) all contributing on the scoreboard.
Gleeson said Cotton needed more help instead of constantly being expected to drag the team to victory.
“It’s too big a hole that we keep throwing the ball to Bryce,” Gleeson said.
“I was disappointed with our teamwork and creating scoring opportunities for everybody. Bryce can’t keep carrying everybody on his back every night. We’ve got to have input from everybody on the team.”
The Wildcats have little time to recover as they face the New Zealand Breakers at RAC Arena on Sunday.