Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson praised his team’s “will to win” as they survived an extraordinary late brain-fade from Bryce Cotton to eke out a fifth straight win in an overtime scrap against Cairns.
With Perth leading by four points and just one second remaining in regulation, Cotton inexplicably fouled Melo Trimble as the Taipans star drained a three, with the ensuing free throw tying the scores.
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Both the Wildcats and Cairns then exchanged turnovers from the inbounds pass, with Cotton’s attempted game-winning heave falling short.
However, the visitors came up with the big plays from there. Tom Jervis (12 points) scored the first two buckets of overtime before fouling out on a controversial call, but Nick Kay (18 points) picked up the slack with Perth’s next six points to seal the 88-83 win.
Cotton’s game-high 26 points paced the Wildcats, while Mitch Norton added a season-high 18 thanks to some crucial late lay-ups. Veteran Greg Hire was a presence throughout as he hauled in 13 rebounds.
The win marked a significant result for Perth, lifting the league leaders to an 8-1 record ahead of the expected return of starting trio Damian Martin, Angus Brandt and Terrico White in the coming weeks.
“I don’t think we played exceptionally well, and we certainly didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well,” Gleeson said.
“But I thought the workmanlike, hard-hat on, roll-the-sleeves up (attitude) was first-class.”
Gleeson said he was proud of his team’s ability to regroup after the shock of Cotton’s foul and outscore Cairns 13-8 in the extra period.
“Bryce just probably got caught up in the emotion of the game,” Gleeson said.
“It was good for us that we didn’t lose our composure, because it’s quite easy to say ‘We screwed up here’.
“Our whole team just bonded together and it really sent us forth for overtime.”
Trimble and fellow import Devon Hall had 18 points apiece for Cairns, who remain anchored to the bottom of the league standings following a seventh consecutive loss.
The Wildcats struggled through their lowest-scoring first term of the season, shooting at an anaemic 22 per cent en route to a 21-14 deficit at the opening break.
But their fortunes began to turn as Cotton improved his three-point radar, with the two teams trading blows in a scrappy affair before the frenetic finish to regulation.