For a Wildcats fan, it’s games like this that make you truly feel proud to be a red army faithful.
It would have been easy to let Game Two of the Grand Final slip; On the road in front of a hostile crowd, with a sloppy start to the game and falling in a hole early. Then having to sit your star import in the 2nd Qtr due to foul trouble, 50/50 calls seemingly going against you and dealing with injuries – the worst of them another concussion to Matty Knight (more on that in a minute).
You can be forgiven for dropping your bundle when faced with that type of adversity. After all, with home court advantage, Perth could have lost this one and still be favourites for the title.
But that’s not how this team rolls.
This Wildcats team is well versed in dealing with hardship.
They’ve dealt with drama all season long, and similar to this game, the easy option would have been to throw in the towel. Of course that didn’t happen. Instead, they battled on and are now on the brink of back-to-back titles.
Perth conceded an early 11 point deficit largely down to sloppy turnovers and by allowing the Hawks to score easy points against a soft defensive zone and a questionable full-court press.
After sorting out the defence, the Cats slowly whittled away at the lead, and eventually got in front late in the 3rd term. They ran away with it in the 4th behind a typically outstanding defence.
However, it wasn’t easy.
Bryce Cotton picked up three quick fouls and sat a chunk of time in the 2nd qtr. Jarrod Kenny was excellent in relief of the superstar point guard, providing his usual hard-nosed defence and a steady hand on offence.
With his fellow guards fumbling the ball like a slippery soap (Prather 6 T.O’s, Martin 4, Cotton 3) the Kiwi kept a clean sheet (0 turnovers) while dishing out four assists and pinching two steals in the process.
Kenny’s minutes off the bench were crucial.
As were Angus Brandt’s. The big man was able to curtail the early influence of AJ Ogilvy and bettered the All NBL’s starting Centre in the second half. Not bad for a guy who started the season as Perth’s 3rd best big-man. He might not be anymore.
Angus Brandt is clearly a starter in the NBL. 15 points (6/8 FG), 11 rebounds, and 3 assists in 22 minutes. Came up huge in Knight’s absence
— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) March 1, 2017
Brandt’s post play was dominant, finishing with 15 points – 6 of 8 from the field – and grabbed a monster ten defensive rebounds in just 22 minutes. His excellent play was reflected in his plus/minus – with a game-best +17
With Matty Knight knocked out of the game, ‘Gus stepped up to the moment.
So did Jameel McKay.
His 3rd Qtr energy and hustle helped propelled the ‘Cats to the lead by the end of the term. He was everywhere; offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocking shots and grabbing loose balls – basketballs that is!
Knight and Dazed
The lowlight of the night has to be Matty Knight suffering another concussion.
That is scary stuff for Matt Knight. That is now the 8th concussion of his career. He has admitted before that he has a glass jaw
— Adam Papalia (@adampaps) March 1, 2017
The numerous times he’s been concussed – this time by a little love tap from Casey Prather – is a major concern. His availability for the rest of the series (and beyond!) is in serious doubt.
It was a sad site to see him wobbled, dazed, and being helped off the floor from what seemed an innocuous knock.
For a man who’s dealt with as many concussions as he has, were left expecting the worst.
Let’s hope not.
The Fairytale Ending
Now 2-0 up in the series, the Wildcats have one had firmly grasped on the Championship trophy. And what a fitting end it would be for the retiring Shawn Redhage.
To win a fourth title, in front of an adoring home crowd, in the final game of your career; doesn’t get much better than that!
It would take a collapse of epic proportions for the Wildcats not to raise their 8th championship banner.
Man, it feels good winning an 8th Championship
— WildcatsViews (@wildcats_views) February 17, 2017
Considering the tightness of the competition this season, and the drama that unfolded, and sending a club legend off in style, this one might just be the sweetest of them all.