Key moment: Shawn Redhage's desperation shot with 20 seconds remaining found a way to go in, sealing victory and adding yet another magical moment to his glittering career.
Key player: Adelaide's Daniel Johnson again starred against the Wildcats, but all eyes were on Perth import James Ennis and he delivered with 25 points, including four three-pointers and some exciting plays around the rim.
Key stat: The Wildcats shot 5-of-10 from long range in the final quarter with Adelaide coach Joey Wright instructing his players to dare all but James Ennis to fire away from outside.
By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
The Perth Wildcats defeated the Adelaide 36ers 83-80 at Perth Arena on Friday night in a thrilling Round 1 encounter that came down to the final shot.
In front of a crowd of more than 10,000 the Wildcats survived a genuine scare from the undermanned 36ers - who utilised their big men to near perfection - thanks to a clutch late basket from veteran Shawn Redhage (11 points, 4 rebounds).
James Ennis' NBL debut with the Wildcats lived up to the hype as the hugely talented swingman did a bit of everything - dunks, blocked shots, assists and jump shots - on his way to 25 points, four rebounds and two assists.
New Perth coach Trevor Gleeson was delighted with Ennis, but was left crossing his fingers when his boom recruit picked up his third foul in the second quarter.
"When he got to three fouls in the first half I was thinking golly," Gleeson said.
"He got some good looks and he probably does need to attack the basket a little bit more, but they were hanging off him so that opened up different avenues for him. I thought it was an outstanding debut."
Fellow import Jermaine Beal impressed with 11 points, including two massive threes in the last quarter, to go with seven boards and three assists, while Jesse Wagstaff finished with 15 points and seven boards and also hit a number of big shots to secure the win.
The game seemed destined to go down to the wire the whole night, and Luke Schenscher and Daniel Johnson dominated the final quarter to give the 36ers a chance.
Despite Perth’s fourth-quarter heroics the brave 36ers had a chance to send the game into overtime, only for Anthony Petrie’s three-point attempt at the buzzer to fall wide.
Johnson finished with 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting while fellow big man Schenscher scored 13 points, having an enormous impact after Wildcats centre Tom Jervis fouled out in the final period.
Early in the game 36ers import Gary Ervin (14 points, 7 assists) threatened to steal the show before Wildcats defensive star Damian Martin (8 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) turned the screws in the second half.
With the Sixers missing important pieces in Adam Gibson and Jarrid Frye, coach Joey Wright simply put the loss down to players like Wagstaff and Beal hitting shots they were banking on them missing.
"I thought we played a good ball game," Wright said.
"It's probably not necessarily anything that went wrong, but they hit five threes in the fourth quarter and our game plan was to try and take away Ennis' threes but give it to everyone else, and Wagstaff hit a few to make the difference.”
Perth Wildcats 83 (Ennis 25, Wagstaff 15, Beal 11, Redhage 11)
Adelaide 36ers 80 (Johnson 28, Ervin 14, Schenscher 13)
Crowd: 10,208 at Perth Arena