By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
The Perth Wildcats will be glad to see the back of the Adelaide 36ers for the 2012/13 season after recording a hard-fought 73-67 win on Friday night at Perth Arena.
After trailing by 10 points midway through the last quarter, Adelaide pulled within two with 32 seconds remaining after two Daniel Johnson free-throws.
However, Jesse Wagstaff scored on a lay-up out of the time out, Adelaide turned the ball over on the next possession and the Wildcats held on to win by six.
Big man Matt Knight finished with 21 points for the Wildcats, supported by Jesse Wagstaff (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Kevin Lisch, who scored eight of his 15 points in the final period as the Wildcats escaped with the win.
"That was one of the ugliest performances I've ever coached. I'm exhausted as a coach after that because you work so hard and then let them back in. We were up by 10 and the way we coughed that ball up with a lack of poise was really frustrating," Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge said.
"That was tremendous for us to play that type of game because it was ugly and unfortunately when it becomes playoff time, that's how a lot of the games are going to be. We got through it, took care of that and we have to learn from it."
Daniel Johnson loves playing this Wildcats team and top-scored for the Sixers again with 22 points. Stephen Weigh added 11 points, Jason Cadee and Anthony Petrie 10 apiece, but some key errors proved costly.
"We only had 12 turnovers, but there were a couple of crucial ones that allowed momentum to swing back their way," Adelaide coach Marty Clarke said.
"Often it's more about having the ability to be composed when the pressure is coming and making the right play. I just thought there were a couple of soft turnovers that allowed them to get on a mini run. We also gave them too many second shots.
"To give up 15 offensive boards in the first half was unacceptable. It's about not playing hard enough for quite long enough."
The 36ers feel they have an advantage inside, and Johnson proved that from tip-off as he produced a huge block, transition dunk and compiled 10 points in the first quarter.
It was only Greg Hire (14 rebounds, 8 offensive) keeping the Wildcats in the game as he seemingly procured the home team extra shots on every possession.
Through sheer numbers the Wildcats opened up a seven-point advantage by quarter-time, but Adelaide reclaimed the lead through Weigh, Petrie and Tom Daly to be up 32-29 late in the second period.
But Knight came to life after a scoreless first quarter, producing an enormous block and some textbook post moves to put Perth one point in front at half-time and two points clear by three-quarter-time.
Lisch then stole the inbounds to open the fourth quarter and drew two more charges to bring the crowd to life.
When Damian Martin produced arguably the pass of the season, a behind-the-back fastbreak assist to Wagstaff, the Wildcats had some breathing room as they reached a 10-point advantage.
The 36ers have had the wood on the Wildcats in recent seasons, but try as they might to cause another upset and breathe life into their devastated campaign, the Cats held on in a tense final minute.
Perth Wildcats 73 (Knight 21, Lisch 15, Wagstaff 14)
Adelaide 36ers 67 (Johnson 22, Weigh 11)
Crowd: 10,776 at Perth Arena