By Chris Pike, Pagemasters
The Perth Wildcats shook off a determined Wollongong Hawks in the second half at Perth Arena to come away 80-52 winners to top off the club's 30th anniversary celebrations on Sunday.
With many club legends in the house including James Crawford, Cal Bruton and Mike Ellis, who took part in a celebratory game before hand, the Wildcats had a lot to live up to but the Hawks gave them all they could handle in the first half.
Coming off a big win in Adelaide on Friday to maintain their hold on fourth spot, the Hawks shot the ball with precision, especially in the second quarter thanks to Oscar Forman and Adris Deleon, who each nailed two three-point bombs to lead by as many as nine.
However, the Wildcats whittled the deficit down to three by half-time and then scored the first 11 points of the third period, applying the defensive screws to lead by 11 at three-quarter-time.
When the dust settled on the final 20 minutes Wollongong had scored just seven points in the third and fourth quarters, as Perth motored to their 28-point victory with a 45-14 second half.
Damian Martin was remarkable at both ends, collecting an incredible seven offensive rebounds to go with six steals as he almost single-handedly dominated the possession game.
Martin added nine points and four assists for good measure as Shawn Redhage top-scored for the Wildcats with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Matt Knight added 13 points and seven boards while an aggressive Everard Bartlett contributed 11 points.
The Wildcats were smarting from the loss to New Zealand on Friday and coach Rob Beveridge was glad to see them bounce back and make a statement just two days later.
"We did not play Wildcats basketball over there and tonight was about us trying to understand who we are again. Sometimes you lose focus at times of what works well for you," Beveridge said.
"We were playing against a terrific team who plays with so much heart and I always say that Wollongong is the best half-court team in the league. They made some terrific shots, but the way our guys stuck with it and completely followed the game plan was great.
"The Perth Wildcats are aggressive, relentless, committed and play hard together. That was the statement that we made to ourselves. It was nothing to anyone else but us."
Things fell away for the Hawks in the second half with Deleon finishing on 14 points and new import Malcolm Grant 12.
Coach Gordie McLeod felt his team's lack of possessions culled any chance Wollongong had of causing an upset.
"They just monstered us on the glass in the second half. They had 20 offensive boards and we had 18 turnovers. We weren’t able to handle the pressure, they took away all our options to get into our offence and just completely wore us down," McLeod said.
"We did a good job in the first half of staying in the contest by making some shots and actually being able to get through some offence, but in the second half it was just mountains of possession their way from turnovers and offensive boards."
The Hawks still cling to fourth spot at 9-11 , just ahead of Melbourne (8-10) with the two teams to clash in Wollongong next Friday night.
Perth Wildcats 80 (Redhage 19, Knight 13, Bartlett 11)
Wollongong Hawks 52 (Deleon 14, Grant 12)
Crowd: 11,509 at Perth Arena