NBL 2014/15 Round 16: Fatigue catches Perth as Cairns nab top spot

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A 31-6 fourth quarter has seen the Cairns Taipans chase down the Perth Wildcats and win 92-66 after trailing by as much as 11 points in the first half.

Playing their third game in four nights was always going to be a concern for the Wildcats and although they held tough for the first three quarters, they tired down the stretch and shot a horrid 1-25 in the final 14 minutes.

Torrey Craig was the instigator for the Taipans as he brought the intensity after a lacklustre start and kept that energy up throughout the whole game. With the clock winding down in the third term and Cairns trailing by 2, Craig nailed a corner three and then blocked a potential buzzer beater at the other end.

This play sparked a game winning 17-1 run across the third and fourth quarters, catapulting the Taipans into first place on the ladder due to their head-to-head advantage over New Zealand. The victory has also seen Cairns officially secure a finals berth.

With fatigue on everyone’s mind, Perth were sprightly early and jumped out to a 16-5 lead in the opening term. Their famous defence was on display as they kept the Taipans to outside attempts and just 2-13 shooting.

For the Wildcats, Jesse Wagstaff continued his hot form, coming off the bench for 8 first quarter points, helping his side to a 6 point lead at the first break.

With Cairns needing a similar spark, Coach Aaron Fearne turned to Craig who immediately changed the complexion of the match. He recorded 3 offensive rebounds, 5 overall boards and 11 points just in the second period, igniting the Taipans to a 9-0 run.

Meanwhile, Wagstaff found himself in foul trouble and would not influence the contest for the rest of the night as Perth clung on to a 2 point half-time lead.

A back and forth contest emerged in the third period as both sides wrestled for the ascendancy. Shawn Redhage made several successful cuts to the basket but with Wagstaff on the bench, Perth lacked a dynamic scorer.

At the other end of the floor, Cam Tragardh brought the crowd into the match after he acrobatically rebounded his own miss and scored the put back. Craig’s three pointer and block in the dying seconds then took the roof of the Cairns Convention Centre and it was clear sailing from that point on.

In 27 minutes off the bench, Craig tallied a game high 21 points with 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks. After starting 1-6, Scottie Wilbeken (19 points, 10 assists) led from the front on 9-17 shooting and Tragardh added 14 and 5 boards.

For Perth, DeAndre Daniels (14 points, 10 rebounds) had one of the quieter double-doubles of the season while Redhage finished with 16 and 6 with 6 assists. Plagued by foul trouble, Wagstaff finished with 13 and Jermaine Beal was well held to 12 points on 4-15 shooting.

Cairns have a handy week off until they host Wollongong on February 1. Perth’s schedule does not get any easier, heading to New Zealand next Thursday before backing it up with a clash against Sydney at home on February 2.

Cairns Taipans 86 (Craig 21, Wilbeken 19, Tragardh 14)

Perth Wildcats 78 (Redhage 16, Daniels 14, Wagstaff 13)

@ Cairns Convention Centre