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NBL 2014/15 Semi-Finals Game 2: Snakes see off ‘Cats to advance to grand final
The Cairns Taipans have continued their successful 2014/15 season with a 80-68 win over Perth to clinch their series 2-0 and advance to the grand final series.
The Snakes will face the New Zealand Breakers in next week’s finale, hosting two of the three games at home and putting themselves in a very strong position to snare the championship.
In a scrappy opening term, the visitors took a slender 14-11 lead into the first break after holding the Wildcats scoreless for nearly three minutes to end the term.
Both sides picked it up in the second but Cairns seemed to have the answers to every challenge thrown at them by the Wildcats, and an Alex Loughton three-pointer had them leading by nine with seven minutes to play in the half.
The sold out Perth Arena crowd had been kept relatively quiet and the Taipans made sure that continued, never letting Perth score more than two points in a row for the entire term.
A Scottie Wilbekin basket at the buzzer extended the lead to a healthy 10 at the main break, with Cairns leading 36-26 in a low-scoring contest.
The visitors continued to keep their dangerous opponents at bay throughout the third, however a basket from Drake U’u with under two minutes to play before the final change saw the margin reduced to just seven and suddenly it was game on.
Torrey Craig answered with a dagger triple and, after Matt Knight added two more for the Wildcats; the stage was set for the final term with an eight-point buffer in favour of Cairns.
Jermaine Beal opened the term with a three and cut the margin to just five, and after the Snakes answered like they had done all night, back-to-back bombs from beyond the arc from Damian Martin and DeAndre Daniels reduced the margin to just three points as the crowd found its voice.
The hot shooting continued for the home side and yet another triple from Beal tied the game away at 61 with five minutes to play, but Stephen Weigh answered with a triple of his own on the next possession and the Wildcats wouldn’t score for the next three-and-a-half minutes.
By that stage, there was just over a minute on the clock and Cairns had built a 10-point advantage, sealing Perth’s fate despite the best efforts of Beal to keep his side in it.
The home side struggled from the field, shooting just 33% and 28% from beyond the arc despite their purple patch in the final term.
Wilbekin was absolutely superb for the victors, tallying 16 points, 11 boards and 6 assists to lead his side to the deciding series next week.
Weigh added 16 on 6-of-10 shooting, while Loughton (6 rebounds, 3 assists) and Cam Gliddon (5 rebounds, 3-6 3PT) each added 11 points.
Beal led all scorers with 21 points for the Wildcats despite shooting just 7-of-20 from the floor, while Knight also toiled hard for 18 points and 10 boards.
Perth 68 (Beal 21, Knight 18)
Cairns 80 (Wilbekin 16, Weigh 16, Loughton 11)
@ Perth Arena