The Perth Wildcats capped their 30th anniversary celebrations with a return to winning ways, thumping injury-ravaged Wollongong 80-52 at Perth Arena today.
Hurting from Friday’s loss to title rivals New Zealand and weary from a tough travel schedule, the Wildcats started slowly but asserted their authority after half-time to post a comprehensive victory.
The Wildcats’ defensive performance was particularly pleasing for coach Rob Beveridge, who said the win was the perfect way to honour the past greats of the club who had gathered to celebrate the anniversary.
“True champions show how they respond to losses,” Beveridge said.
“We had our arses kicked in New Zealand. We went all the way over there and they were the better team.
“They completely outplayed us and we did not play Wildcats basketball over there.
“Tonight was about us trying to understand who we are again because sometimes you lose a bit of focus.
“We had to play our style of game and get our guys to remember who we are.
“The Perth Wildcats are aggressive, relentless, committed to what they’re doing and they play hard together.”
Co-captain Shawn Redhage top-scored for the Wildcats with 19 points, with Matt Knight (13) and Everard Bartlett (11) also reaching double figures.
Damian Martin was in fine form, finishing the game with nine points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists.
Wollongong continued to struggle in the absence of injured stars Lance Hurdle, Rhys Martin and Glen Saville, who have all been ruled out for the rest of the season with knee injuries.
Club games record holder Saville announced his retirement as a result of his injury last week.
New import Malcolm Grant started well against the Wildcats but was quiet after quarter-time.
Grant finished with 12 points, while fellow import Adris Deleon top-scored for Wollongong with 14.
The Hawks controlled proceedings for a brief period during the second quarter and got out to a nine-point lead, limiting the Wildcats to just 12 points for the term.
But the home side hit back after the main break and took a stranglehold on the game with a superb defensive showing in the third period.
As is so often the case, co-captain Martin led by example, pulling down eight rebounds for the term.
The Wildcats won the quarter 21-7 and were not seriously challenged by the Hawks in the final term.
The Wildcats won the rebound count 40-27 after being smashed in that department against New Zealand.
Beveridge said injured swingman Cameron Tovey (hip) would sit out of next week’s home game against the struggling Adelaide 36ers after missing the Wollongong and New Zealand games.The Sixers were tipped as the big improvers this season but have won just once in 12 games since their last visit to Perth Arena in November.