The Perth Wildcats qualified for their fourth grand final in five years with a comprehensive 80-61 win over Wollongong on the road today, completing a clean sweep of the best-of-three semifinal series in emphatic fashion.
Veteran forward Shawn Redhage produced a vintage performance, draining five-from-five three-point attempts on the way to 19 points in the first half.
Redhage finished with 26 for the game as the Wildcats stamped themselves as clear title favourites with a brilliant defensive display.
They will now meet the winner of Tuesday’s semifinal decider between Adelaide and Melbourne after the Tigers levelled the series at 1-1 yesterday with a 98-87 win at home on the back of 37 points from sharpshooter Chris Goulding.
The best-of-three grand final series begins on April 7 at Perth Arena.
The Wildcats have played and lost two grand final series’ since winning their fifth championship in 2010, going down to New Zealand on both occasions.
But Redhage said they were confident of going one step further this season after hitting top form in recent weeks.
“Everyone’s really settled in their roles and we’re just playing great defence at the moment,” Redhage said.
“When our defence is spot on like it has been the last couple of games, we’re a pretty dangerous team.
“We’ve got so many weapons on the offensive end and those things take care of themselves.
“With Matty Knight coming back into the squad and being healthy, it just makes us a bit more dynamic and makes us a tough match-up for any team.”
The Wildcats held a six-point lead at half-time today courtesy of Redhage’s superb shooting display and broke the game open in the third period, outscoring Wollongong 26-11 for the term.
American imports James Ennis (20 points) and Jermaine Beal (15) were influential for the Wildcats, lifting the team after half-time.
The Wildcats dominated the rebound count (38-26) and shot the ball at a remarkable 50 per cent from the field.
Hawks import Rotnei Clarke was held to 11 points and the Wildcats also managed to limit the influence of the dangerous Oscar Forman, who managed just three points.
Tim Coenraad was the Hawks’ top scorer with 15 points.
The result was Wollongong’s heaviest defeat and lowest score on their home court this season.
“They were probably the hottest team in the league coming into the finals, so for us to beat them three straight times I think shows the calibre of the way we’re playing at the moment,” Redhage said.
The Wildcats will fly home tonight and have a day off before returning to the practice court on Tuesday to prepare for the grand final series.