Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson claimed a refereeing blunder robbed his team of the chance to snatch the NBL title last night after going down 89-84 to the Adelaide 36ers in game two of the grand final series.
Gleeson delivered a scathing post-game assessment of the referees' performance, singling out a controversial call that went against the Wildcats in the dying stages as pivotal to the result.
The Wildcats had the chance to tie the game with 24 seconds left, but lost possession when the ball went out of bounds and the referees couldn't work out which player it came off.
Adelaide's victory levelled the best-of-three series at 1-1. The deciding game will be played at Perth Arena tomorrow morning.
"I thought we showed a lot of character, but it came down to the last 24 seconds when Jermaine (Beal) was going for the ball with Daniel Johnson and Adam Gibson," Gleeson said.
"A white hand against a black guy, the white hand taps the ball out and the referee's right there, but he couldn't make a call.
"I find that flabbergasting.
"It was disappointing that the game has been put in the referees' hands like that."
Adelaide coach Joey Wright - who was furious at the treatment his side received from the referees in game one in Perth - had no issues with last night's performance by officials Michael Aylen, Vaughan Mayberry and Chris Reid.
"They called fouls on both ends. That's all I expect. A foul is a foul, it doesn't matter what State it's in," he said.
Perth had no answer to Adelaide import Gary Ervin in the first half as the home side built a double-digit lead.
However, the Wildcats clawed their way back into the match and hit the front when Beal nailed a three-pointer midway through the final period.
The lead changed hands several times in a frantic final few minutes before Ervin effectively put the game beyond doubt from the free-throw line.
The American guard led all scorers with 23 points, while Johnson and Gibson were big contributors with 18 points each for Adelaide.
Beal had just two points at half-time but led the Wildcats' charge in the second half, finishing with 19 as he threatened to pinch the game. Matt Knight and James Ennis scored 14 points each for the visitors.
The Wildcats earned home-court advantage for the play-offs by finishing on top of the ladder in the regular season.
A sell-out crowd is expected at the Arena tomorrow when the game starts at 11am.
Tickets went on sale to the general public last night via Ticketek and were selling quickly.
"We fought all year to get home- court advantage and now we've got to take that opportunity," Gleeson said.
"This is the last roll of the dice. The way we finished and the way we fought, I know we're going to give it a crack on Sunday."
"A white hand against a black guy, the white hand taps the ball out flabbergasting." " Perth Wildcats coach *Trevor Gleeson *