The Perth Wildcats stand alone as the most successful club in NBL history after claiming a record sixth championship with a thumping 93-59 win over Adelaide in the deciding game of the grand final series today.
The Wildcats produced a superb defensive performance and blew the game open in the second quarter in front of 13,498 fans at the sold-out Perth Arena.
American import Jermaine Beal was named Most Valuable Player of the best-of-three series, capping an outstanding first season with the Wildcats.
The championship was Trevor Gleeson’s first as an NBL coach after he took over from 2010 title-winner Rob Beveridge this season.
Captain Damian Martin said the victory went some way to easing the Wildcats’ pain of the previous three years, which all ended in finals heartbreak at the hands of New Zealand.
“To lose the last few and finally be on the other end and holding up that trophy is just a dream come true,” Martin said.
“We couldn’t have scripted it any better to win it at home in the deciding game of a grand final in front of 13,000 people.
“The fact that they had less than 48 hours to promote the game and sold it out is amazing.
“Holding the trophy up in front of them all is a feeling I’ll never forget.”
Martin was one of just three players from the 2010 championship team, along with Shawn Redhage and Jesse Wagstaff, who suited up again under Gleeson in today’s decider.
Martin, Redhage, Wagstaff, Greg Hire and Matt Knight were all part of the teams that lost a semifinal to New Zealand in 2011, and grand finals in 2012 and 2013.
“It’s hard to compare (to 2010), but I think after losing two it probably means a little bit more,” Martin said.
“I’ve suffered the pain of going back-to-back losses and watching another team hold up the trophy, so it’s a very special moment for myself, my teammates and everyone involved in the club.”
Redhage top-scored for the Wildcats today with 16 points, while Beal (15) and Martin (14) were also solid offensive contributors.
Adelaide’s Anthony Petrie led all scorers with 20 points but was the only visiting player to reach double figures.
The Wildcats’ ability to limit the impact of Sixers guards Gary Ervin (four points) and Adam Gibson (eight) went a long way towards securing the win.
“This team has the ability to lock teams down and we locked Adelaide down in that second quarter,” Gleeson said.
“We really got on top of them and really built that pressure, and again we did that in the third quarter.
“The defence was unbelievable out there.
“The team all year has had the ability to lock teams down. We stop teams for five or six possessions and then we build that buffer.
“The good thing about that is we don’t relax. We go again.
“The team was focused and they played for each other, and that was one of the greatest games that we’ve had all year.”
Beal averaged 17.7 points a game during the grand final series and became the first Wildcats player to win the Larry Sengstock Medal since Kevin Lisch in 2010.
“I started out this summer, just working hard, two-a-day (training sessions) and now to actually win a championship, I can’t explain the feeling,” Beal said.
Marquee import James Ennis threw down a huge dunk for the Wildcats in the opening period but did not have a major impact on the game.
He scored nine points in an unusually quiet contribution.
Ennis will play in Puerto Rico before moving back to the United States in a bid to secure an NBA contract.
He is one of six Wildcats off contract and is unlikely to return.
Managing director Nick Marvin will soon turn his attention towards securing the services of key players Martin, Beal and Wagstaff.
NBL rookie of the year Tom Jervis, Drake U’u and Erik Burdon are also at the end of their contracts.
Redhage, Hire, Knight and injured swingman Mathiang Muo (Achilles) will all return to the Wildcats next season.