Cult figure Mark Worthington produced a remarkable three-point buzzer-beater to sink the Perth Wildcats and give Melbourne an upset 83-80 win at Perth Arena on Friday night.
Tempers flared after the final buzzer as the Tigers took exception to James Ennis brushing off Chris Goulding when the teams exchanged handshakes, but the situation was defused as officials separated the two sets of players.
Worthington’s shot sparked wild scenes among the Melbourne players and staff, and a rogue fan who ran onto the court to celebrate with his team.
The fan was quickly caught by security guards and thrown out.
The defeat was coach Trevor Gleeson’s first at home in charge of the Wildcats and was the club’s first loss at the Arena since game two of last season’s grand final series.
“We didn’t have the intensity required,” Gleeson said. “We tried to lift the intensity up and we did that, but we certainly didn’t have the intensity needed for 40 minutes.”
WA product Worthington finished with 24 points for Melbourne and worked well in tandem with league-leading scorer Goulding (23).
Goulding, a former Wildcats development player, produced a huge play with 20 seconds left in the game, nailing a three-pointer to give Melbourne a two-point lead with Jesse Wagstaff in his face as the shot clock ran out.
Wildcats captain Damian Martin tied the game moments later with a close-range basket that nearly rimmed out.
Then it was left to Worthington to deliver the knockout punch on a scrappy final play after go-to man Goulding was double-teamed by the Wildcats.
“That’s a pretty special one for me, I’d say,” Worthington said. “It’s going to be right up there in the memory bank once it’s all said and done.
“Chris (Anstey) drew up a pretty good play for Chris Goulding and as we walked out from the time-out, I said, ‘If they’re going to double-team you, I’m going to knock down the shot’. Luckily that all worked out.”
Tom Jervis produced a career-high 21 points for the Wildcats in the absence of injured centre Matt Knight, while Ennis produced his third double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Jeremiah Trueman returned for the Wildcats in his role as an injury replacement for Knight, but didn’t see any court time.
Perth are on top of the NBL ladder with a 15-4 record. Melbourne are now 11-8.
In Friday night’s other game, Cairns stayed in touch with the top four and extended Townsville’s miserable run to eight straight defeats with a 90-79 win over their north Queensland rivals.
Tonight's NBL scores:
MELBOURNE TIGERS 83 (M Worthington 24 C Goulding 23 N Tomlinson 13) bt PERTH WILDCATS 80 (T Jervis 22 J Ennis 19 S Redhage 15) at Perth Arena.
CAIRNS TAIPANS 90 (J Wilson 23 C Gliddon 18 S Weigh 17 D McCamey 17) bt TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES 79 (B Conklin 26 S Markovic 21 M Norton 7) at Townsville Entertainment Centre.