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Tempers flare after Wildcats crush 36ers
Tempers flare after Wildcats crush 36ers

The Perth Wildcats put a wedge between themselves and second-placed Adelaide with an 85-61 mauling of the 36ers at Perth Arena tonight.

US imports James Ennis and Jermaine Beal starred as the Wildcats woke from a post-Christmas slumber to resume their status as outright favourites for the NBL championship.

But there were ugly scenes after the final buzzer as the two teams clashed in a fierce all-in melee on court.

The players were separated by referees and team officials before clashing again moments later.

NBL officials will review the incident over the weekend.

The result puts the Wildcats (17-6) four wins clear of Adelaide (13-8) in the race for top spot and home-court advantage for the play-offs.

The 36ers have two games in hand but face another tough task away to fellow challengers Melbourne on Sunday.

The Wildcats' bid for a sixth championship received another boost before last night's game, with star centre Matt Knight cleared to return from injury next week.

Ennis (27 points) produced a string of highlights and sent the home crowd into party mode with three huge slam dunks, while Beal added 20 points. But it was the Wildcats' intense team defence that set the platform.

They held Adelaide to just 24 points in the first half, the 36ers' lowest score in 975 games since their inception in 1982.

Veteran forward Anthony Petrie (15 points) worked hard for Adelaide, while Luke Schenscher and Daniel Johnson chipped in with 10 points each.

Knight was sidelined for the opening six games of the season with an ankle injury and has missed the past seven following two bouts of concussion suffered in quick succession.

The All-Star centre has been on a reduced training load, working on his shooting and fitness away from the main group with no body-on-body contact.

But he was passed fit by specialists in Melbourne yesterday and will make his comeback in the clash with the Tigers at Perth Arena next Friday. He flew back to Perth today and was at tonight's game.

Knight, who has endured a long list of injuries since joining the Wildcats in 2010, said he was relieved to finally see the end of what had been another frustrating stint on the sidelines.

"I feel good physically and mentally," Knight said.

"I've been trying to tell them all along that I felt normal, but obviously the first test results showed there were still some symptoms there.

"I've been working really hard on my conditioning and it will probably take a game or two to get it back, but I feel I haven't lost too much at all."

There were also big margins in tonight's other games.

New Zealand kept their stuttering title defence alive with a 96-78 win over Cairns in Auckland, and Wollongong registered a 90-75 home victory over last-placed Townsville.