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Battle for top spot down to the wire
The West Australian Battle for top spot down to the wire

The Perth Wildcats' stunning win over Melbourne on Saturday night was one for the ages, but the league leaders have far greater ambitions to fulfil as they chase a record fifth title.

The Wildcats were running on empty against the Tigers after road losses to Cairns and Gold Coast earlier last week and took a nothing-to-lose attitude into The Cage.

With Brad Robbins sidelined by a suspected broken rib after half-time and Damian Martin carrying an abdominal injury, the weary Wildcats were dealt further blows when Luke Schenscher and Galen Young fouled out in the fourth quarter.

Yet the seven remaining players, including the plucky Martin, battled through extreme adversity to pull off an unlikely 84-78 victory in overtime.

Kevin Lisch and captain Shawn Redhage top-scored with 17 points each, while Schenscher was pivotal during the third term and racked up nine points and 15 rebounds before collecting his fifth foul.

Julius Hodge (24 points) again proved unstoppable for Melbourne.

Redhage, who stepped up in overtime to give the Wildcats the lead with a huge three-pointer, declared it one of their best wins of the year, but quickly turned his attention to Sunday's crucial clash with Townsville at Challenge Stadium, where top spot will be up for grabs.

"It was a huge win but at the same time we know there are a lot bigger things we're chasing after right now," he said.

"It gives us a lot of confidence, but this league is so tight. You can't get too high or too low, you've just got to keep as even a keel as you can.

"We haven't done anything yet. Hopefully we can improve and start playing better basketball."

The title race is wide open with one round of the regular season to play and five teams still in contention in the closest NBL season in history.

The Wildcats are locked in a threeway battle with Gold Coast and Townsville for first place and home court advantage in the play-offs.

The Blaze face a difficult task, with games away to fifth-placed New Zealand and Melbourne this week, while the Crocs host Adelaide before travelling to Perth.

Wollongong need just one win from two games to seal the fourth and final play-offs spot and end NZ's season.

"All teams are outstanding at home and Gold Coast have to travel," Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge said.

"It's important for us to get that first spot but we've got to go through Townsville. They're going to be pumped up to beat us - there's a huge rivalry there. If we win that game, we will get first spot, I guess."

The Wildcats are grateful for an eight-day break before the clash with Townsville.

"We got pretty beat up over the last four days," Beveridge said. "The way our guys handled themselves against Melbourne … was very impressive."

Crocs coach Trevor Gleeson stressed his team needed to focus on beating Adelaide before it contemplated a winner-take-all clash with Perth.

The Cats' win killed off the Tigers' play-offs bid and probably ended the careers of the last two active players from Australia's under-23 world championship-winning team of 1997, Chris Anstey and Sam Mackinnon.