Cotton blitz lifts Wildcats over Taipans
A SECOND quarter domination from star guard Bryce Cotton helped lift the Perth Wildcats to victory over Cairns Taipans last night. At the 2:03 minute mark, the Taipans led by a game-high 18 points after Majok Deng capitalised off a steal and then dunked it. The Wildcats trailed by 14 points at quarter time after facing a 17-point deficit following a Jarrod Kenny basket with 35 seconds left in the opening term. . Then the league’s best player over the past few years called time, and the rest is history, with the Wildcats winning by six points, 84-78.
Season/s: 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22
Games [tot]: 101
Points [avg]: 23.4
Rebounds [avg]: 3.6
Assists [avg]: 4.2
Steals [avg]: 1.5
Cotton’s first quarter started off about as well as the Wildcats’ with the Taipans racing out to a 13-0 lead in the first three and a half minutes of the match. In that time, Cotton missed all three attempts and produced a turnover in an uncharacteristic start for the star.
He would be the first one to create a scoring chance through, feeding it through off a Victor Law steal for Michael Frazier to dunk the first points of the match for the Wildcats at the 3:39 minute mark. He produced a second assist for Matt Hodgson to be fouled and sent to the line, before producing another turnover.
After missing his fourth shot of the term – this time from beyond the arc – Cotton was subbed out with 2:08 on the clock with zero points, two assists and two turnovers and the Wildcats on the ropes.
Though Cotton started the second quarter on the bench, he was quickly subbed in with 56 seconds elapsed. The Wildcats trailed by 12 points courtesy of Law’s early four points in the term. At the 7:19-minute mark of the term, Cotton made a layup for his first points of the game, and the deficit was 12 points. A minute later, he won an offensive rebound, then stepped back and nailed the long-range bomb.
An assist to Majok Majok at the midway point of the quarter was followed by pickpocketing Stephen Zimmerman and delivering with the layup, before producing another pull up jump shot with five minutes on the clock. The triple meant he was up to double-digits in the space of two minutes. A second steal almost led to another basket but Cotton missed the layup, but it was not long before he was back on the board again.
The Perth guard received the ball from Jesse Wagstaff and made true on his three-point attempt. Though given his hot form in the second period, the Taipans guards were worried about him and Zimmerman fouled him mid shot, for Cotton to make it a four-point play. By the time he scored his 14th point of the game, the Wildcats had clawed their way back to within one point.
It was somewhat fitting that with 73 seconds left on the clock, it would be off Cotton’s hands that gave Perth its first lead of the match. He drilled yet another three-pointer to give the Wildcats a one-point lead, then nailed a two-pointer for a three-point advantage, 44-41.
Though the Taipans scored the last six points of the quarter to hold a three-point lead themselves into the second half (47-44), Cotton had one of the most remarkable quarters. A whopping 19 points – seven of eight from the field – as well as two steals, an assist and a rebound.
Cotton started where he left off in the second term with a three-pointer just 36 seconds into the half. He brought his total points up to 22 and then after missing his own triple – and committing his first foul of the match – got busy with a defensive rebound and slick assist to Kevin White. A third turnover saw the Taipans go back out to five points, before Cotton was fouled driving to the basket. He produced both free throws and was subbed out with 24 points to his name and the clock at 5:43 remaining in the quarter.
Cotton was subbed back on at the 3:27 mark and was immediately fouled within 15 seconds trying to go for a three-pointer. It was the second time he had been fouled from beyond the arc, and he easily secured all three points from the line. He missed a second chance to add three point points to his name 30 seconds later, but then made his last points of the game with 69 seconds on the clock, levelling the scores at 66-apiece.
Though he missed another long-range attempt, Cotton had scored eight points with another assist and rebound.
Though not adding to his points tally in the last, Cotton set up Law with a nice assist in the opening 20 second for the Wildcats to extend their two-point final break lead to five, 71-66. He also picked up another rebound, and was eventually subbed off at the 7:44 mark to keep him fresh for a big finish. At that point the Wildcats led by four, 74-70.
He did not spent much time off though as the Taipans started to get a few offensive looks, and he was subbed back on at the 6:46 point. Cotton missed back-to-back three-point jumpers midway through the term then produced one final assist to Law.
FINAL STATS: 29 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 1 personal foul
Aside from Cotton, Law finished with 17 points, six rebounds, a steal and a block, whilst Luke Travers came off the bench to provide 10 points, five rebounds, four steals, four blocks and two assists. Majok Deng was the clear standout for the Taipans, knocking down 27 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three blocks, whilst Bul Kuol (13 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Zimmerman (12 points, eight rebounds and two steals) were also impressive.