Fast-starting 36ers upset Wildcats in NBL

Steve BarrettAAP
Captain Mitch McCarron led by example as the Adelaide 36ers defeated Perth 87-74 in the NBL.
Camera IconCaptain Mitch McCarron led by example as the Adelaide 36ers defeated Perth 87-74 in the NBL. Credit: AAP

The Adelaide 36ers ambushed the ladder-leading Perth Wildcats early before surviving a stiff second-half challenge to prevail 87-74 at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

Playing their first NBL game in 31 days following multiple fixture postponements due to COVID-19, the Sixers showed minimal signs of rust on Tuesday night, paving their path to victory through a dynamic start when they stormed ahead by 28 points in the second quarter.

With Daniel Johnson (21, eight rebounds) lethal early, Cam Bairstow (19, 10) commanding late and captain Mitch McCarron (10 points, 12 boards, eight assists) narrowly missing a triple-double but running the floor with aplomb, the home side had too many answers.

Imports Vic Law (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Bryce Cotton (12) led the Wildcats' charge, but neither was able to exert their usual influence.

"Having to wait so long was the frustrating part, sitting at home and guys dealing with COVID," Adelaide coach CJ Bruton said.

"We came out with energy, we made shots and our delivery was good.

"That kept us in a good position to hang on to the game."

The 36ers drilled six triples in the opening stanza - including a four-point play from Sunday Dech, making his long-awaited return from a quad injury - to sprint ahead 29-13 at quarter-time.

Perth, ravaged by COVID-19 recently and having only completed two full training sessions since emerging from quarantine, continued to look lethargic as the margin blew out to 48-22, with Johnson proving unstoppable offensively.

Law and Cotton, the NBL's two leading scorers but held to a combined two points at quarter-time, belatedly got going and paced a 15-4 mini-surge, but Adelaide still held sway 55-34 at half-time.

The visitors finally awoke from their first-half slumber and dominated the 36ers defensively in the third.

In a spectacular finish to the quarter, Cotton's drive-and-dish found Jesse Wagstaff, who went behind his back to Kevin White for a corner three on the buzzer to slice the gap to 67-58.

Perth inched within eight points in the fourth stanza but Adelaide, behind the keyway grunt of Bairstow, promoted to the starting five for the first time this season, had enough in the tank.

"I didn't think we came out with the effort that we needed to at the start of the game," Wildcats coach Scott Morrison said.

"We didn't have multiple efforts defensively, we let them shoot uncontested shots ... I think that helped get them going and built their confidence."

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