In some NBL games there are crucial moments that are match-defining.
In Perth’s 74-64 win over Illawarra at the Perth Arena on Friday night, that moment came just before halftime.
When Andrew Ogilvy knocked Wildcats captain Damian Martin to the floor while driving to the basket, all eyes were on the referee. Both men had already attracted two personal fouls.
The call went the Wildcats’ way and Ogilvy sat down with three fouls next to his name.
With the Hawks’ big man sidelined, the Wildcats launched a defensive avalanche on Illawarra to claim the win and remain unbeaten to start their title defence.
Having led by nine points just after Ogilvy drew that foul, the Hawks still managed to hold a six-point advantage at halftime.
But they managed only 21 points for the entire second half, including just seven in the third quarter.
When Perth led by nine points halfway through the opening term, thoughts of the third and final game of last season’s grand final series quickly came to mind. That was a one-sided celebration for the Wildcats as they clinched their eighth title.
But on Friday night Rotnei Clarke turned the game on his head.
Following his haul of 26 in the Hawks’ one-point loss to Cairns last week, Clarke piled on nine points in quick time against the Cats to give the Hawks a 21-18 lead at the first break.
The man trying to follow him – Martin – finished the term on the bench with two fouls, as did Bryce Cotton.
When Tim Coenraad dropped two three-pointers early in the second term, Illawarra held an eight-point advantage.
But things went sour for the Hawks shortly afterwards.
Crucially for the reigning premiers they showed they can win without big points from Cotton.
Cotton scored a total of 83 points during the grand final sweep of the Hawks, including 45 in game three, but was kept scoreless in the opening half on Friday.
Mitch Norton was relentless against him this time, keeping him to just three for the game.
Cats centre Angus Brandt was the game’s highest scorer with 17 points.