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Beveridge slams 'soft' Hawks after GF loss

NZN 26/02/2017 Justin Chadwick

Illawarra Hawks coach Rob Beveridge labelled his team as soft after watching them get crushed on the rebound count in their 89-77 grand final game one loss to the Perth Wildcats.

The Hawks lost the offensive rebound count 17-3 at the Perth Arena and Beveridge let loose after the match.

The Wildcats now lead the best-of-five series 1-0.

"We were soft," Beveridge said.

"You simply can't beat most teams - let alone the Wildcats - if you're going to give up 17 offensive rebounds. And we only had three.

"As far as I'm concerned - in a grand final series - it's unacceptable.

"It just wasn't good enough. If we don't rebound, we can't win."

Star import Bryce Cotton overcame a slow start to help power the Wildcats to victory.

Cotton was scoreless and looking off his game midway through the second term as the Hawks opened up an eight-point lead.

But the former NBA guard shot to life before half-time, nailing 11 points in a six-minute flurry to reverse the momentum.

Cotton finished with 18 points, while Casey Prather (22) and Matt Knight (18) were also crucial in the win.

Wildcats captain Damian Martin starred in defence, even producing a spectacular block in the first term when the Wildcats were struggling for momentum.

Cody Ellis (12 points) top scored for the Hawks, while Tim Coenraad, Rhys Martin, and Rotnei Clarke were next best with 11 points apiece.

Hawks big man AJ Ogilvy entered the match under an injury cloud after twice rolling his ankle in Thursday's semi-final win over Adelaide.

Ogilvy was given the green light to face the Wildcats but his impact was minimal off limited minutes.

The Hawks are hopeful import Marvelle Harris, who missed Sunday's game to be by the side of his sick father in the US, will return for game two at the WIN Entertainment Centre on Wednesday.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was proud of the way his team rebounded from their poor start.

"I thought we got better and better as the game wore on," Gleeson said.

"We started off rusty in that first quarter.

"Matt Knight was a shining light. He's been in great form lately, and we got some good scores from him."

The Hawks' 26-21 lead at quarter-time would have been even greater if it wasn't for the hot hand of Knight, who drained 10 points on five-of-six shooting.

A nervous energy spread through the crowd as the Hawks opened up an eight-point lead midway through the second quarter.

A nervous energy spread through the crowd as the Hawks opened up an eight-point lead but Cotton eased the tension with an inspired six minutes to end the half.

Cotton nailed his first points of the match with a clutch three and the 24-year-old nailed another two long bombs before the long break.

His heroics helped the Wildcats draw level by halftime and the home side asserted their dominance in the second half.

"We just played into the Wildcats' hands," Beveridge said.

"We shot crappy shots - living and dying by the perimeter shot.

"It just wasn't good enough when it really counted, so I was disappointed with the performance tonight."

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