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Wildcats beat Hawks in NBL thriller

AAP logoAAP 21/10/2016

Perth Wildcats have escaped another close call at the Perth Arena, beating the Illawarra Hawks 80-73 in Friday's NBL clash.

Leading by 16 points midway through the third period, the reigning premiers looked set for a comfortable win.

But as they had done in two previous games, against Cairns and New Zealand, they let a strong advantage slip away and had to fight back for a win.

Big second halves from the Hawks duo Andrew Ogilvy (15 points) and Kevin White (four three pointers at 100 per cent) had Illawarra trailing by just two points with 36 seconds remaining in the game.

But as they have done in the previous three games, the Wildcats fell over the line.

And as was the case in the previous two close wins, Casey Prather was the difference.

Prather finished with a game high 24 points, giving him an average of better than 25 points over those three wins.

Perth led 39-33 at half-time mainly because they were more efficient in offense. The Wildcats shot at 55 per cent from the field in the first two quarters, while the Hawks had more shots, but managed to convert at just 36 per cent.

Illawarra finished with a low 39 per cent shooting efficiency for the game.

Andre Ingram made a quiet start to his debut with the reigning champions, scoring just three points in the first half. But his long bomb, which came 90 seconds into the second period, gave his new side the lead.

It also came during a crucial period where the Cats scored 10 consecutive points to break open what had been a close contest to that points.

Ingram only arrived in Perth on Wednesday as a replacement for Jaron Johnson, who was released by the Wildcats on Monday after just three games with the club.

Ingram arrives in to the NBL after eight seasons in the NBA's D-League where he averaged an amazing 45.5 per cent shooting accuracy and scored an all-time league high 583 career three pointers.

He dropped three long shots from five attempts on Friday night, the last one with 69 seconds left on the clock bought the Arena crowd to its feet.

After three home games, all wins, Perth will travel to Melbourne to play United on Sunday, while the Hawks will look to end their three-game losing streak on Monday night when they play the Kings in Sydney.

Illawarra coach Rob Beveridge will also be back at the helm on Monday night after assistant Eric Cooks stood in against the Cats so he could attend his son Jaydon's high school graduation.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said he can see that his team is starting to grow together.

"I love how in pressure situations we step up to the plate, especially in the last four minutes," he said.

"We're getting there.

"It's a new group and we have to work to make sure we get quality shots.

"We have to make sure we've got the tempo of the game right and most of the time we got that right tonight."

Hawks stand-in coach Cooks said he was disappointed with the result because he thought his side had a chance to win.

"I thought at times we played really well, but the rebounds really hurt us," he said.

"That's one of the things they do well and they continued to do it well, especially in the second half.

"It's no doubt our guys want to fight, but we have to find a way to win in this league. We're heading to Sydney on Monday and we have to find a way."

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