Cotton, White too good as Perth take down Phoenix

Phoenix star import Tai Wesley returned from nine weeks out after injuring his hamstring to score 15 points in 22 minutes, and Ben Madgen added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Perth guards Damian Martin and Mitch Norton also did well to limit Phoenix star John Roberson to nine points in the first three quarters before he nailed 10 late points to finish with 19.

On guard: Bryce Cotton takes evasive action as John Roberson of the Phoenix applies defensive pressure.Credit:Getty Images

Both coaches praised the play of Cotton and White who had similar performances when Perth clinched last season’s championship at Melbourne Arena.

“Terrico can just takeover a game,” Wildcats shooter Clint Steindl said post game.

“You have, I’d say, the two best closers in the NBL in Bryce and Terrico, and they’ve shown it over and over again.”

Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell was disappointed in his side’s rebounding as they lost that stat 44-28, and felt that at certain points his team lost focus.

Tai fighter: South East Melbourne welcomed back Tai Wesley after his extended injury break.

Tai fighter: South East Melbourne welcomed back Tai Wesley after his extended injury break.Credit:Getty Images

But in the end Cotton and White had too much clutch for his side as the Wildcats made it two wins for the weekend to maintain their hold on second place.

“We just need to finish off our work out of that zone defence and find a way to be more physical, get them off the boards,” Mitchell said.

“When you give up numbers on offensive boards and putbacks, you know that Terrico is coming in to take advantage.

“He’s like the Klay Thompson of our league, the guys doesn’t touch it for five minutes at a time then with his next three touches he’s got nine points.

“When that moment hit we didn’t have the advantage we needed in the game.”

Wesley enjoyed being back on the court but cut a frustrated figure after taking the loss. He knows his side can match it with the best in the NBL, and the first three quarters showed it.


But the biggest test will be learning how to reduce the opportunities presented to the likes of Cotton and White.

NBL titles and semi-finals places are decided by which teams can handle the clutch moments best and the Phoenix are still making their way in this area.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Wesley said.

“It’s good to be back but, man, I couldn’t breathe out there at times, and I’m pretty frustrated with that result.

“We had a good game plan but when you have a couple of breakdowns, these guys punish you.

“They punished us and we could never catch up.”

The Phoenix have two games next round with Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide on Friday then Cairns at Melbourne Arena on Sunday.

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