NBL Finals, Perth Wildcats lose to South East Melbourne Phoenix, 35 years finals streak ends, Tasmania Jack Jumpers

The streak is over.

The South East Melbourne Phoenix have ended the extraordinary run of finals campaigns held by the Perth Wildcats with a thrilling two-point overtime win at RAC Arena on Sunday afternoon.

The make-up of the NBL final four also came down to the last 80 seconds of the final game of the season.

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Perth had earlier led by eight points and seemed to have the Phoenix at arm’s length.

Perth just had to win to sneak past the NBL’s newest franchise, the Tasmania JackJumpers and claim fourth spot.

But the Wildcats managed just two points in the final 2:15 minutes of the game, a Bryce Cotton lay-in waved away by the referees and called an offensive foul.

They fell short of a 36th consecutive year of finals with a 102-100 loss.

It will be the JackJumpers, in their debut NBL season, that will play Melbourne United in the first match of a best-of-three game semi-final on Thursday.

While Tasmania makes its first finals appearance in its first year, Perth will be watching for the first time since 1986.

To put that in context, Western Australia did not have a team in the AFL until the year after that.

ALL ON THE LINE

The combination of Perth having everything on the line and the stubbornness of the Phoenix resulted in a physical opening quarter.

The Wildcats attacked the basket as often as they could and drew nine fouls.

Perth led 25-22 at quarter-time having dropped only five of 14 shots from the field.

But they made up for it with hitting 12 of 15 shots from the free-throw line.

The game tidied up after that and some sharp shooting from Xavier Munford (24 points) and Brandon Ashley (17) settled the Phoenix down.

It was another cameo from their skipper David Adnam that changed the game though.

Adnam had just three points from just six minutes of court time in the opening three quarters. But he dropped 11 points in the third term, including three from long range, in a dazzling finals term.

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COTTON KUDOS KEEP COMING

Wildcats star Bryce Cotton is the mix for the MVP award yet again this year.

On Sunday he was again the game’s highest scorer, with 28 points. If he’d managed better than 2-14 from long range, the result would have been vastly different.

His first three-pointer was his 87th for the season, the most he has achieved in a season in the NBL, beating the 86 he knocked down last season.

His second (88th) bomb surpassed Jermaine Beal’s record for the most three-pointers for the Cats in the regular season. Beal achieved that in 2014.

Michael Frazier, with 22 points, loomed as the savior for Perth though.

Almost discarded from the Cats a month ago, Frazier dropped five shots from long distance and dragged down six rebounds.

With 10 rebounds and 12 points, Matt Hodgson was also very good.

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RISE OF THE PHOENIX

The Phoenix have had an inconsistent season, completed with come-from behind wins against Perth and an in-form Adelaide.

They were second on the table after their Round 14 win over Adelaide with an 11-5 win-loss record.

They were averaging only 86 points per game, but were managing to keep opposition teams to just 83 points per game.

Since then, they have won just four gamed and lost eight.

They have still averaged 88 points per game, but have let in an average of 90 points per game against them.

Perth had 52 on the board at the main break and led by six.

They became the third side to reach triple figures, albeit with the aid of overtime, in that home stretch.

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