If you need a reminder of why Bryce Cotton is the reigning NBL MVP, watch a replay of the Perth Wildcats win over the Brisbane Bullets on Friday night.
Cotton’s buzzer-beater gave the injury-plagued Cats a 90-87 win over an in-form Bullets.
Cotton had 6.3 seconds to make the final play and he calmly dropped his shot with less than one second remaining.
He saved the game from going in to overtime and polished off a big night, with 37 points.
Perth coach Trevor Gleeson said the players ran the final play perfectly.
“We have a couple of plays up our sleeves for those situations that we don’t use during the game,” he said.
“They knew what to do. Bryce had space and it looked good and I was saying ‘go in, go in, go in, go in’.”
With captain Damian Martin (calf) and import Terrico White (hamstring) sidelined, Brisbane were always going to push the league leaders.
Their chances increased when centre Angus Brandt went down with an ankle injury just five minutes in to the game and he couldn’t return.
He’s also unlikely to play away against Illawarra on Sunday.
But just after Brandt went down, the Wildcats led 22-7.
The Bullets clawed that lead back and trailed by just four points at the first break.
Cotton’s 15 first-half points allowed Perth to hold a one-point lead at the main break.
But when Cam Gliddon’s jump-shot dropped 30 seconds in to the third term, the Bullets led for the first time. Not long after that, they were up by seven.
Without Brandt, the Bullets won the battle of the boards, 40-35.
They found avenues to goal, with Matt Hodgson, Cam Bairstow, Jason Cadee, Reuben Te Rangi and Lamar Patterson all making it in to double figures on the scoreboard.
But Brisbane coach Andrej Lemanis admits that his side’s attitude wasn’t great from the outset and they made mistakes right to the end.
“Bryce made a great shot at the end, but that was a coaching error; we should have gone after him, got the ball out of his hands and made someone else make the play,” he said.
“They scored 31 in the fourth and 15 points in the back end of the third quarter; so 46 points in 15 minutes of basketball.
“So that’s an area we let ourselves down a little bit.”