Big changes have paid off for the Perth Wildcats, who are celebrating a record sixth NBL championship following Sunday’s crushing 93-59 grand final victory over the Adelaide 36ers at Perth Arena.
Having lost the previous two grand finals and a semi-final series to the New Zealand Breakers, the Wildcats bit the bullet and replaced coach Rob Beveridge with Trevor Gleeson, and signed star imports James Ennis and Jermaine Beal.
The Wildcats set up the minor premiership by winning 12 of their first 13 games, but the pressure was on coming into the deciding game three of the grand final series.
But the Wildcats dominated, leading at one stage by 36 points before winning by 33.
Ennis claimed the headlines all season, but Beal was named MVP of the grand final series, finishing with 15 points and four rebounds in the decider.
Shawn Redhage added 16 points for the Wildcats while championship skipper Damian Martin had 14 points, six rebounds and outstanding defence on Gary Ervin.
Anthony Petrie was the workhorse for Adelaide, with 20 points and four rebounds.
It’s Perth’s sixth title, putting them two ahead of Adelaide and the Melbourne Tigers. Shawn Redhage, Damian Martin and Jesse Wagstaff are the survivors from the last win in 2010.
Gleeson never felt the pressure and just wanted to reward the Wildcats for the chance they gave him after stints as coach of Townsville and Melbourne.
“It probably hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m so proud of the guys. It was game three of the grand final with everything on the line and the cream rises to the top, which we certainly did,” Gleeson said.
“I haven’t felt the pressure to win the title, but just the history of the club makes me want to work harder and I wanted to be successful because the organisation gives you the chance to do that.”
Sixers coach Joey Wright was proud of the efforts of his team all season, and it must be considered a success given he took over the back-to-back wooden spooners.
“I was just happy with our guys for fighting through what they went through,” Wright said.
“All season there were some monumental things that could have given us excuses to stop, from Gary’s knee surgery to Gibbo’s (Adam Gibson) foot and Anthony’s osteitis pubis, but they fought through and stuck together. I’m proud of what they have done this year.”