Bryce Cotton has broken Melbourne United hearts with a game-winning shot in the final seconds to seal a 95-93 NBL win for the Perth Wildcats.
Sunday’s grand final rematch at Melbourne Arena delivered another classic encounter between the two league heavyweights as the Wildcats came from eight points down in the final quarter.
United’s Melo Trimble tied the game at 93-93 with 32 seconds to play but with the clock winding down, Cotton banked in a long perimeter shot to leave the home side winless after three games.
“I was just trying to read the defence, see if they were going to trap, if I had to pass the ball early or not,” Cotton said.
“Once I saw they didn’t (trap), I just wanted to take my time and try to get a good shot. Fortunately I was able to get one to fall.”
Perth coach Trevor Gleeson praised Cotton and fellow import Terrico White (19 points) for making a series of crucial plays.
“You want the ball in his hands,” Gleeson said about Cotton’s ability to come up big in crunch time.
“I’m very fortunate I’ve got two guys that want the ball at the end of the game that can finish it.
“I’ve got extreme confidence in Bryce and Terrico out there at the end of the game.”
United held a narrow lead after a physical opening half but the defending champions struck back as Cotton (27 points) came to life in the third quarter.
Trimble (21 points) and Chris Goulding (17 points) inspired a 16-4 burst in the final quarter as the home side closed in on victory before Cotton’s late heroics.
United coach Dean Vickerman described the result as a tough one to swallow having already lost to the Phoenix and Wildcats in Perth after conceding late baskets.
“We put ourselves in a position in each one of those games where we haven’t quite had a significant enough lead,” Vickerman said.
“They gave absolutely everything today and we just weren’t good enough but we are so close.”
Goulding came out firing with nine of United’s first 11 points, all from beyond the arc, while the defence kept danger man Cotton quiet early to lead 22-19.
The second quarter turned into an ugly scrap with numerous foul calls but United grabbed a 44-42 advantage at halftime.
After being held to seven points in the first half, Cotton drilled a three-pointer to hand the Wildcats their first lead of the night, helping build a 69-65 edge heading into the fourth quarter.