The Perth Wildcats are on the cusp of a second straight NBL championship after a 89-77 defeat of the Illawarra Hawks in game two of the grand final series in Wollongong.
American duo Bryce Cotton (20 points) and Casey Prather (18) spearheaded Wednesday night’s win, while captain Damian Martin nailed three clutch three-point shots in the final quarter.
Illawarra were led by sharpshooting guard Rotnei Clarke (21) and centre AJ Ogilvy (21) at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Hawks import Marvelle Harris played 12 minutes off the bench after missing game one to be with his dying father in America.
Harris rushed back to Australia on Wednesday morning, playing 12 minutes off the bench but missing all four of his shots.
Perth were down at quarter-time and halftime, before taking the lead late in the third period and never trailing again.
The Cats won by the same 89-77 score as they did in game one, setting up victory with a strong rebounding effort in the second half.
A win in Sunday’s game three in Perth would give the Wildcats their eighth title and push them four championships clear of their nearest rival.
It was only a month ago the Cats were no guarantee of qualifying for the finals.
They won their final two games to clinch their 31st consecutive playoff appearance.
The Hawks are in their fourth grand-final series in 38 years and chasing just their second championship.
Ogilvy set the tone for his team with a dazzling opening period, tallying seven points, four rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal.
The Hawks charged to a 20-9 lead before the Wildcats cut the margin to 24-18 at quarter-time.
Perth pulled to within a point early in the second period, but Illawarra responded again, building a 45-40 halftime lead.
The Wildcats suffered a setback when rugged forward Matt Knight was helped off after copping a head knock in the first minute of the second half.
The Hawks pushed the margin back up to eight, only to lose their lead for the first time since the game’s opening minutes.
When the siren sounded to end the third quarter, the Cats had worked their way to a 63-59 lead.
They answered every Hawks challenge, silencing the hometown fans en route to a well-deserved win.
With the Wildcats leading 2-0, the best-of-five series shifts back to Perth on Sunday afternoon for game three. Game four (if required) is scheduled for Friday week (March 10) in Wollongong.