Basketball: Perth advance to Grand Final

Mark Worthington of the Taipans and Matt Knight of the Wildcats contest for a loose ball. Photo / Getty Images
Mark Worthington of the Taipans and Matt Knight of the Wildcats contest for a loose ball. Photo / Getty Images

The Perth Wildcats are in another NBL finals series, their 13th, after they swept the Cairns Taipans 2-0 in their semi-final series.

Perth have played in five of the past seven finals, winning three, including two of the past three.

And coach Trevor Gleeson says he can feel the hunger building inside the squad yet again.

"We have been to the top of the mountain and we know what it takes to get there," Gleeson said.

"There are signs in our team and indications that we're heading down that path.

"That's why it is so exciting - we're still playing great basketball and now we have a five-game series to see if we're the best team in the league.

"We have some great momentum. Last weekend we had to win two games or we're done; we're toast. We carried that momentum over to get the win in Cairns and then again tonight (Monday)."

After the Wildcats, the Melbourne Tigers have played in the second most championship playoffs, eight, winning four. One of Perth's potential opponents in this coming series, Adelaide, have won four titles from seven appearances.

The other, the Illawarra Hawks (who play Adelaide in the final game of their three-game semi-final on Thursday) have just one title (2001) from three attempts.

The Wildcats of course came close to seeing their much vaunted 30-season finals streak come to an end in an up and down NBL season.

Within that season there were two vital moments that helped the Wildcats once again ensure their success - the first was round 13.

Jaron Johnson had just been sacked, for the seconf time; Bryce Cotton was still a game away from debuting and Damian Martin was another week away from returning from injury.

The Wildcats had lost eight of 11 games and were languishing at the bottom of the table yet they beat the Illawarra Hawks, on the road, by eight points.

The more vital one was after the round 18 away loss to Cairns.

Star guard Casey Prather promised to be better after scoring only 11 points, giving one assist and finishing with six turnovers and four fouls - he's averaged more than 25 points a game in the four wins since.

"He had a real poor game up in Cairns and we sat down and had a talk," Gleeson recalled.

"He picked out everything that was wrong with his game; I didn't have to say anything, just ate my sushi.

"So the self-awareness he's got and the determination to start playing like he was at the start of the year, he's put that into action.

Perth has to wait until Thursday to learn who they will meet in the finals series, when the Adelaide 36ers host the Illawarra Hawks in the third and final game of their semi-final.

The best-of-five game finals series will begin on February 27.

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