The CQUniversity Cairns Taipans have fallen 91-69 in Game One of their Semi-Final Series against the Perth Wildcats at the Cairns Convention Centre on Friday night.
Taipans Head Coach Aaron Fearne said his side, “got taught a lesson.”
“We didn’t do some fundamental things very well. Offensively we didn’t move the ball well enough. It’s not a one-man show. When you play playoff basketball you’ve got to be able to move the ball and play and a team and get a rhythm going that way,” he said.
“It’s our mindframe. We’ve played 28 games this year, plus the pre-season. We’ve played plenty of games where a team has denied this and denied that, and you’ve still got to find a way to get into our counters and keep moving the ball.”
The Snakes, winners of six of their past seven games coming into the night, were outdone by American stars Cotton and Casey Prather (22 points), who were near unstoppable in the pick-and-roll.
Cairns fought gallantly throughout, but it was a frustrating day in the office for the home side, despite respectable performances across the board.
The ‘Cats sprung out of the blocks with a 31-21 first term on the back of a jumpshooting spree from Prather and Cotton.
They netted a combined 21 points in the first frame alone with deep jumpers – three whistled for contact – while the Snakes got theirs from backup centre Nnanna Egwu.
Egwu has quietly been a revelation in recent games with Bamaga banger Jawai continued his hot streak with seven first-quarter points, before getting sat with two fouls 3:43 into the first half and didn’t return.
After a 15-foul first quarter, the screws tightened further in the second as neither team took a backward step physically.
The combination of stoppages of play and Cotton’s shot-making (21 first-half points) dominated proceedings.
Cairns pegged it back to four points before Cotton spearheaded a 13-6 run to end the half at 48-37.
Cotton, in tandem with Prather, came out of the main break looking to stomp on the Snakes early, and the margin hit 20 points before the home side started to chip away.
The Snakes got the margin back to seven on the back of a 13-0 run, but Cotton steadied the defending champions’ ship as the ‘Cats took a comfortable 1-0 lead heading into Game 2 at Perth Arena on Monday.