Cairns fall short in Perth
With seven minutes left to play, just two points separated the CQUniversity Cairns Taipans and Perth Wildcats, but the home team managed to turn it into a 29-point victory at RAC Arena on Saturday night, winning 117-88.
The Taipans couldn’t have started the game any better, with Sam Waardenburg winning the tip and opening scoring with a dunk, followed by all of Cairns' starters getting on the scoreboard within the first minutes of the game for an early lead.
Waardenburg went on to have one of his best performances of the season, scoring 19 points in the first half (7-8 FG) that featured 10 straight points and kept Cairns in front for most of the second quarter.
Taran Armstrong had three assists at the main break – including an incredible bounce pass to AK Gak as Pat Miller had racked up 11 points, 4 assists and 2 boards.
Remarkably, scores were tied at quarter time (30) and half-time (57) setting up an exciting second stanza, but Waardenburg’s night was cut short due to tightness in his Achilles. He subbed out early in the third and didn’t return, as the Wildcats took advantage for a seven-point lead at three-quarter time.
The Taipans kept in touch throughout the fourth despite losing Waardenburg and both Bul Kuol and Lat Mayen fouling out, while Pat Miller did everything he could to keep Cairns in the game.
He scored 11 points in the second half, with his two foul shots in the fourth making it a two-point game 84-82 with just seven minutes to play.
Taipans Head Coach Adam Forde had to call a timeout soon after as Wildcats import Jordan Usher scored off a Cairns’ turnover, but the momentum had already started to swing in Perth’s favour. They went on to score eight unanswered points which quickly ballooned out to 29.
Miller finished with 25 points, five assists and three rebounds.
Coach Forde acknowledged that the close game got away from them quickly.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.
“We burned through a lot of time-outs. Every time Perth got a little bit of momentum - especially in that third quarter, I burned my second timeout when it got out to 10. We weathered the storm, brought it back to a one-possession game.
“Pat hits two fouls shots, there’s two points difference, we get a stop and go down the other end. We get a look at the floater – it doesn’t go in. We get another stop, turn it over. Momentum starts swinging again, call the last timeout and we’re throwing caution to the wind,” he said.
“And then, yeah. It went from a two-point game to a 30-point loss in the span of six and a half minutes.”
The Taipans will host Melbourne United on Friday for their final game of the 2023-24 NBL season.