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Cairns Taipans surge past Perth Wildcats into NBL semi-finals

A game-high 32 points from DJ Hogg has helped Cairns overcome Perth in their NBL play-In match.

A game-high 32 points from DJ Hogg has helped Cairns overcome Perth in their NBL play-In match. Photo: AAP

Cairns Taipans coach Adam Forde had an overwhelming feeling of “relief” after his side booked a semi-finals series with reigning NBL champions Sydney following a 91-78 do-or-die victory over Perth.

Forde’s Taipans rallied after losing their seeding qualifier to Tasmania at home on Thursday to hold off a Wildcats outfit hunting for their second elimination scalp in three days.

It took a monster season-high 32 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and plus 32 performance by DJ Hogg, in a game the hosts were without their second and third leading scoring options in Keanu Pinder and Tahjere McCall.

Pinder remains sidelined due to an orbital fracture while McCall missed Sunday’s contest due a partial shoulder dislocation suffered in their seeding qualifier loss to Tasmania.

“A sense of relief is probably the main thing,” Forde said after their 13-point win.

“We’ve had some injuries, we’ve got more injuries. So for them to play the way they did today, earn themselves another week of games and practice … I’m ecstatic for them.”

With the weight of far north Queensland on his shoulders, Hogg got going early in their offensive sets and found a rhythm he wouldn’t lose as the Taipans stifled a late surge for a shot at the NBL finals starting on Wednesday.

Cairns had a clear game plan for MVP runner-up and Wildcats star Bryce Cotton, who finished with just 19 points on 41 per cent shooting, running the electric guard off the three-point line and forcing him into facilitating.

“You could see they wanted to get the ball out of his hand but he made great plays,” Wildcats coach John Rillie said.

“The way we play, the way we’ve been successful is you trust your teammates and that’s what he did.

“We just weren’t good enough. We didn’t shoot a good percentage tonight.”

Cotton had nine points at quarter time but only two more in the first half as Hogg torched the Wildcats all over the court.

Cairns led 25-19 through 10 minutes on 50 per cent shooting from the field and their splits would improve in the second term when Hogg and Shannon Scott hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Cairns their first double-digit lead of the game.

Perth fought hard to narrow the margin to seven early in the third quarter before Cairns went on another run and led by 16 as the result looked to be getting away from the visitors.

The Wildcats’ eight-to-zip run silenced a raucous crowd who could feel a semi-final berth at their fingertips and the pandemonium continued when Hogg blocked Cotton to end the third and have 28 points through 30 minutes of action.

Ultimately, the deficit was too large to overcome for Perth as the Taipans’ impressive 51 per cent shooting saw them through the final term with Bul Kuol (23 points) clutch down the stretch.

-AAP

Topics: NBL
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