The Wildcats are dirty on themselves, and they’ll be aiming to take out their frustrations on Illawarra in Friday night’s NBL semi-final decider at Perth Arena.
With the series locked at 1-1, the winner of Friday’s blockbuster will take on New Zealand Breakers in the best-of-three grand final series, starting on March 2.
The Wildcats are still licking their wounds following their 104-87 loss to the Hawks last Sunday in Wollongong.
Illawarra posted the heavy win despite being without their best player – MVP winner Kevin Lisch.
Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson was filthy with his team’s performance and he said the players now had a chip on their shoulder.
“We were dirty on ourselves for that game,” Gleeson said.
“We didn’t play Wildcats basketball and it showed.
“We got beaten by a team playing harder than us, and that should never happen.
“The guys are dirty on it, they’re still restless about it and we’re ready to go on Friday night.”
The Wildcats are the best defensive team in the league.
But that reputation was blown out of the water on Sunday when Illawarra crashed through the 100-point barrier.
Gleeson said the performance hurt the pride of his player group and they were hungry to atone.
“We pride ourselves on our toughness and our relentlessness, and that went missing on Sunday,” Gleeson said.
“It was pretty poor – 104 points. That’s not Wildcats basketball.
“We got away from supporting each other, having each other’s backs, and that showed on the scoreboard.”
Lisch was initially ruled out for the remainder of the series after suffering a serious ankle injury early in game one.
But the 29-year-old American has vowed to take to the court on Friday in a bid to help the Hawks win their way through to the grand final.
“I’ll be surprised and shocked if he doesn’t play – he’s a warrior,” Gleeson said.
Wildcats centre Nate Jawai will also play through the pain after being troubled by a recent back injury.
Wollongong enter the match having lost their past 23 matches in Perth – the NBL’s longest losing streak in one city.
LONGEST ROAD LOSING STREAKS IN THE NBL:
* 23 – Illawarra at Perth (current)
* 16 – Illawarra at Perth (1987-2000)
* 16 – Cairns at Melbourne Tigers (1999-2009)
* 15 – Canberra at Perth (1991-2003)
* 15 – Illawarra at Adelaide (1991-2001)
PERTH WILDCATS VS ILLAWARRA HAWKS HEAD-TO-HEAD:
* Overall: Wildcats 73, Hawks 34
* In Perth: Wildcats 48, Hawks 6
* In Wollongong: Hawks 28, Wildcats 25
* Rd 3 – Wildcats 106 bt Hawks 99 in Wollongong
* Rd 4 – Wildcats 91 bt Hawks 62 in Perth
* Rd 6 – Wildcats 99 bt Hawks 96 in Wollongong
* Rd 16 – Wildcats 95 bt Hawks 72 in Perth
* SF 1 – Wildcats 80 bt Hawks 68 in Perth
* SF 2 – Hawks 104 bt Wildcats 87 in Wollongong