PERTH Wildcats mentor Trevor Gleeson became the first Warrnambool export to coach a team to an NBL championship yesterday.
It was a fairytale finish for the former Warrnambool Mermaids mentor in his first season in charge.
The Wildcats — playing in their 28th consecutive finals series — crushed Adelaide 36ers in the grand final series’ deciding game.
Perth had its sixth championship in its keeping at three-quarter-time and went on to record a massive 93-59 win in front of 13,000 fans at Perth Arena.
The grand final series went to a third game after the Wildcats produced a 92-85 game-one win and the 36ers responded with a 89-84 game-two victory.
Gleeson joined the Wildcats on a three-year contract at the start of the 2013-14 season.
The former Townsville Crocs and Melbourne Tigers coach spent a season out of the game after he was dumped as Tigers coach in 2012.
He spent time at AFL clubs North Melbourne and Hawthorn before the Wildcats lured him west after back-to-back runner-up finishes.
Gleeson said he wanted to reward the Wildcats for the chance they gave him.
“It probably hasn’t sunk in yet, but I’m so proud of the guys. It was game three of the grand final with everything on the line and the cream rises to the top, which we certainly did,” Gleeson said.
“I haven’t felt the pressure to win the title, but just the history of the club makes me want to work harder and I wanted to be successful because the organisation gives you the chance to do that.”
Perth blew Adelaide apart in the deciding game after a tight first term.
Power forward Shawn Redhage was influential in the first quarter, defensively and offensively, as the Wildcats took an 18-15 advantage into the first change.
The former captain set the tone, playing a role with important deflections.
Jesse Wagstaff hit an early three as the Wildcats made their intentions known in the second.
Perth dominated and it had built a 12-point buffer when Jermaine Beal dropped a trey with less than five minutes to play.
Adelaide went four minutes without scoring as Perth dominated its defensive key.
Gleeson called a time-out with five seconds to play and Matty Knight drained a two-pointer to give the Wildcats a 47-29 lead at the half. The Wildcats pushed ahead in the third quarter and were 24 points up at the final change.
Greg Hire's influence on the game was evident, particularly with his offensive rebounds.
He dragged in a big board and dished out to Beal with over four minutes to play.
Beal made no mistake from long range, putting a dagger into Adelaide's hopes to put them 62-39 up with a timeout called and from there Perth rolled away to a 70-49 lead heading into the season's final term.
In a report on the NBL website, Gleeson praised his team’s strong defensive mindset. “The guys defensively got on a roll,” he said.
“We got on top of them and built the pressure and we did that again in the third.
“The guys stepped up and really executed the game plan and I am so happy for them.”