Brisbane Bullets boss Andrej Lemanis has wept during the post-game media conference while describing the impact of Mika Vukona's absence from his side's 84-79 NBL semi-finals loss to Perth.
The Bullets' season is over after the defeat, their prospects damaged by the unavailability of the veteran Kiwi forward on home court.
"It was a devastating conversation with him," Lemanis said.
"He's got a partial tear in his Achilles and he didn't want me to tell anybody, and he was prepared to risk his career, play on it and hope that it didn't snap.
"That's what it meant for him and I wasn't prepared to let him do that."
Vukona has battled the injury for most of the season but Lemanis said he was threatened with a sanction from Basketball New Zealand when the Bullets wanted him rested from the recent World Cup qualifying window.
For the Wildcats, classy duo Terrico White and Bryce Cotton delivered a masterful performance - scoring 24 and 19 points respectively - to lead them to a seventh NBL grand final in 10 seasons.
The Perth guards were a class above their Brisbane opponents in the win, which gave them an unassailable lead in their best-of-three semi-final series.
Cotton also managed 10 assists, with the game firmly in his control.
Perth captain Damian Martin lauded the character of the team after its recovery from a mid-season slump to qualify for the decider, where they'll take on either Melbourne United or Sydney Kings.
"It's the buy-in, the belief, and that was tested this year," Martin said.
"People were worried about their jobs but as soon as Trevor called us in and said this is the group we're going with ... here we are preparing for a grand final."
White, Cotton and Martin all hit three-pointers to hand the Wildcats an early lead, while the Bullets struggled to drain their attempts.
Despite their offensive troubles, the Brisbanites remained in the contest deep into a lively third quarter when they trailed by one point.
But Perth crushed the Brisbane fightback when Cotton and Nick Kay hit decisive triples early in the final quarter.
Australian Associated Press