Star import James Ennis got the last laugh over fellow American Sam Young as the Perth Wildcats bounced back to form with a comprehensive 98-55 win over Sydney at Perth Arena today.
The fans wanted a show when the two highest-profile imports in the NBL went head-to-head for the first time and that’s exactly what they got.
Former NBA swingman Young showed glimpses of class in his debut for the Kings, but Miami Heat prospect Ennis stood out as the Wildcats built a match-winning lead by half-time.
The flashpoint of a spiteful contest came during the third quarter when Young was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Ennis, who was dragged down as he wound up for a big dunk in transition.
On a day when the Wildcats honoured club legend James Crawford for his induction into the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame, their latest hero finished with a game-high 18 points.
Ennis displayed plenty of emotion throughout the game and responded to everything the Kings threw at him.
Matt Knight (16 points), Shawn Redhage (14) and Jermaine Beal (14) all chipped in as the Wildcats registered their biggest winning margin since the league changed to 10-minute quarters in 2009.
The Wildcats’ four-quarter performance was the perfect way to respond after their first defeat of the season in Adelaide last Friday.
“The guys really bounced back strong and played team basketball,” Gleeson said.
“I think 29 assists is a season-high for us and 39 made baskets, so I was pleased with that.
Within earshot of Ennis in the first period, Sydney coach Shane Heal urged Young to go at the Wildcat after he had racked up two quick fouls.
But Ennis immediately responded with a spectacular two-handed dunk in the open court and finished with seven first-quarter points.
The Wildcats dominated the second period and blew the lead out to 18 points as successive dunks from Damian Martin and Redhage signaled party time in the Arena.
Sydney had no answer in the second half as the Wildcats cruised to a comfortable win in a physical encounter.
“Last time we played here we were equal with 4:37 to go, so we’ve been real competitive with them (but) tonight was disappointing.
“They out-rebounded us by 20 and every effort level indicator you could go through, we got beaten on.
“I thought the mindset was terrible tonight. That’s not us, we haven’t played like that at any stage this year.”
Sydney have not beaten the Wildcats in 13 games since being readmitted to the NBL in 2010.