As the NBL's heritage round continued, the Melbourne Tigers held on in a thriller 77-74 against the Sydney Kings at the Crown Kingdome while at the Perth Arena, the Wildcats put on another clinic at home in front of 11,808 people thrashing the Cairns Taipans 86-64.
The round began in New Zealand on Thursday with the league-leading Breakers improving to a 14-3 record with a thrilling 72-71 win over the wounded Wollongong Hawks, who have lost starting guards Rhys Martin and Lance Hurdle for the season to serious knee injuries.
The Wildcats on Friday night then maintained pace with the Breakers to remain solid in second position with a 12-4 record following a comfortable 22-point win over the Taipans.
Even more impressive for Perth was the fact that star forward Jesse Wagstaff didn’t play and point guard Rhys Carter is yet to arrive since signing as the replacement for the retired Brad Robbins.
Perhaps the story of the game for both teams was the way star big men Shawn Redhage and Cam Tragardh were able to perform.
Wildcats co-captain Redhage might be in the twilight of his career, but showed just what can happen when a team puts their trust in a star player to step up.
As a result, Redhage hit a season-high 26 points to go with seven rebounds on the back of 9-of-14 shooting from the field, and 2-of-4 from three-point territory.
Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge is now in his fourth season coaching Redhage, a six-time club MVP and championship-winning captain, and has no doubt his performance on Friday was one of his best.
"To me that was one of the better performances I've seen from Shawn. We've been together a fair while now and just his leadership, the way he played with poise and control, and was our go to guy," Beveridge said.
"He had a lot more responsibility helping as a big because we can't play Matt (Knight) for too many minutes too soon and we had no Jesse. I thought Shawn was outstanding tonight and it was one of the best games I've seen from a leadership perspective and on court."
In direct contrast, despite being a proven match-winner and top-scorer from his time with the Wollongong Hawks and Melbourne Tigers, Taipans big man Tragardh was barely sighted or hardly ever given the ball as the Snakes slumped to a 5-11 record on the season.
Tragardh took just five shots for the entire game for Cairns as he finished with seven points and seven rebounds. If he was given the amount of opportunities that Redhage was for Perth, then without doubt the score could have been closer and his coach Aaron Fearne agrees.
"We are not getting him the ball enough and he's not taking enough shots," Fearne said.
"He only took five shots tonight and he needs to be taking 15 shots a game for us, and that allows him to get a rhythm as a scorer and that's what he is. We're not using him and that's the next step for us is to get that going for him. That will help us go up a notch."
Meanwhile at the Kingdome, the Tigers continued to put pressure on third-placed Sydney (10-9) and Wollongong (8-8) by winning a thriller against the Kings by three points.
It was a tight affair all game in the capital city battle, but Melbourne had just enough down the finish led by former NBA star Flynn and Chris Goulding.
Flynn, a former No. 6 NBA draft pick and starting point guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves, put up 27 points for the Tigers to go with seven rebounds and five assists.
Goulding hit a three with under a minute remaining that ultimately iced the win for Melbourne as he finished with 18 points and five boards. They were the only two Tigers players in double-figures.
Goulding and his Tigers teammates were relieved to hold on afterwards.
"We've had a tough stretch early on this season, so now we just have to focus on winning games no matter who against or where it is," Goulding said.
"It's great to come in here and get our second road win for the season. It's a great relief to come out with the win. We've won a couple of close games now and it's a momentum, and confidence, thing. Coach keeps drawing up the right plays and it's just about knocking shots down and defending."
Sydney centre Ian Crosswhite had a career night finishing with 27 points and 13 rebounds with Corin Henry adding 11 points and Darnell Lazare 10.
The heritage round for the NBL continues on Saturday when the Townsville Crocodiles host the Wollongong Hawks with the Adelaide 36ers taking on the New Zealand Breakers on Sunday.