National News

Cats primed for NBL pressure cooker final

Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson is confident his team will thrive under the grand final pressure as the club attempts to land a record eighth NBL title.

The Wildcats will start as warm favourites to beat Illawarra in game one of the best-of-five grand final series at Perth Arena on Sunday.

Perth's journey to the grand final has been a remarkable one.

The club was languishing in last spot in December following a horror injury run.

And they appeared to be in turmoil when they sacked import Jaron Johnson for a second time just before Christmas.

But the arrival of former NBA guard Bryce Cotton and the return of skipper Damian Martin from injury helped catapult the club into a 31st straight playoff campaign.

The Wildcats only achieved that feat by the skin of their teeth, beating Melbourne United by two points away from home in the final game of the regular season to scrape into third spot.

The seven-time champions then secured a spot in the grand final with an upset 2-0 semi-final sweep of second-placed Cairns.

"Pressure is a funny thing," Gleeson said.

"It breaks some teams. You've seen that in the finals already.

"But it also makes some teams play better.

"We're very fortunate we've been through the hot fire. We actually perform better when we are under pressure."

The Hawks have also proven they can lift when it counts.

Down 1-0 in their semi-final series against ladder leaders Adelaide, the Hawks won the next two games to book their spot in the grand final.

However, the Hawks will enter game one undermanned after star import Marvelle Harris flew back to America to be with his critically ill father.

Centre AJ Ogilvy is also in doubt after twice injuring his ankle in Thursday night's 106-98 win over Adelaide.

The Wildcats are aiming to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 1990-91.

Hawks coach Rob Beveridge is well aware of the challenge that confronts his team after guiding the Wildcats to the 2010 championship - ironically against the club he now leads.

Gleeson said he was looking forward to going head-to-head with Beveridge, who is aiming to guide the Hawks to just their second NBL title.

"Knowing Bevo, he's a great coach, and he'll have something up his sleeve, and we'll be ready for it."

© AAP 2017

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