The 36ers have ended United's eight game winning streak (Photo: NBL)

Mitch McCarron led from the front in the Adelaide 36ers grand return to the court, showing off a much more physical performance than their Perth opponents.

A dominant first quarter Adelaide 36ers set them up for a big win in their grand return to the court on Tuesday night.

They led the Wildcats at the first break by 16 points, coming into this game 31 days apart from their last hit out while the Wildcats were struck down with COVID the week prior. 13 out of 15 rostered players were reported to be affected by the virus. 

This did more than just show an ugly face for the Wildcats. Just like in the South-East Melbourne Phoenix vs Brisbane Bullets game earlier this round, the Wildcats slumped in the first quarter as they struggled to catch up in the quarters following. 

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Money-making Mitch McCarron

Mitch McCarron starred in this game as he finished two assists away from a career first triple-double. The United championship winner finished with 10 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in his 34 minutes played. 

It wasn’t just in the box score which he shone. He played hardnosed defence all night, guarding the three-time MVP, Bryce Cotton, and former Boomer Mitch Norton. 

He showed in this game that he can be a team leader even though this is his first season in South Australia. 

As it happened

Adelaide started strong with a tough three-pointer by McCarron to open his account, which was soon followed by a nice Dusty Hannahs lay-up.

The stretch big combo of Daniel Johnson and Cam Bairstow gave the Wildcats nothing as they drained shot after shot on the defenceless cats.

Sunday Dech in his return game for the 36ers made a huge impact while being on restricted minutes as he got to work from beyond the arc and on the defensive end. He helped keep Bryce Cotton to only 12 points.

But there was some light in the Wildcats tunnel as Michael Frazier II hit a buzzer beating three to give Perth hope heading into the first quarter break.

The second quarter was much like the first with Adelaide only adding to its lead. The 36ers ended the first half up by 21 (55-34) with Johnson and Bairstow only adding to their tallies. 

However, Matt Hodgson started to show something in red, with a reverse dunk to start a mini run before the main break.

McCarron went into the half on ‘triple double watch’ with six points, eight rebounds and five assists. And his impact on the game would only continue. 

The Wildcats gave it their all in the third as the lead was cut to nine points going into the final quarter. 

This was because of the amazing play between Jesse Wagstaff and Kevin White. Wagstaff’s behind the back pass to a wide open White in the corner to beat the buzzer put the Wildcats within an arm’s reach.

However, Perth lacked the stamina to continue the run as Adelaide finished the game 87-74 victors.

Other key performances

For Adelaide, Cam Bairstow showed his NBA experience and class. Jumping off the bench and into the starting line-up because of Isaac Humphries’ minutes restriction, Bairstow put up a double-double to remember. He finished the night with 19 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Daniel Johnson also had a fantastic showing, putting up 21 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes for Adelaide.

Meanwhile for Perth, Vic Law was a shining light. His scrappy 16 point and 14 rebound performance kept Perth in the game when the side had no right to.

On the mic

Post-game, Wildcats coach Scott Morrison touched on the deficiencies shown by his side in the first quarter.

“We said all week that we weren’t going to make excuses off the court,” the coach responded.

“Everybody’s been through some stuff… everyone’s had a bit layoff. COVID didn’t get any offensive rebounds for them or miss any block outs for us. I think that’s on us, and we have to live with the consequences and try and learn from it.”

When asked about his reaction to the physicality that Adelaide were using in the first half, he stated that “I’ve got to be better than that”.

“There are two types of people in competition when things get rough. Those that are being rough and those that are complaining about it. I was on the latter.

“That’s not the example that I want to set to my team… there was no miss call or anything that cost us a 28-point deficient, and instead of focusing on that I should have been worried about how I can help the team get back in the game.” 

On the other side, 36ers coach CJ Bruton was asked about how happy he was with the team’s response to the Wildcats third quarter charge.

“I believe in our group, it’s a game of runs and how you manage that is key, if you’re able to stop it and run a few things,” he said.

“There was a pause button for a second and we had to find a way to hit it. We found a way and that was a good thing and teams that continue to compete and give that effort definitely shows.”

Both teams return to action on Saturday, January 22. The 36ers hosting Melbourne United, while the Wildcats travel to Wollongong to play the Illawarra Hawks.

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