The rise of the Red Dust Heelers continued in Round 5 as they swept their three-game series against the Perth Wheelcats, jeopardising Perth’s hopes of reaching the playoffs in 2018.
The finals are now within reach for the Heelers who claimed two victories at home on Friday and Saturday night before winning their third game for the weekend on the road.
In the first contest, Red Dust owned an eight-point lead at half-time but their restrictive defence held the visitors to just 17 second-half points as they claimed an 84-58 victory.
Brad Ness came close to a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds and ten assists while Josh Turek achieved the feat with 33 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists and two steals as they combined for 25 field goals compared to Perth’s total of 23.
Jannik Blair (12 points, three assists, two steals) was also influential and Rob Pike added four points and three boards off the bench to help counter the efforts of Kim Robins (21 points), Shaun Noriss (15 points, seven rebounds, 11 assists) and Thomas McHugh (13 points).
The following night, Red Dust again led at half-time by 11 points but a concerted effort from the Wheelcats saw them cut the deficit to five points at the last change.
The margin pushed back out to double-digits when Ness connected with four minutes to go but Perth would not go down without a fight, going on a 14-4 run, thanks mainly to McHugh.
That made it a 90-88 game inside the last minute but they could not score on their next possession which forced them into the foul game while time also got the better of them in the end as Turek (30 points, seven rebounds, ten assists) secured a three-point victory from the free-throw line.
Only four Heelers players hit the scoreboard but Blair shot 7-8 from the field for his 14 points and Jake Kavanagh stepped up with 13 points while Ness was at his best, collecting 34 points, 13 boards and ten assists for a triple-double.
He was able to answer a monster game from Norris, who also recorded a triple-double of 26 points, 11 boards and an astounding 19 assists.
Perth received great performances from McHugh (28 points, two steals) and Robins (23 points, seven assists, three steals) too while Dewberry (five points, four assists) and Kayl Jeffery (two points, two assists) played some big minutes in the narrow defeat.
Buoyed by that effort and returning home for the third meeting, the Wheelcats still not could match Red Dust’s intensity early as they fell behind by double-digits in the first term.
They clawed their way back though to momentarily take the lead in the second period and then owned a five-point lead with five minutes to go as Blair, who suffered a knock to the head after a heady fall, left the game.
The Heelers resolved themselves though as Ness and Turek kept them in the contest while Tony Wade (ten points) and Angus Johnston also knocked down important shots.
That helped to put Red Dust back in front by two points but McHugh responded with a three-point play and when Turek managed to hit just one free-throw after being fouled, the game was tied with 30 seconds remaining.
However, Turek quickly atoned with a steal and the Heelers pushed the ball up the floor, with Ness reeling in an offensive rebound and scoring the put-back on the siren to give Red Dust an 81-79 victory and a sweep of Round 5.
Once again, Norris (27 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists), Robins (23 points, five assists) and McHugh (19 points, eight boards) did all they could for Perth but they could not keep the duo of Ness (20 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists) and Turek (36 points, ten boards, nine assists) quiet.
Next weekend sees another mini-round for the NWBL with the Queensland Spinning Bullets hosting the Adelaide Thunder in a three-game series from June 1-3.