Perth Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge hailed the fighting spirit of his undersized team after their 89-64 triumph over defending NBL champions New Zealand at Perth Arena on Thursday night.
The Wildcats entered the match with heavy question marks hanging over their title aspirations following three straight losses.
But the five-times NBL champions were at their tenacious best against the Breakers, dominating the rebounds 41-23 on the way to their first ever victory at the AUS$550 million ($700 million) Perth Arena in front of 11,086 adoring fans.
Although the Wildcats possess one of the shortest rosters in the competition, what they lack in height they make up for in heart.
Guard Damian Martin, who stands at just 188cm, and 190cm American Kevin Lisch combined for 11 rebounds against the Breakers, but it was the Wildcats' willingness to scrap for loose balls on the ground that stood out.
"People keep saying that we are too small to win a championship," Beveridge said.
"But when you've got people with massive hearts, it changes things."
"The way they get on the loose ball. The amount of blood on their knees and elbows ... they put their bodies on the line for each other, and that's pretty special."
Forward Shawn Redhage returned to form with 20 points, while Lisch drained 18 in an all-around disciplined Wildcats effort.
Beveridge said it was special for the Wildcats to win for the first time at their new home venue, especially after last week's disappointing 69-65 loss to Adelaide there.
"To lose that first game was one of the most heart-wrenching things I've ever been involved in. But now we can walk away really, really proud," Beveridge said.
The fourth-placed Wildcats (4-3) will be hot favourites to make it two wins on the trot when they hit t
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