It’s no surprise that Hawks guard Mitch Norton’s memory hasn’t faded when he thinks about Wildcats star Bryce Cotton’s performance in their grand final series last season.
Norton had a front row seat as Cotton put in arguably the best display in a decider in NBL history.
The Cats’ American guard finished with a massive 45-point haul in game three to propel Perth to a 3-0 series sweep over the Hawks at Perth Arena.
It’s not an occasion Norton reflects on fondly.
But the Hawks vice captain learned some valuable lessons from the experience as Illawarra prepare for a rematch with the championship winners this Friday night.
“It took me a while to watch that game again but once I did I could see where he was getting his looks,” Norton said.
“It was pretty much anywhere over half court. He is definitely a guy who can catch fire so you don’t want to give him anything easy or putting up the foul line.
“It is all about contesting and containing. It will definitely be a team job though because he is one tough cover.”
Friday’s showdown will be the first time Illawarra face-off against Perth since their grand final defeat after the two clubs avoided meeting in the pre-season.
Norton admitted the Hawks desired revenge for the defeat, but said it wouldn’t be the focus in their round two encounter.
“It’s always in the back of your mind when you are sitting there and seeing them hold that trophy up but it is early days and we want to take care of what we can do,” he said.
“Right now that is looking in our own backyard and controlling what we can control.
“The effort and energy was a lot better at training. We just have to keep working.”
Perth started the new season where they left off at the end of the last campaign in round one. The Wildcats were always in control as they took down the Brisbane Bullets 96-86 on their home floor.
“They looked pretty good,” Norton said.
“They always get good imports and they are super athletic so it will be a good match up between ours and theirs.
“I think Bryce Cotton is the head of the snake so if you can control him it will go a long way. But they have got a lot of other guys that can contribute too.”
Illawarra weren’t as polished in round one as they gave up a three quarter time lead to fall to an 88-87 defeat against Cairns Taipans.
Hawks coach Rob Beveridge was furious with his troops after the display and is looking for an immediate response against the Cats.
“We need all eleven guys to buy in every night,” Norton said.
‘Bevo kind of had a crack at a few players and they really responded.
“I think if we can do that and keep getting better each day [we will bounce back].
“We have 11 solid players so if we can go balls to the wall for all the time we are out there, whether that is two minutes or 10 minutes, then the other stuff will take care of itself.”