Filipino center Kai Sotto did not play in the Adelaide 36ers' first game of 2022, an 87-74 upset of the league-leading Perth Wildcats at the Adelaide Entertainment Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The 36ers were playing in the National Basketball League (NBL) for the first time since a 93-67 loss to the Cairns Taipans on December 18, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of their next games.
Against a Perth team that had a 5-1 record entering the game, Adelaide immediately set the tone with a blistering first quarter that saw them take a 29-13 lead.
The Wildcats clawed their way back in the third frame and trimmed the deficit to single digits, 67-58, entering the final period.
But the 36ers won't be denied. They scored eight unanswered points to open the fourth quarter, with a Daniel Johnson layup pushing the lead to 17, 75-58, with seven minutes to play. Though the Wildcats got within eight points late, Cameron Bairstow nailed back-to-back buckets that kept the visitors at bay.
Johnson led the 36ers with 21 points, while Bairstow had a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Sunday Dech made his season debut and tallied 10 points and three boards in 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, Sotto sat out the game, after having made his debut against Cairns last year.
Victor Law led the Wildcats with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Adelaide improved to 3-3, while Perth dropped to 5-3. The 36ers return to action on Saturday, January 22, against Melbourne United (6-2).