Perth Wildcats coach John Rillie believes his team’s shock 18-point loss to last-placed Illawarra has highlighted the importance of point-guard Tai Webster after he missed the game with illness. The Wildcats entered the match in red hot form after winning six games in a row, but were blown away in the first quarter as Illawarra piled on 38 points. While Perth fought back repeatedly, Illawarra always steadied and pulled clear again to win 100-82 at the WIN Entertainment Centre. The Hawks did a superb job of quelling Bryce Cotton’s impact, keeping him to only seven points. Rillie said being without Webster robbed the team of vital energy. “People now understand his value for our team,” Rillie told The West Australian. “It’s a shame it has to be highlighted in a game like that. You can see he is a very, very valuable piece to our team and our success. It’s his defensive presence and his physicality. His energy is infectious and the pace that he creates with us on offence is great with the combination of him and Bryce.” Rillie elected to start Kyle Zunic as the point-guard despite barely using him all season. He said that move was designed to avoid disrupting other players’ normal roles. Illawarra have looked like a different team since Justin Tatum took over as coach and have now won two of their three games under his leadership. Sam Froling scored 21 points and Gary Clark had 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The Hawks did a superb job of pressuring Cotton. He only made one of his nine field goal attempts despite scoring 41 points last week. Cotton was heavily guarded, finished with seven points, seven assists and four rebounds. “It’s not going to be brilliance every night,” Rillie said. “Although he wants to be brilliant every night, it’s tough when teams strategize. He still had a productive game with what he did for us. We had opportunities in that game to put heat on them scoreboard wise but couldn’t do that. “In the last six games, we have made big shots in the right moments. Tonight they did that and not us.” Jordan Usher stepped up to top score for Perth with 17 points while Alex Sarr and Jesse Wagstaff produced 13 points each. Kristian Doolittle scored 11 points and Keanu Pinder finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Rillie said the Hawks deserved their win. “They’re playing with energy,” he said. “That was the first time they were going to play a home game under Tatum. We knew they would come out with a nice energy. We got it full force.” The Wildcats will now return home to face Tasmania JackJumpers on December 15.