THE Geraldton Buccaneers are looking forward to a week at home before the SBL playoffs and despite three road trips in the last month and losing five of their past six games, coach Ray Evans feels they are ready to make their mark.
For much of the 2017 season the Buccs have looked on track for at least a top two finish but that now is unlikely with third spot likely theirs with the final regular season game to go this Saturday night at Active West Stadium against the Perry Lakes Hawks.
The Buccaneers have slipped to an 18-7 record having suffered road losses to the Willetton Tigers, Perth Redbacks, Joondalup City Wolves and Cockburn Cougars, and at home to the Mandurah Magic in recent weeks.
The only win along the way was last Saturday night against the Stirling Senators at Warwick Stadium.
But with a team led by imports Dwayne Benjamin and Mo Barrow, the back court of Jackson Hussey and Matt Hancock, veterans Mat Wundenberg and Aaron Ralph with young gun Alex Ducas expected back for the playoffs, they have the talent still to succeed.
Despite the wins having not been there now leading into the post-season, the Buccs’ squad is in good shape and their form actually isn’t as bad as the record of late looks.
Only the game against the Cougars was a blow out and in particular the road losses to fellow top six teams in Willetton, Perth and Joondalup were all decided in the final seconds so could have gone either way.
Last Sunday was disappointing with Geraldton conceding 116 points to lose to an on-fire and hot-shooting Cockburn team by 20 points.
While it was far from ideal, it was the Buccs’ sixth road game in the past four weeks and while it’s no excuse, coach Ray Evans admits that even he was a little tired from that so he can only imagine the effect it had on the players.
“I’m a bit tired just from coming up three of the last four weeks so I’m sure they are looking forward to a week at home,” Evans said.
“It probably takes a little bit out of them but that’s not an excuse and the guys will never use that. We lost momentum on Sunday in the second quarter against Cockburn not because we had three road trips in the last four weeks, but because we were a little bit undisciplined.”
While it’s never fun to lose, Evans wasn’t too disappointed with the games against the Tigers, Redbacks and Wolves considering one call or one roll of the ball in each of those contests could have changed the result meaning they could have still claimed the minor premiership.
The home loss to Mandurah and then last Sunday to Cockburn was a bit more disappointing, but overall Evans feels they aren’t playing too badly heading into the final round against a desperate Perry Lakes and then the playoffs.
“The losses we had weren’t by much and we’d actually still been playing pretty good, and the teams that beat us just played a little better,” he said.
“Stirling is a good team and we let them shoot the ball too well in the first half and they got off to a good lead, but we fought our way back into it and whether that took a lot of energy out of the guys for Sunday I’m not sure. All we can do now is go back and prepare for the Hawks.”
The best thing about last weekend regardless of the results for the Buccaneers was the fact that the opponents in Perth just happened to be Stirling and Cockburn.
One of those two teams now look to be who they will be facing in the quarter finals so Evans was glad to see them close up so near that playoff meeting. But he’s also more than aware that it means they got to prepare to face the Buccs too.
“It was good preparation but perfect for those teams to play against us as well so it doesn’t necessarily give us any sort of advantage,” Evans said.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this league and again we found that out this weekend, but the only good thing is that we have home court advantage for the quarter finals.
“I’m not saying that’s going to win us the games because we need to play a lot better, but that’s a positive and we can’t drop out of third position so we have the chance to go back next week, work on some things that we need to and hopefully get that little bit better and sustain our effort for a little bit longer.”
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)