THE 2017 Men’s SBL season had given every indication that all eight teams that made the playoffs could end up going all the way and after the eighth, fifth, third and second placed team all won the Game 1 quarter finals on Saturday night that’s even more so the case.
All four Game 1 quarter-final contests took place on Saturday night and each of them were decided by 10 points or less and featured some outstanding basketball with little proving to be between all eight teams.
At least in terms of the seedings, the upset of the night took place at Willetton Basketball Stadium with the Perry Lakes Hawks, who ended up eighth at the end of the regular season, beat the minor premier Willetton Tigers 90-80.
The other lower ranked team to win on the road was the South West Slammers with the fifth ranked team heading to Belmont Oasis and coming away with the nail-biting 97-94 victory against the Perth Redbacks.
The second placed Joondalup City Wolves proved too strong at home beating the Cockburn Cougars 90-83 in a grand final rematch at Joondalup Basketball Stadium.
The Geraldton Buccaneers won on the road as well but now have two chances at home next weekend at home to advance to the semi finals after winning 89-80 at Warwick Stadium on Saturday night.
WEEK 1 MEN’S QUARTER FINALS SBL PREVIEW
EVANS’ COMMITMENT, PASSION FOR GERALDTON AS STRONG AS EVER
BLACK WOULD REVEL IN TIGERS’ SUCCESS MORE FOR WHAT IT MEANS TO OTHERS
EXCITING SLAMMERS REGAIN DEPTH AHEAD OF SBL FINALS
WOLFPACK ON TRACK TO FIRE WHEN IT COUNTS
REDBACKS’ POWERFUL FRONT COURT PAYING BACK LACKOVIC’S FAITH
It was a monster night on Saturday with all four quarter-final series getting under and Joondalup Basketball Stadium played host to a grand final rematch between the Wolves and Cougars.
It was the Wolfpack with home court advantage having finished the season second while in defence of their championship, the Cougars ended the regular season in seventh spot.
Coming off playing in the last two grand finals, the Wolves made a winning start to this year’s playoffs ending up beating the Cougars by seven points. The home side never trailed throughout the game and led by as much as 14 points before going on to win by seven.
Game 2 will take place on Friday night at Wally Hagan Stadium and if Cockburn wins, Game 3 will decide the series back at Joondalup on Saturday.
Trian Iliadis proved the major difference between the two teams. The Wolves outscored the Cougars by 12 points when he was on the floor and he ended up with 24 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals.
Ryan Wright had a good night inside too ending up with 19 points and four rebounds with Rob Huntington contributing 16 points, nine boards and three assists, Damian Matacz 10 points and four rebounds, and Ben Ironmonger eight points, 10 boards and three assists.
Jalen Billups did his best to try and inspire the Cougars to the win with 26 points, four assists and three rebounds.
Lochlan Cummings also had 14 points and four assists for Cockburn, Gavin Field 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, and Steven Van Lit 12 points.
Last year’s Grand Final MVP Rhett Della celebrated his 350th SBL appearance just two weeks after playing his 200th game for Cockburn. He had 12 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
It was first against eighth at Willetton Basketball Stadium but despite winning the minor premiership, the Tigers were well aware the Hawks were going to be no pushovers coached by last year’s championship winner Matt Parsons and with a strong, talented, experienced squad.
It set the stage for what should be a fascinating quarter-final series and perhaps even more after Game 1 with the Hawks hitting the road and coming away with the 10-point victory against the more fancied Tigers.
The Hawks put together a tremendous performance even without Matthew Adekponya. They opened up a lead by as much as 18 points and went on to record the impressive 10-point victory.
Big man Brian Carlwell was a man possessed for Perry Lakes finishing with 27 points and 15 rebounds on shooting 12-of-17 from the floor, making his only three-point attempt and his two free throws.
Ryan Smith stepped up in Adekponya’s absence for 20 points including 3-of-5 from downtown while Ben Purser contributed 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Rob Waters added 11 points for the Hawks too and Rob Cassir seven points and three assists.
It wasn’t the start to the quarter finals at home the Tigers were after despite 30 points from Jay Bowie who shot 13-of-20 from the field and 4-of-6 from deep.
Ray Turner finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks for Willetton, Damien Scott 1 points and six rebounds, and Kyle Armour six assists. Andrew Black also had four points, eight assists and four rebounds.
The battle of fourth against fifth between the Redbacks and Slammers always shaped as being the most exciting of the quarter-final contests and that was certainly the case with Game 1 at Belmont Oasis on Saturday night.
It was a game of momentum and both teams had their chances to go on runs during the first half.
The Redbacks scored the game’s first four points and led by as much as seven during the first quarter but Perth steadied in the second term and with the last five points before half-time the visitors led 46-43 at the break.
The Redbacks turned things back around in the third quarter and started on fire after the break with the opening 11 points. They ended up leading by as much as 13 points and still by 10 heading into the fourth quarter.
But all season long the Slammers have shown they are never out of games and that they are capable of stunning fight backs.
That belief was clearly there on Saturday night as they delivered a remarkable fourth quarter with 38 points to 25 to claim the three-point win on the back of massive shots and plays by the dynamic back court duo of Tre Nichols and Michael Lay.
Game 2 will now take place at Eaton Recreation Centre on Saturday night and if the Redbacks win, Game 3 back at Belmont Oasis on Sunday.
Nichols ended the night with 24 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the Slammers shooting 9-of-16 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Lay also had 24 points, three assists and two steals.
Brian Voelkel matched up with Shawn Redhage and got the better of the battle with 17 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists and three steals while also able to stay out of foul trouble.
Clive Weeden battled well inside for the Slammers ending up with 12 points and four rebounds with Travis Durnin contributing eight points and two steals, Chris Douglas five points and four rebounds, and Teny Puot five points and four assists.
Lee Roberts had a strong night for the Redbacks with 31 points and 14 rebounds while shooting efficiently for 12-of-17 from the field.
Ben Smith celebrated his 250th SBL game with 20 points and five rebounds while nailing 6-of-12 from three-point range.
Michael Vigor also had 17 points, five rebounds and four assists for Perth and Redhage 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists despite shooting just 6-of-18 from the floor. Captain Joel Wagner finished with eight points and nine assists.
Stirling hosted Geraldton in Game 1 of their quarter-final series at Warwick Stadium despite being the lower ranked team.
The Senators had finished sixth and the Buccs third, but it was Stirling entering the finals in better form having won seven of its last nine games with Geraldton having won just two of its last seven.
The Senators started strongly leading early 15-8 and then big man Drew Naymick came on and had three big blocks in the space of two minutes to make his impact felt immediately.
That helped Stirling to lead by as much as eight points but Geraldton fought back well in the second quarter firstly going on an 8-0 run to tie scores up and keep the momentum going to lead 43-40 at the half.
The game was right up for grabs, though, and scores remained at a three-point Buccs lead heading into the fourth term.
But after a Rhys Vague field made the margin a point, the Buccs pulled away with layups to Dwayne Benjamin and Mo Barrow after strong, athletic drives to the hoop.
Barrow then made two at the line as well, knocked down a triple and then with Aaron Ralph delivering five quick points the Buccs opened a match-winning lead up by as much as 10 before winning by nine.
The Senators now need to win in Geraldton on Saturday night to force a decider also at Active West Stadium on Sunday.
Jackson Hussey was on fire for the Buccs revelling in his point guard match up with Corban Wroe. Hussey ended the game with 27 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals shooting 10-of-20 from the floor and 6-of-6 at the foul line.
Dwayne Benjamin didn’t let his dislocated thumb on his left hand bother him delivering 26 points, 10 rebounds and four assists while Mo Barrow added 16 points and nine boards, Aaron Ralph nine points and four rebounds, and Mat Wundenberg five points and nine boards.
Rhys Vague top-scored for the Senators with 19 points and eight rebounds with Cody Ellis contributing 16 points and six assists, Jayden Coburn 11 points and Corban Wroe 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Stirling’s bigs had a good impact especially defensively with Ash Litterick finishing with five points and 13 rebounds, and Drew Naymick eight points, six blocks, four rebounds and two assists.
Buccs guard Matt Hancock has enjoyed his experience in Geraldton and the SBL this season coming off his time in the NBL with Melbourne United.
He also liked his first taste of playoff basketball in the league and to come away with the crucial road win.
“To get the win on the road as everyone knows is a big win. The first one is always the tough one and with us having the unique situation where we play on the road first, it’s definitely good to get this one,” Hancock said.
“As far as my first taste of SBL finals wise, it was pretty strong and intense in there. Playing against Stirling who is a good team with NBL guys so it just felt like almost being back at the higher level and competing with the SEABL. I reckon it’s right up there as a top league in the country.
“Rhys had a good game, Corban was dishing out assists everywhere and they played a phenomenal game, and we just got runs at the right time and were lucky to come away with the win. We gelled at the right time and that was important for us.
“If Hussey gets hot you know he’s making some shots that you have no idea how they go in, but that’s what he does. And Dwayne is similar. His height and length make it hard for people to guard him and match him. Those guys getting hot make us tough and then you’ve got Ralphy spotting up for threes, myself and Mat Wundenberg chipping in here and there so that’s how it works for us.”
GAME 1 MEN’S SBL QUARTER FINAL FIXTURES
Joondalup City Wolves 90 defeated Cockburn Cougars 83
Willetton Tigers 80 lost to Perry Lakes Hawks 90
Perth Redbacks 94 lost to South West Slammers 97
Stirling Senators 80 lost to Geraldton Buccaneers 89
Photo by Mick Cronin