THE Perth Redbacks and Stirling Senators won on the road to force Game 3s in their respective Men’s SBL quarter-final series’ while home court paid off for the Joondalup City Wolves and Willetton Tigers in their deciders on Saturday night.
It was a huge night of quarter-final action in the Men’s SBL with the two Game 3s and then with the Senators and Redbacks on the road in Geraldton and Bunbury respectively trying to stay alive for another 14 hours at least.
The Game 3 match ups ended up seeing the Willetton Tigers win a second nail-biter against the Perry Lakes Hawks inside 24 hours, winning 90-87 at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
They now advance to the semi finals to play the winner out of the Perth Redbacks and South West Slammers.
Heartbreakingly for the Hawks, it was the third straight year they have pushed the top seed to three games in the quarter finals but just fallen short.
And in the grand final rematch series, the Joondalup City Wolves bounced back from Friday night’s 22-point loss to beat the Cockburn Cougars 86-65 at Joondalup Basketball Stadium.
The Wolfpack now await the winner of the Buccaneers and Senators series while the Cougars’ brave championship defence came to an end.
The Perth Redbacks were able to force a Game 3 as well against the South West Slammers coming away from Eaton Recreation Centre with a 107-99 victory.
While the Stirling Senators pulled off a terrific performance on the road beating the Geraldton Buccaneers 93-80 at Active West Stadium to force that series to a decider on Sunday too.
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Saturday night’s Game 3 action began at Joondalup Basketball Stadium with the Wolves having the challenge of bouncing back from losing on Friday night to the Cougars by 22 points in the absence of captain Seb Salinas.
But the Wolves had worked hard on making the necessary adjustments on Friday night, changed up their offence a little and more importantly defended the Cougars differently, and it paid off from the outset.
The Wolfpack got off to a flying start and piled on 34 first quarter points and remained in control the rest of the way. The Cougars did make a couple of runs to threaten a comeback especially when Jalen Billups caught fire during the third quarter.
However, the Wolves continued to have all the answers and pulled away down the stretch to win by 21 points and qualify for the semi finals as they attempt to qualify for a third successive Men’s SBL grand final.
Trian Iliadis played like a man possessed further establishing his big game reputation for the Wolfpack delivering 34 points and four assists on the back of shooting 12-of-26 from the field, 4-of-12 from long range and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line.
Ben Ironmonger ensured the Wolves dominated in the back court by putting up 21 points and six rebounds.
Ryan Wright finished with nine points and eight rebounds, Rob Huntington eight points, 12 boards and four blocked shots, Rhys Smyth six points, five rebounds and five assists, and Damian Matacz six points.
Rhett Della once again top-scored for the Cougars finishing the season in every bit as good form as he finished last year when he claimed the grand final MVP award. He had 22 points on Saturday night on 10-of-18 shooting.
Billups ended up with 20 points and 10 rebounds for Cockburn with Gavin Field adding 10 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and Lochlan Cummings eight points.
The Cougars regained point guard Seva Chan from an ankle injury but he had a night to forget with three points, two turnovers and shooting 1-of-7. Cockburn just couldn’t find any of its fluency it showed in a brilliant display at both ends of the floor on Friday.
Wolfpack coach Ben Ettridge was proud of the way his team bounced back from Friday night’s big loss to win on Saturday and overcome the Cougars even without their captain.
“After Friday night, we understood that was a pretty emotional game for them with Rhett’s 350th and Gav’s 200th being celebrated and we probably didn’t manage those emotions too well. We knew that wouldn’t be there this game but they were phenomenal with the way they shot the ball,” Ettridge said.
“We just had to take away those open looks which I thought we were really good at, and that was our adjustments in our rotations. It’s a credit to the guys that they responded to changing a few things up and did that well.
“The credit goes to the coaching staff who have picked apart the second half of the season of Cockburn to work out our adjustments. We didn’t get to use them on Friday because they played so well but the adjustments we wanted to make for that game we actually brought into this game and we were ready for it.
“It’s a credit to Adam and Cockburn though. They are a great team and if they keep that core group together for a couple of years with him as coach most definitely they are a top four team.”
The other Game 3 took place at Willetton Basketball Stadium and it was yet another cracking contest between the Tigers and Hawks.
Perry Lakes had set up the fascinating series beating Willetton on its home floor last Saturday night. The Hawks were then in prime position to knock out the top seeds on Friday night before Ray Turner hit a stunning game winner on the buzzer to set up the Game 3 back at Willetton.
After the Tigers led 8-3 early on, the Hawks were able to steady and led by eight at quarter-time despite still missing star Matthew Adekponya.
Willetton hit back hard, though, in the second period and took a 50-41 advantage into half-time.
The Tigers were then able to stretch their lead to as much as 16 points by three quarter-time but to Perry Lakes credit, they wouldn’t go away.
Not only would the Hawks not go away, they hit the front with four minutes remaining on the back of five quick points from Cockburn championship winner from last year, Travis Hayto.
The Tigers tied things back up through Jay Bowie before Perry Lakes went back in front on a Ryan Smith put back from an offensive rebound.
Turner returned the favour down the other end to level things up but once more the Hawks responded with a Rob Waters layup.
A triple from Bowie gave Willetton the lead with just under a minute left and that proved the decisive basketball before the Tigers secured the win through Kyle Armour at the free-throw line with the Hawks unable to find that desperation basket down the stretch.
Bowie ended up top-scoring for the Tigers with 21 points and seven rebounds while Turner added 20 points and 11 boards.
Nic Cody fought through his injured back to deliver 14 points with Armour contributing 12 points and five assists, Damien Scott nine points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Andrew Black eight points, six assists and five boards.
It was a brave effort all series by Perry Lakes and in Game 3, Ben Purser delivered another 16 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Brian Carlwell added 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks, Smith 14 points and five boards, Hayto 11 points, Rob Cassir 10 points and Waters seven points and four assists. Ryan O’Sullivan also hit three three-pointers for nine points.
Then in Game 2 matches on Saturday night, the Redbacks made the trek to Eaton Recreation Centre needing to beat the Slammers on their home floor to keep their season alive.
The Slammers did appear in control leading by as much as seven points in the first half and still by four at half-time. But with their season on the line, the Redbacks came out strongly in the third quarter and ended up opening a match-winning advantage.
The Slammers kept on coming and did give themselves a chance again late before the game turned into a contest of the Redbacks needing to make their free-throws, and they hit enough to win by eight points to set up Game 3 on Sunday at Belmont Oasis.
Shawn Redhage led the way for the Redbacks with 28 points, nine rebounds and three assists while shooting 9-of-15 from the field and 9-of-11 at the foul line.
Marshall Nelson came up big for Perth as well with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists on the back of nailing 5-of-8 from three-point territory.
Lee Roberts also had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Redbacks, Michael Vigor 16 points and four boards, and Ben Smith 11 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Tre Nichols did all he could to try and lift the Slammers into the semi finals with 30 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals shooting 12-of-21 from the floor and 3-of-6 from downtown.
Michael Lay was again a strong contributor too with 20 points hitting 3-of-6 from three-point range while Teny Puot rounded out South West’s guard proficiency with 15 points and five rebounds.
Clive Weeden battled hard inside for 15 points and nine rebounds with Chris Douglas limited to under 17 minutes through foul trouble. Brian Voelkel had another 11 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
The other Game 2 on Saturday night took place at Active West Stadium with the Senators coming away with the impressive 13-point victory to set up Game 3 against the Buccaneers also in Geraldton on Sunday.
The Senators got off to a hot start needing to bounce back from last Saturday night’s loss on their home floor.
Stirling got on top early and at one stage went on a 13-0 run and led by as much as 24 points during the third quarter, but the Buccaneers were always going to make a run back at them at some stage.
That certainly happened but the Buccs couldn’t get any closer than eight points as the Senators held firm for a tremendous 13-point win.
Rhys Vague came up huge for the Senators with 30 points, seven rebounds and three assists shooting 11-of-17 from the field and 6-of-10 from downtown.
Cody Ellis also had 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Senators while Corban Wroe contributed 16 points, four boards and three assists, and Jayden Coburn eight points.
Dwayne Benjamin top-scored for the Buccaneers with 20 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Dylan Myers made an impressive cameo for the Buccs with 14 points while hitting 6-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from deep.
Mo Barrow also had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists for Geraldton, Jackson Hussey 17 points, five assists and five steals, and Mat Wundenberg 13 points and eight rebounds.
MEN’S QUARTER FINAL RESULTS – GAME 2s
Perry Lakes Hawks 84 lost to Willetton Tigers 85 (Tied 1-1)
Cockburn Cougars 112 defeated Joondalup City Wolves 90 (Tied 1-1)
MEN’S QUARTER FINAL RESULTS – GAME 2s
South West Slammers 99 lost to Perth Redbacks 107 (Tied 1-1)
Geraldton Buccaneers 80 lost to Stirling Senators 93 (Tied 1-1)
MEN’S QUARTER FINAL RESULTS – GAME 3s
Willetton Tigers 90 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks 87 (Tigers win 2-1)
Joondalup City Wolves 86 defeated Cockburn Cougars 65 (Wolves win 2-1)
MEN’S QUARTER FINAL FIXTURES – GAME 3s
Geraldton Buccaneers v Stirling Senators – Active West Stadium 12pm
Perth Redbacks v South West Slammers – Belmont Oasis 12pm
Photo by Vikki Hile