THE Perry Lakes Hawks were rocked by what appears a career-ending knee injury to reigning league MVP Jacob Holmen in Game 1 of the semi finals but with a week to regroup, coach Matt Parsons is looking forward to seeing what his group has left with a Grand Final berth at stake.
The Hawks deservedly were full of confidence heading into the semi finals on the back of finishing the regular season on a 12-game winning streak and then beating the Lakeside Lightning in three games in the quarter finals.
It was a big result for Perry Lakes to reach the second round after three straight years of being eliminated in the quarter finals as the No. 8 seed against the top-ranked team.
They then started the game well and led 13-12 when Holmen scored a basket, but then tragedy struck and not only did the knee injury he suffered end his night and has ended his season, it looks likely to end the career.
Holmen will require a knee reconstruction after rupturing his anterior crucial ligament and the Hawks never quite recovered on Saturday night in Game 1 of the semi finals against the Rockingham Flames, losing 92-73.
That leaves them with the job ahead of them with Game 2 at Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Friday night with Perry Lakes needing to win that to force a decider back at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night with a Grand Final spot on the line.
Hawks coach Matt Parsons knew it was going to be a tough night when Lochlan Cummings and Ryan Smith weren’t quite fully fit going into the game, and then disaster struck with the injury to Holmen.
Perry Lakes couldn’t quite recover but Parsons is confident with a week to prepare for life without the league’s reigning MVP that they will be a different outfit in Rockingham on Friday.
“It was a bit of a perfect storm from our end. We obviously go into the game with a plan and Jacob’s a big part of everything that we do. To lose such a valuable contributor and his leadership as well was a big loss,” Parsons said.
“It was a bit of a deer in headlight moment for some of the players and it’s really hard to come back. It goes one way or the other in those situations and unfortunately that was a night where things continued to go wrong.
“It happens a lot and it’s something we see multiple times throughout the year, but on this particular night it was a semi-final. The reality is it was Game 1 and there’s still two more to be played and we intend to be there.”
It’s hard to ignore the hurt felt for Holmen by everyone at Perry Lakes, and surely across the league given the popularity he built up in the previous three years at the Goldfields Giants which included his MVP winning season in 2017.
He came in for Perry Lakes after Travis Monroe went down injured and after some teething problems including being part of a five-game losing run, he was instrumental in the Hawks having won 14 of the last 15 games before last Saturday night.
The devastating nature for Holmen is that not only is it season over for the big Texan, but it appears his career will be over too. But Parsons was quick to pay tribute to him and is sure he still has plenty to offer the game of basketball.
“He has officially done his ACL and a torn meniscus, and it will be very unlikely that he will play basketball again let us play in the SBL again. Retirement unfortunately beckons for him and Jacob is just an absolutely standout bloke,” Parsons said.
“He is a beautiful human being and is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet whose got time for everybody. He takes it on himself to reach out and talk to all the youngsters in the league to let them know they’re doing the right thing, and he respects what they’ve got and their skill set.
“From a leadership perspective inside the group he’s forever positive and talkative, and he just makes people around him better just with his voice and his teammates knowing he’s there behind it with his skill set.
“Take the basketball aside, he has a really bright future in whatever it is he chooses to pursue and he’ll be an excellent coach one day. We’ll support him and make sure he’s looked after, and we’ll be there for him as he goes through his career. I’m sure everyone he’s come across in the SBL and especially Kalgoorlie will do the same. We just wish him the best, he’s a star of a human.”
While the challenge is certainly now ahead of the Hawks heading to Rockingham for Game 2 and needing to win against a team that has won all three of its post-season matches to date, but Parsons is backing the depth of his team to step up and compete in the absence of Holmen.
“It’s not the end of the world, we have Game 2 to prepare for on Friday night and if we get the job done we’re into Game 3 on Saturday. We take Jacob out of the equation and it opens up an opportunity for someone else,” he said.
“I think that’s what this league continuously shows people, that we are deep enough and teams have enough talent on their rosters that when you lose players someone else is able to step up and fill that hole.
“It is big shoes but we’re a pretty strong and experienced team, and we’ll be expecting people to step up and take some of that attention that Jacob would normally get.
“That might be someone coming up to take shots that they haven’t been called on for the last few weeks but they are more than capable of doing. We’ll back our players in, it’s a good system and the leadership is strong so we will make sure we tick all the boxes.”
Looking back on what Rockingham did well in Game 1 and what the Hawks need to stop in Game 2, Parsons puts it down to simple desperation and hustle. He’s confident if Perry Lakes comes out hungrier and more desperate, that the rest will take care of itself.
“They just wanted it more. It was a case of them outhustling us in every means and a bit of that was probably because we were a bit taken aback by the injury,” Parsons said.
“Without making excuses because behind every good team is a blueprint of hard work and desperation, but they showed that and they led from the front.
“We believe they are going to come out even stronger at home and we have to be ready to not only match that, but exceed it and make sure we stamp our authority.
“They controlled the tempo for pretty much all of that game bar the first five minutes. We need to make sure we play it on our terms and that’s something we’ll put in place during the week.”
It’s hard to ignore the production and leadership provided by NBL veterans Greg Hire and Kevin White for Rockingham, especially Hire who had 19 points and 20 rebounds last Saturday. But Parsons knows it’s about more than just focusing on him.
“Greg had a really good game and he probably didn’t hit the scoreboard as much, but he didn’t need to at the same time because he made people around him better. We have a plan in place for not only Greg, but a lot of the other weapons they have on their team,” he said.
“They’re deep and Brad does a really good job of giving his young kids opportunities and the reality is if you look at it line for line, everyone else probably equalled themselves out except for their bench which far exceeded else.
“There’s some youth and excitement with what he’s got and with what we’ve got too, and we have to keep everyone on their team under control, not just Greg. Hopefully at the end of the day the ball rolls our way.”
Speaking of youth, Parsons couldn’t be happier with the continued development of young guns Mitch Clarke and Cooper Hamilton who combined for 20 points in the Game 1 defeat.
He’s looking forward to see what the pair can provide this weekend and for the entire group of youngsters the Hawks have coming through.
“They are both great, young kids with a huge future in basketball. Mitchy has been thrown in the deep end a lot earlier than he probably would have expected, but he’s handled it really well,” Parsons said.
“Cooper Hamilton has probably gone under the radar a little bit but he is exceptionally skilled, a great shooter, has a nice big body and is a great defender. He’s had some injuries go against him in the early part of his career but he works really hard to keep his body right and we are starting to see good signs.
“He is a smart young kid and really talented so we are happy with those guys’ development but we also have a plethora of other kids just behind them. The club is really good at developing young juniors to be successful and sustainable, we have to make sure there is a pathway there for them.
“We’d never hold them back and always give them an opportunity, but such is the depth at the club at the moment that we’re unable to play all these young kids.”