THE Joondalup Wolves continue to set the benchmark in the Men’s SBL qualifying for a sixth Grand Final in eight years, and fourth straight, while the Perry Lakes Hawks and Rockingham Flames are heading to Game 3 to determine their opponent.
It was an exciting night on Friday for the semi-final Game 2 match ups with two packed venues playing host to the start of a weekend where the Grand Final teams for 2018 will be decided.
The Stirling Senators had the job ahead of them on return to Warwick Stadium and the Joondalup Wolves weren’t in a giving mood, leading all night, and by as much as 25 points in a supremely impressive performance to win 87-74.
That sees the Wolfpack straight into the Grand Final for 2018 on the back of winning all four of their playoff matches to date in terrific fashion.
It was then a monster crowd of 1500 people on hand at Mike Barnett Sports Complex to try and cheer their local Rockingham Flames into a first ever Men’s Grand Final.
It wasn’t to be, though, with the Perry Lakes Hawks overcoming the loss of Jacob Holmen to come from behind and show enormous heart to prevail 96-92 on the back of huge showings from Ben Purser, Ryan Smith and Lochlan Cummings.
That sends the series to a Game 3 at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night with the winner to face Joondalup in the Grand Final next Saturday night.
MEN’S SBL PREVIEW – SEMI FINALS WEEK 2
MIKE ELLIS PROUD OF SON BUT BEWILDERED NO NBL SPOT FOR CODY
EMERGING BEARD THRIVING ON BIG CHALLENGES WITH FLAMES
HOLMEN-LESS HAWKS REFOCUS ON GRAND FINAL PUSH
DIFFERENCE-MAKER SULLIVAN WANTS TO PAY WOLFPACK BACK
The Senators returned to Warwick Stadium for the final time in 2018 looking to hand the Wolves their first loss of the finals series and push their match up to a third game back at HBF Arena.
The Wolfpack were in control for the majority of Game 1 despite the Senators trying hard to fight back and once again it was a similar case on Friday at Warwick Stadium.
The Wolves raced to an 8-2 lead on the back of a basket from Jalen Billups and threes from Brian Sullivan and Trian Iliadis. And really from that point on they were never seriously threatened.
The Senators managed to level scores soon after at 10-10 but the Wolves responded with three more triples to Sullivan and another from Ben Ironmonger for an 11-0 run before ending the opening quarter in control 29-17.
The lead for Joondalup ballooned to 22 points early in the second period and was even out to 25 shortly before half-time when Iliadis hit a purple patch.
The Wolfpack were still in control 54-31 at the break and still 24 up with 5:30 left in the third quarter before the Senators found some momentum for the first time on the night.
By three quarter-time Stirling had managed to close to within 10 points and then even got back within eight a couple of times in the fourth term, but the Wolves had too much playoff experience, big-time players and quality to respond to every challenge and win by 13.
That advances Joondalup to a fourth successive Grand Final and sixth in eight years as they chase the club’s fourth’s Men’s SBL championship.
Jalen Billups came up huge for the Wolves with 25 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots on an efficient 11/17 shooting performance.
Trian Iliadis was again terrific with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals while nailing five threes. His defensive job again to limit the influence of Justin King was also huge.
Brian Sullivan added another 19 points, six assists and four rebounds for Joondalup while Rob Huntington contributed five points and five boards, Ben Ironmonger five points and five rebounds, and Reece Maxwell four points and five boards.
Wolves coach Ben Ettridge couldn’t be prouder of the effort of his team and how their depth continues to come to the fore.
“It’s been a long journey for a lot of the group and especially for a lot of the supporters and volunteers at the club to transition across from the old home into the new home,” Ettridge said.
“All the way along we wanted to make sure nothing was changing and the culture was staying the same, and the expectations were staying the same. I actually thought there was a 60-40 split our way with the crowd but to go into enemy territory and get the jump early, and then hold on and do everything we need to do, it was great.
“Sharing that workload is how we’ve done things for a long time and adding Brian and Jalen into the mix they have given us exactly what we’ve wanted, and at this time of the year.
“But to have Robbie, Maxy, Seb, Phil and Ben, and even Chris Clausen and Damo, all be able to come on and just do their job means that those starters know they are going to get supported, and the guys coming off the bench know they have a job to do and they go and get it done.”
It was an impressive season by the Senators to have knocked out the Perth Redbacks and be in the semi finals for the first time in a long time with Robert Anshila top-scoring in Game 2 with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Justin King had 15 points, six rebounds and four steals but shot just 6/15 from the field.
Cody Ellis finished with 12 points, four rebounds, four blocks and three assists with Caleb Davis contributing 10 points and six boards, and Ash Litterick 10 points.
It was then Perry Lakes in a must-win situation heading to Mike Barnett Sports Complex on Friday night to face a Flames team who finished the regular season in eighth position, but had yet to lose to either the Geraldton Buccaneers or Hawks in the playoffs so far.
The Hawks also had to find a way to get the job done following the loss of reigning league MVP Jacob Holmen to a devastating knee injury with veteran guard Dan Thomas’ season already over as well.
But with 1500 fans packing the Rockingham venue and with the competitive beasts on either side, it was always set for a dramatic and intense night, and it certainly delivered.
It was an intense but fast-paced opening quarter with both teams going into quarter-time tied at 26-26 before Ben Purser led the charge for Perry Lakes to break away to a 38-30 lead midway through the second quarter.
Purser continued to be on fire on his way to 21 first half points but Greg Hire had 15 of his own for the Flames to keep his team only four points down at the main break.
Perry Lakes again pulled away to a six-point lead numerous occasions in the third quarter but with Hire throwing body around for everything, even over the barriers and getting under the skin of his opponents, the Flames wouldn’t go away.
Yet another supremely athletic dunk from Luke Travers brought scores back level before he showed his range with a three to put the Flames in front. He had a layup too soon after and a Kevin White triple helped Rockingham to a 75-70 three quarter-time advantage.
The Flames were still up five with six minutes left but a 5-0 run from the Hawks soon changed that.
Purser continued to come up huge for Perry Lakes to level scores with 2:45 remaining before two incredibly tough driving layups over the outstretched Rockingham arms of Curtis Washington from Lochlan Cummings was enough to get the Hawks home by four points.
Having had to find a way without Jacob Holmen, it was a spirited performance in front of a brilliant atmosphere from the Hawks ahead of Game 3 at Bendat Basketball Centre on Saturday night.
“Firstly what a night for Rockingham basketball. They put on an absolute spectacle in the sense of the amount of numbers and fan support they had,” coach Matt Parsons said.
“It was a great atmosphere here and not one like we’ve seen in the metro area for quite a long time. Big kudos to Rockingham and their fans for voting with their feet but as for the game, it was an arm-wrestle.
“Both teams threw haymaker after haymaker but we managed to close it out. We got lucky in the sense that the ball started rolling our way but we outhustled them in the last couple of minutes after they had done that to us all night. I’m super proud of the boys.”
Ben Purser top-scored for Perry Lakes with 29 points and four rebounds on shooting 14/21 from the field in a trademark captain’s performance.
Lochlan Cummings added 24 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Hawks, Ryan Smith 21 points and seven boards, Brian Carlwell nine points, five rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots, and Josh Garlepp six points.
“Let’s put Ben Purser in perspective, we’re talking about a guy who has been around for a very long time and hasn’t seen a lot of success in the last four or five years,” Parsons added.
“He is seeing it as an opportunity now in the semi-final series and he gets himself up. He is a very professional young man and his preparation for games like this is second to none. He’s always going to play his best hand and do what he can.
“He definitely got going early and we talked to him at half-time about how he couldn’t do it on his own, and to empower a couple of the guys around him which he managed to do. Lochie and Smithers went with him but I thought BC’s second half was good as well. We also saw guys like Josh Garlepp, Jordie Hickert and the older heads come on and really make a difference.”
Greg Hire finished with 25 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and three steals for Rockingham on 10/19 shooting from the floor and 4/7 from long range.
Curtis Washington added 16 points, Kevin White 15 points and five assists, Luke Travers 12 points, five rebounds and four assists, Justin Beard 11 points and five boards, and Ryan Godfrey nine points, seven assists and five steals.
Parsons is now looking forward to what he knows will be a hell of a battle in Game 3.
“Everyone knows what everyone is going to do now so it’s the team that recovers best to be as fresh as possible,” Parsons said.
“We get to go home after levelling the series in the sense that we are back on our deck where we feel more comfortable.
“We’ve got to be fearless with everything that we do because we know they will be fearless with everything they do. There’s no formula, it’s just the team that does the best to get their bodies’ right.”
SEMI FINALS WEEK 2 MEN’S SBL FIXTURES
GAME 2 (Best of 3)
Rockingham Flames 92 lost to Perry Lakes Hawks 96 (Series tied 1-1)
Stirling Senators 74 lost to Joondalup Wolves 87 (Joondalup wins 2-0)
Perry Lakes Hawks v Rockingham Flames – Bendat Basketball Centre 7.00pm