TOP spot was up for grabs and it didn’t fail to deliver with the Willetton Tigers prevailing over the Geraldton Buccaneers in a classic by a point in the Men’s SBL on Sunday while the Stirling Senators and Joondalup City Wolves also scored important victories.
It’s not always that top-of-the-table clashes live up to their billing, but there’s no question that Sunday’s battle between Willetton and Geraldton at Willetton Basketball Stadium more than delivered in what very well could have been the game of the season.
Several times through the afternoon did the Tigers look to have the game won and they were up by 15 at three quarter-time after a Jay Bowie half-court prayer and still by nine with a minute and-a-half left.
But with 35 seconds left on the clock, the Buccs hit the front for the first time in the game. In the end it was Bowie hitting two foul shots with 0.4 seconds left that iced the stunning 95-94 victory that was full of drama and saw the Tigers replace the Buccaneers in top spot again.
It wasn’t the only action on Sunday with the Stirling Senators also beating the Goldfields Giants 89-73 while the Joondalup City Wolves defeated the Lakeside Lightning 99-80.
Week 16 of the Men’s SBL began with three matches on Friday night with the Perry Lakes Hawks beating the Perth Redbacks 89-71, the Stirling Senators defeating the East Perth Eagles 81-69 and the Willetton Tigers downing the Kalamunda Eastern Suns 96-91.
Then on Saturday night, the Cockburn Cougars beat the Perth Redbacks 76-75, the South West Slammers beat the Rockingham Flames 92-62, the Joondalup City Wolves defeated the Goldfields Giants 85-63, the Mandurah Magic upset the Perry Lakes Hawks 93-77 and the Geraldton Buccaneers won big over the East Perth Eagles 111-77.
WEEK 16 SATURDAY NIGHT MEN’S SBL RESULTS
WEEK 16 FRIDAY NIGHT MEN’S SBL RESULTS
WEEK 16 MEN’S SBL PREVIEW
CJ JACKSON GRATEFUL FOR JOURNEY BASKETBALL HAS GIVEN HIM
BELGER AT HOME WITH SUNS SO MUCH HE NEVER WANTS TO LEAVE
HOLMEN NOT GIVING UP ON SUCCESS WITH THE GIANTS
FIRST PLACE WITHIN GRASP OF TIGERS WHO ARE STILL SEARCHING FOR NEXT GEAR
The Tigers had beaten the Eastern Suns on Friday and the Buccs defeated the Eagles on Saturday to ensure that top spot was up for grabs when the teams met at Willetton Basketball Stadium on Sunday.
Willetton got out to a fast start leading by as much as 12 points in the opening quarter. That lead grew to as much as 13 in the second period but the Buccaneers were beginning to warm to the task.
The visitors got within three points shortly before half-time before the Tigers went into the break six points to the good.
Geraldton then hit the opening four points of the second half and then trailed by just a point when Jackson Hussey hit a triple. But Willetton appeared to have all the answers and by the time Bowie hit his half-court buzzer-beater on three quarter-time his team was up by 15 points.
The Buccs could have been excused for thinking things were against them by that point but they refused to give in having not yet lost on the road in 2017.
Even with seven minutes remaining, Willetton was doing well to weather the storm leading by 16 points. Then with 4:42 on the clock, they still led by 11 before a pair of free-throws for the Buccaneers to Aaron Ralph.
When Matt Hancock nailed a triple 20 seconds later, things were getting interesting. The margin was just three points with 3:54 left when Mo Barrow hit another three for Geraldton and the Buccs had ramped things up defensively as much as making the shots at the other end.
The Tigers did get a steadying three from point Kyle Armour and then were back up by eight after a big shot from Ray Turner with 2:15 left, but still the Buccs wouldn’t lie down.
Hussey got the margin back to six but once Willetton answered with a Bowie triple to be up nine with 1:34 remaining.
Following a timeout, Dwayne Benjamin drilled a three for the Buccs, they forced Turner into an offensive foul and Barrow pulled in a huge offensive board for a put back and the and-one to make the margin three.
The Buccs forced the Tigers into another turnover leading to a breakaway Barrow layup. Turner was then called for travelling in the paint and the Buccs got out with Hussey driving to the basket and laying it in and they led for the first time in the game by a point with 35 seconds left.
Turner responded with an O-board and put back to put the Tigers back up by a point before the Buccs had the ball with 26 seconds left. Benjamin drove and made the layup with 10 seconds left to give Geraldton the lead.
Then things really got interesting. Ralph got called for a foul on Turner after the latter collided with Barrow while diving for a loose ball. Turner left the court appearing to have injured his hip which could have ramifications for the Tigers if anything comes of it.
But the Tigers had the side ball with four seconds left and Bowie drove to the basket where he was fouled by James Paringatai who had been forced to substitute in for Barrow despite the referee giving the Buccs staff the OK to check on him.
Bowie hit both at the line to put Willetton up 95-94 with Geraldton unable to do anything with the 0.4 seconds left.
The win means the Tigers have won both games over the Buccs this season and sit on top of the standings at 18-3 ahead of the 17-3 Buccaneers with a month of the season remaining.
Turner had another huge game for Willetton with 29 points and 20 rebounds on 11-of-17 shooting and 7-of-7 at the line, but the Tigers will have a nervous wait now on his health.
Bowie added 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Willetton with Armour finishing with 16 points and seven assists, Nic Cody nine points and Damien Scott six points to go with seven rebounds and five assists.
Benjamin backed up his 42-point night on Saturday with another 30 points for the Buccs to go with three rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots while shooting 13-of-23 from the floor and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Barrow also contributed 27 points and eight rebounds for Geraldton while Hussey added 18 points, 14 assists, six rebounds and three steals. Mat Wundenberg also had nine points and five boards for the Buccs.
Buccaneers coach Ray Evans might have been disappointed to lose, but takes great heart from the performance of his team and that it showed up some areas for them to now go back to work on.
“It was just a great game. All credit to the Tigers for getting over the line. I thought the way they controlled the tempo in the first quarter probably set up the win for them. To our guys’ credit when we got down by 16 we showed a lot of character to come back into it and I think we played with a bit more urgency and pressure. That got us back into the game,” Evans said.
“We take a lot of things out of the game and a lot of things that we did wrong in the first half, and even late in the third quarter I thought we did a lot of things wrong. But we also did a lot of things right towards the end to get back into the game. We have to take both sides of it and have a good look at it, and see what areas we can improve in and what worked that we can keep doing well.”
Also at midday on Sunday, the Senators hosted the Giants at Warwick Stadium with Stirling coming away with the 16-point victory.
Stirling started on fire leading by 10 at quarter-time, but the Giants hit back well in the second quarter to trail by just a point at the half. Just a point still separated the teams heading into the fourth, but the Senators pulled away in the last term to win by 16.
The win steadies Stirling in seventh spot at 11-9 while it’s another blow for Goldfields’ playoff hopes as the Giants slip to 6-14.
Ash Litterick returned to the starting line-up for the Senators and delivered 23 points, 10 rebounds and four steals shooting 9-of-11 from the floor.
Rhys Vague contributed 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Stirling, Cody Ellis 14 points, nine assists and eight boards, and Corban Wroe 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Miles Tierney top-scored for the Giants with 15 points and three steals while hitting 3-of-5 from downtown.
Jacob Holmen also had 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals for Goldfields, JB Pillard 13 points and four boards, Daniel Goodluck eight points, four rebounds and three steals, and Brandon Holloway eight points.
Then later Sunday afternoon, the Wolves beat the Lightning by 19 points at Lakeside Recreation Centre.
Lakeside was needing to win to avoid slipping further from the playoff hunt but the job against the third placed Wolves was made all the tougher without import point guard Devon Atkinson.
But for three quarters the Lightning were doing well to hang with the Wolfpack and the visitors led by just two points at three quarter-time.
But Lakeside managed just seven fourth quarter points with Joondalup scoring 24 to win by 19 points and remain solid in third spot at 15-6. The loss sees the Lightning slip to 8-12 but still in ninth spot.
Rob Huntington had a good afternoon for the Wolfpack top-scoring with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Trian Iliadis added 16 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Wolves, Seb Salinas 15 points, five rebounds and four steals, Ryan Wright 13 points and nine boards, Jordan Wellsteed nine points and four rebounds, and Reece Maxwell nine points, five boards and four steals.
James Padgett did a power of work for the Lightning up against Wright, Huntington and Damian Matacz. He was battling against the odds on a number of fronts, but still had 22 points and nine rebounds.
Corey Shervill added another 18 points for Lakeside and Darrell Morgan 14 points and five boards including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Tom Parkinson added nine points and Matt Vinci nine to go with seven assists. Nick Palleschi also hit a half-court buzzer beater on three quarter-time.
Lightning coach Sam Oatman was proud of his team’s fight minus Atkinson for three quarters against a championship contending team.
“It’s disappointing to not get the win because we were right there through three quarters. I didn’t think we played very well at the start of the game, but we played a pretty good second and third quarter,” Oatman said.
“Ultimately, we didn’t take care of the ball well enough, we fouled way too much and put them at the free-throw line 34 times compared to our 14.
“We just gave them way too many easy buckets and just didn’t give ourselves a chance by turning the ball over. But the effort was great and I can’t fault our effort at all. I thought we played with good energy.”
FRIDAY NIGHT ROUND 16 MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Perry Lakes Hawks 89 defeated Perth Redbacks 71
Stirling Senators 81 defeated East Perth Eagles 69
Willetton Tigers 96 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 91
SATURDAY NIGHT ROUND 16 MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Perth Redbacks 75 lost to Cockburn Cougars 76
South West Slammers 92 defeated Rockingham Flames 62
Joondalup City Wolves 85 defeated Goldfields Giants 63
Mandurah Magic 93 defeated Perry Lakes Hawks 77
East Perth Eagles 77 defeated Geraldton Buccaneers 111
SUNDAY ROUND 16 MEN’S SBL RESULTS
Stirling Senators 89 defeated Goldfields Giants 73
Willetton Tigers 95 defeated Geraldton Buccaneers 94
Lakeside Lightning 80 lost to Joondalup City Wolves 99
Photo by June Halliday