The South West Slammers continued their rise in 2017 registering their sixth win, this time over the Willetton Tigers on Friday night, 89-78.
South West outlasted a Tigers team missing starters Kate Malpass and Desiree Kelley but still with the presence of no less than four former WNBL players in their squad.
Willetton started the game locked and ready to go and the early signs looked ominous for the home team as the Tigers raced to a 30-point opening quarter. The fast start saw the visitors open up an early 8-point advantage over the Slammers, on the back of guard Stacey Barr’s frenetic 19 points to start the game.
Needing a response to the early challenge, the Slammers answered accordingly and had the margin erased to a 1-point lead in their favour within the first six minutes of the second quarter. Coach Peter Harper’s team loaded up defensively with an impressive spell that saw them restrict the visitors to two points in the first six minutes of the second term. Offensively, the Slammers’ Courtney Bayliss went on one of her famed shooting streaks to help the Slammers cause and by the end of the first half, the home team had the edge 44-43. Barr with 24 points and Bayliss with 22 points the leading scorers for their respective teams.
The start of the second half was not for the purist as both teams exchanged multiple turnovers to keep the game close and up for grabs. Both teams were guilty of some poor passing errors and each had their turn with the lead but at the end of three quarters it was a 63-62 Willetton lead with ten minutes remaining.
The last quarter continued the third quarter trend with a Willetton passing turnover leading to a Denehey three and a home team lead. The ensuing Tigers possession again gifted the home team with a Bayliss three pointer at the other end. With the game in the balance, the home team rode the wave of confidence, forcing a Tigers timeout as a result of 15-7 Slammers run inside the first four minutes of the fourth.
The timeout failed to provide any respite for Coach Simon Parker’s team as momentum remained with the Slammers, who stretched the scoreline to a 86-71 advantage with three minutes remaining. Harper’s team was doing it at both ends, scoring inside and outside and building scoreboard pressure.
It was pressure that proved a hurdle to tall to climb and at the end of play, the Slammers clinched 89-78 victory.
The home team had Bayliss finish with 30 points and 6 rebounds. Guards Geogia Denehey and Raya Thompson added 19 and 13 points a piece to aid the Slammers win. Of further note, Harper’s squad are playing with the confidence needed to secure close wins in the stretch and may yet play a decisive role in the make-up of this year’s finals, in or out of the eight.
Willetton had Stacey Barr finish with 38 points and Jessica Hootman 16 points but were let down by a lacklustre second half showing, in particular a costly fourth quarter.
Article by Vlad Alava
Photo by Mick Cronin